Obiano’s aide denies soliciting bribes from market leaders

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Anambra state

The Anambra State Commissioner for Trade, Commerce, Markets and Wealth Creation, Mr Uchenna Okafor, has denied demanding bribes from the market leaders in Anambra State.

Some market leaders in the state, under the ‘Integrity group’, had petitioned Governor Willie Obiano, accusing Okafor of demanding N4 million for each of the new shops being constructed at Ochanja market and N2mn from the Bridgehead market, both in Onitsha.

The group, in the petition, also accused the commissioner of collecting money from some people whom he allegedly planned to install as market leaders without conducting proper elections.

They said the commissioner intended to use the money to finance his house of assembly election ambition.

In the petition signed by its Chairman, Mr Obinna Madu and Secretary, Mr Onyeka Udeogalanya, the group also threatened to protest to the Government House, Awka, to press for the sacking or redeployment of the commissioner.

Addressing journalists in Onitsha on Saturday, the commissioner denied all the allegations, describing them as “blatant lies”.

Okafor, who spoke through the ministry’s Permanent Secretary, Mr Ike Samuel, described the Integrity group as a “faceless group” without any fixed address or contact and sponsored to tarnish the image of the commissioner.

He said, “The so- called Integrity Group has no fixed address or phone number to know how to get to them and iron out issues with them. The petition they wrote, which the governor minuted to our ministry had replied to by telling the governor that the group has no fixed address and as such cannot be reached.

“Accusing the commissioner that he collects N4m from each of the new shops being constructed at Ochanja market and N2m at Bridgehead market is a blatant lie.

“You can’t sack somebody based on a frivolous allegation; how can you say the commissioner should be sacked when the allegations are baseless? Maybe because you heard somebody wants to run for a political office and you are paid to ruin him.’’

The permanent secretary added, “The commissioner has brought relative peace in all the markets in the state; they cannot succeed, we work on the instructions of the governor. The owners of the shops at Ochanja market are doing the construction by themselves and we only give approval  where little sum is paid to the government and not the huge sum they claim.

“At the Bridgehead market, I am sure it is a modern abattoir that is being constructed and it is not even our ministry that is doing that but the ministry of agriculture and of course, with the approval of the (ministry of) environment and we are aware. It is even outside the market at Bridgehead but if there are shops aside the abattoir, we have to find out.”

“Between now and month of March, we will conduct elections in all the markets due for election, so the allegation that the commissioner also collects money to reinstate caretaker committee members and has asked them to present delegate list is false and unfounded.’’

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