Court determines Relief market fate, Friday, as power tussle lingers

An Atani High Court presided by Justice Alexius Okuma, will Friday July 1, 2022 , determine whether Anambra State Government through the Commissioner for Commerce and Industry can sack an elected executives of Ogbaru Main Market, popularly called Relief Market, led by Mr. Ndubuisi Ochiogu.

In a fundamental right application brought by Ochiogu’s counsel, Chief Ben Uzuegbu (SAN) against Dr. Obinna Ngonadi, the State Commissioner for Trade, Commerce and Industry and the Attorney-General of the State. Ochiogu is praying the court that he cannot be removed as chairman of the market when he has not been given opportunity to to be heard by the respondents in the allegations against him.

Justice Okuma had granted an order exparte directing that the status quo ante bellum be maintained in the leadersip of the market until the determination of the matter.
But no sooner has the ministry received the order of the court than they, according to Uzuegbu “impudently and without regard to due process and rule of law caused the letter (of suspension of Election of the Ogbaru Main Market Traders Association) under reference to be authored.”

When the case came up for hearing on June 3, 2022, Chief Uzuegbu complained to the court of the harassment of his client, Chief Ochiogu by security operatives in the state due to the order of the commissioner.

Justice Okuma went ahead to direct that there should be no harassment and intimidatation of Ochiogu and his executives.

However, inspite of the express court orders, the commissioner was said to have come with a team of Police men and thugs from the office of Anambra State Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA) ransanked the office of the chairman, turned everything upside down, sacked workers and instal the Caretaker Committee led by Chief Obidike.

When the matter came up for hearing again on June17, 2022, Chief Uzuegbu complained of what he called executive lawlessness, saying that the commissioner has not only constituted the Caretaker Committee in clear disobedience to court order that status quo ante bellum be maintained but has gone ahead to continue to harass his client with security operatives.

Uzuegbu told the Court that he had called their lawyer, Loveline Ezude, Principal State Counsel to advise her clients to stay action in line with court order.
But on July 16, 2021, said Uzuegbu, they evaded the market, threw people out of the applicants’ office, saying that there was no reason for such rascality.

He said it was worrisome that the executive that suppose to obey consequential court order flouted it with impunity.

Uzuegbu said their action was ultra vires. He stated that the matter being in court was enough for the executive to stare clear from taking any action, not to talk of when there is a clear order of the court on the matter.

Uzuegbu said the commissioner cannot remove Ochiogu and his executive members when they have not been given the opportunity to defend themselves of all the purported petitions against them.

He said they admitted that they did not hear from his clients before the purported sack which he described as bizarre and strange.

The Senior Advocate argued that in accordance with the constitution of the Federal Republic of NIgeria, the control of market is within the powers of the Local Government, not the State Government.

He urged the court to quash the decision of the commissioner to sack Ochiogu and his colleagues in the executive of Ogbaru Main Market.

Loveline Ezude, Principal State Counsel, who is the respondents’ counsel, however, said that the applicants were given opportunity to defend themselves but after the Caretaker Committee has taken over their position and resumed office.

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