Okwudili Ezenwankwo opens up on Obiano, Buhari

President General of traders in the South East and Anambra State Amalgamated Market Traders’ Association, Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo speaks on efforts to forestall fire incidents in the markets during the yuletide while urging traders to take safety measures including switching off their electrical appliances.

Safety and security of markets is usually a challenge during the yuletide; how are you handling the situation this time around?

Firstly, we are assuring traders of adequate security in various markets. I know that we have strong security personnel to man the markets. Then, on fire outbreak, we are not praying for that but we have to put some measures in place to control that if it occurs. The first measure is to educate our traders to put off all the electrical appliances before traveling and I have directed all the market leaders to pass the message across to every trader. This is harmattan and we know that something can happen at any time, we are not God but we believe that God will help us throughout this harmattan period that we won’t record any fire incident in Anambra state and beyond.

Do you have any arrangement with the fire service to ensure promptness in case of fire outbreak?

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I want to commend Governor Chief Willie Obiano for providing us with fire fighting trucks and equipment in the markets. We have one fire fighting vehicle stationed at Onitsha Main Market, one at the Building material market, one at Okpoko and another in Awka and at Nnewi respectively.

It is not our duty to fight fire; it is the duty of fire service personnel. The duty of the traders is to put some measures on ground such as making sure that water is always available and buying fire extinguishers. So, in case of any fire incident, it is the duty of the fire fighters to come and help us put out the fire, our duty is to inform them on time of any fire outbreak. I want to use this opportunity to urge the firemen to be ever ready and on standby at all times; make sure their vehicles are okay, have diesel and water in their vehicles so that we are not told stories in the event of any emergency throughout the festive period. I believe strongly, just like I said before, that we will not record any fire incident this time.

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As market leader, how would you describe this business year compared to others?

I know what business is all about; this year may favour me and it might not favour you; that’s the situation. If you want me to describe it, it will be personal, as it pertains to me and not on general perspective but based on my own assessment. If you are talking about turnover because, the governor has provided security of lives and property in Anambra state; I can tell you that people are coming from far and near to buy goods in the state. In my own private assessment, this year is good but we pray that next year will be better.

You have at every point praised Governor Obiano; what things did he do for you people in 2018?

First and foremost, I want to commend the governor for the ‘Choose your project’ whereby every market was given opportunity to choose their own project as the need arises and government will provide N10million to fund it to the completion. As we speak, projects are going on while many have completed theirs and chosen new ones for the second batch; courtesy of the governor. I know that over 66 markets have benefited from it. You can see projects springing up everywhere in the state including markets, drilling of boreholes, access roads in some of our major markets; I told you before that the governor donated fire fighting vehicles to the markets. There is change in the market, we shall continue to support the governor for the good job he is doing in the state.

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Even at that, you still have challenges; what are those challenges facing the traders or markets?

So far so good, we don’t have many challenges facing us because as a business people, our major problem is the customs and security in which case we have met President Muhammadu Buhari; and complained to the President of what we were passing through. I know the President has taken care of the matter and I believe that he has done something about it because things have changed. So, despite that, we don’t have any serious challenges.

What is your advice to the traders this season?

While wishing them happy Christmas and prosperous New Year, I advise them to be law abiding citizens, pay their taxes and revenues as at when due and continue to pray for the governor and myself to continue piloting the affairs of the state and markets respectively.

By Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha