The Anambra State Government has constituted a new leadership that would run the affairs of market associations in the state, known as Anambra State Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA).
The ASMATA leadership made up of 20 members is led by Ikechukwu Ekwegbalu and Rosemary Anazodo, as acting President-General and Secretary respectively.
Christian Madubuko, the Commissioner for Trade and Commerce, while constituting the body in his office on Saturday in Awka, announced Godwin Okeke, Innocent Chukwuma of Innoson Motors and Rommy Ezeonwuka as patrons of ASMATA.
Mr Madubuko also inaugurated leaders for the six zones of the association and two-member legal advisers and two-member advisers on markets.
He said the state government revived the defunct ASMATA as replacement for Amalgamated Traders Association, Anambra State (AMATAS) which was formed about 12 years ago.
He said AMATAS failed to hold a peaceful election to replace the outgone leadership and refused the state government’s offer to intervene in their matter.
The immediate past chairman of AMATAS was Okwudili Ezenwankwo who won the Federal House of Representatives seat for Orumba North and Orumba South Federal Constituency of Anambra.
The commissioner said ASMATA was now the only umbrella body recognised by Anambra Government, adding that their operation would not be affected by whatever would be the outcome of the suit initiated by AMATAS against the government.
“We instituted a new umbrella body for traders in Anambra, sometime ago, during Dr Chris Ngige’s regime, the state government introduced ASMATA but unfortunately that noble association that would have united traders in the state was abolished and replaced with AMATAS.
“AMATAS has been there for the past 12 years but unfortunately, they were not able to conduct a credible election.
“It became marred with crisis of leadership and state government stepped in but AMATAS said they were a Non Governmental Organisations and government has no say in their affairs.
“They went to court to claim that government has no place in their affairs but we don’t want to go to court with anybody.
“So, we decided to revive ASMATA as the umbrella body that is recognised by government, so AMATAS can go to court, run the case and do with it whatever they want,” he said.
Mr Madubuko said the new ASMATA leadership has tenure of three months during which an election would be conducted, adding that it was subject to renewal in the event that election was not held for any reason.
The commissioner, however, applauded the performance of AMATAS for piloting the affairs of the market well during its 12 years of existence but noted that the government did not receive revenues accruable to it due to leakages.
He charged the new team not to shortchange government, warning that culprit’s would be sacked if caught.
Mr Ezeonwuka, one of the patrons of ASMATA, said the focus was to restore the glory days of Anambra as a commerce state and optimise the opportunities in the sector for economic prosperity of the people.
He promised that Anambra traders would be protected from undue harassment in the course of carrying out their legitimate businesses.
“Anambra has lost some of her markets to neighbours because of the mismanagement of leadership and touts who were allowed to harass traders.
“As patrons, we shall ensure that the new leadership checkmates those challenges, we are a trader and commerce state, we don’t earn oil revenue, so we will ensure that all revenue due to government is released so that government can work.
“We will also protect our traders by ensuring that legitimate businessmen are not harassed, some of them complain of Customs and Police harassment on the road, we shall meet with their leadership to ensure such is addressed,” he said.
Mr Ekwegbalu, the Acting President General of ASMATA refused to speak to newsmen, saying it was not necessary now.