Posted by From Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka), Lawrence Njoku (Enugu) on
ANAMBRA State Governor, Peter Obi, has asked residents of the state to ignore rumours that the military have perfected plans to bomb the crisis-torn Onitsha.....
ANAMBRA State Governor, Peter Obi, has asked residents of the state to ignore rumours that the military have perfected plans to bomb the crisis-torn Onitsha, describing it as a calculated attempt by hoodlums to disrupt public order.
Obi also denied a report that he had written to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to investigate the tenure of the former governor of the state, Dr. Chris Ngige.
The governor made the denials yesterday in Awka, the state capital, at a press conference on the latest riots in Onitsha.
In the past 24 hours, some residents have reportedly been fleeing Onitsha in large numbers following rumours that the city may be bombed today by soldiers.
He assured the public that Onitsha is not in anyway threatened, and that no bomb will be dropped in the city, saying it is a rumour being circulated by enemies of the state to cause public disorder. "One such rumour is to the effect that the military have perfected plans to bomb Onitsha or carry out an attack on it. On acount of this, innocent residents of Onitsha are being coerced into fleeing the city."
Obi accused those he called criminals who seized "our motor parks, our streets collecting revenue, seizing motorists and travellers and relieving them of their personal items, harassing, intimidating and even killing our people as behind the rumour."
He regretted that the success so far made in restoring peace was being blighted with unfounded rumours, warning that the government will not rest on its oars until the last is heard of those who are blinded by greed and at the expense of peace and economic development of the state.
The governor also announced the extension of the two- week-old curfew for another one week till July 9, 2006, which he said, is part of efforts by the government to maintain peace and order in Onitsha. He said government and security agencies have effectively thwarted the efforts of hoodlums and advised those fleeing or trying to leave Onitsha to return or drop their plan.
Obi also announced the appointment of a seven-man park committee to manage the parks in the state. The members are Chief Chidi Anyaegbu, Chief Austin Ilodibe, Chief Frank Nneji, Chief Vincent Obianaedo, Chief Godwin Okeke, Chief Sebastine and Dan Ubajiakor.
On the EFCC issue, Obi said he never requested the commission to look into the affairs of Ngige. " Neither myself nor any appointed agent requested that my predecessor be probed . I set up a transition committee not to probe people but to reorganise the affairs of Anambra State," he said.
Obi said that the report must have been a calculated attempt to blackmail him by somebody somewhere and called for an immediate halt to such allegation, even as he said that government would investigate the source of the report.
But the crisis ravaging Onitsha may yet linger as the Nigeria Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) at the weekend insisted on the control of motor parks in state. The association alleged that the state government's order asking it to quit the parks was not backed by any competent order of court.
It alleged that government instigated the crises with a view to taking over the management of various motor parks in the town from its member, which it claimed was duly and legally secured since 2003.
Addressing a press conference in Enugu at the weekend, the union said the invitation by the Anambra State Government of military men to take charge of security at motor parks was part of the grand design to scare away NARTO members, who had been original managers of the parks. They asked the Federal Government to order without further delay the withdrawal of the soldiers now guarding the parks
Spokesperson and legal adviser to the Union, Mr Tagbo Ike, who traced the genesis of events that culminated in the management of the parks by the union, said that NARTO was dully assigned the management and control of the motor parks by the former elected local government councils in the state which had "the powers to establish, maintain and regulate motor parks as stipulated in the fourth schedule paragraph one sub-paragraph E of the 1999 Constitution.
He recalled that the Anambra State House of Assembly had in year 2000 passed a legislation giving NARTO the right to operate the parks, adding that the union had in the process of securing the mandate obtained a loan which they could not repay until they were taken to court.
Based on the judgment of the court that their creditor should be allowed to recover his money, the management of the parks since 2003 was taken over by him (creditor), adding that the deal is expected to expire in August next year.
The legal adviser said that this arrangement was on until recently "when a band of hoodlums branded as members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB)," allegedly attacked NARTO and policemen guarding the parks.
"This mayhem in Onitsha was visited on both the police and NARTO. NARTO couldn't have attacked the police that have been guarding its operations for three years now.
"The attack at Onitsha was so massive and lethal to justify any request for military presence, because they know full well that without the military, the Police will not put in a new set of people in the parks against the orders of the court. But with the military presence it will now be possible for whoever the government of Anambra State wants to put into the parks to be put in place and which they have succeeded (in doing) by the new parks management committee put in place under the leadership of Chief Augustine Ilodibe."
The legal adviser said it was clear that the crisis was cunningly planned "to give a dog a bad name in order to hang him, create a situation of lawlessness; mount a campaign of calumny against the union in order to chase them out of the parks."
Questioning the right of the state government to take over the management of the parks, the lawyer further pointed that that the 1999 Constitution had clearly addressed the issue of owners and management of the motor parks, stressing that it was completely wrong for the governor to intrude into an area constitutionally assigned to the local governments.
Calling on President Olusegun Obasanjo to immediately order the withdrawal of the soldiers from the parks to enable NARTO get back to business without further delay, Ike further said that the motive behind the crisis had played itself out especially by the appointment of the card-carrying members of All Progressive Grand Alliance (APGA) by the governor to manage the parks.
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