By Chimaobi Nwaiwu
A warehouse operator in the commercial city of Onitsha, Chief Patrick Ezeifo, has sent a Save-our-Soul, SOS, to Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State to save his business from total collapse, alleging that his business competitor was determined to see to his downfall.
UPDATED: Ovuleria Uredia Nwogbo of New Masquerade fame is not dead, says Zebrudaya(Opens in a new browser tab)
In an emotion-laden narration, Ezeilo said even his workers were not spared as his traducers also intimidated, harassed and illegally arrested them, using some government officials. According to him, he and his workers spent four days in Onitsha Prison after a ruling by what he described as a kangaroo mobile court allegedly instigated by his business competitor, who he said, has connection in government.
Ezeilo said he was lured to the Okpoko Police station on the guise that the Anambra State Commissioner for Transport, Dr. Christian Madubuko requested to see and discuss with him, only to be arrested by some youths. He added that he was subsequently tried by a mobile court and sent to Onitsha Prison where he spent four days with some of his workers.
He said: “I was surprised to receive a telephone call on September 19, 2019 from the Divisional Police Officer of Okpoko Police Station, informing me that the new Commissioner for Transport, Dr. Christian Madubuko, wanted to see me. I was happy because I have been looking for a way to see him, but was often denied access in his office in Awka.
“I rushed to the Okpoko Police station to meet the new Commissioner and after a very friendly and fruitful discussion with him, I walked with him to the exit gate of the Police station towards the Urban Terminal park and from there I saw a group of boys beating my workers and removing goods from 223 Obodoukwu road warehouse and removing vehicles from 240 Obodoukwu road open space. I asked the Commissioner what was going on and he just entered his vehicle and left. I met the boy who came with a bus with inscription ‘Omambala Youths’ and pleaded with them to stop their action, but they ignored me and threatened to beat me
“I continued pleading with them to leave my workers and the goods and that I just saw off the Commissioner who was with me at the Okpoko Police station.
“As I was pleading with them to leave my workers and the goods, they pushed them into their bus and drove to Urban Terminal park where a woman they identified as a Magistrate was waiting for them, I followed them to the Urban Terminal park and there, one of the workers of Del Trazi Nigeria Limited spotted me and told the boys to hold me.
“They started the trial of my workers around 5.30 pm and anyone who pleaded guilty was released. When it got to my turn, I pleaded not guilty, just as my manager and few workers. They kept us at one side and from there, they took us to Onitsha Prison where we stayed from that Friday to late Monday night.”
Ezeilo said that he had never defaulted in paying to the Anambra state government all the approved levies, taxes and revenues for operating the warehouse, wondering why such an ugly treatment should be meted to him.
Ezeifo added: “About ten years ago, my cousin, Mr. Sunday Nnkemdirim, who is based in Bayelsa State, bought two plots of land at 223 and 240 Obodoukwu road and later developed one. Based on the nature of my business, he gave me the whole ground floor for my warehouse business, while the other undeveloped plot was used as a park for heavy duty vehicles.
“I have been doing the Warehouse business for seven years in my cousin’s building. We do not run a transport business; we only store goods for people until they are ready to carry them.
“Later, I applied and got approval from Anambra state government to do my business at 223 and 240 Obodoukwu Road Okpoko, Ogbaru Local Government Area Anambra state, and we have been doing the business and paying levies like, Ogbaru Heavy Duty Motor Internal revenue, Ogbaru Semi Truck IGR, Local Government Traffic Toss, Park Development Levies, Yellow Ticket, ASWAMA levy, Park Management Route Identification Levies, Park Management Levies and other government approved levies. We had never at any time disrupted the flow of traffic in the area.
“I was, therefore, surprised to receive a telephone call on April 30, 2019, from the former Commissioner for Transport, who is now the Commissioner for Trade, Commerce and Wealth Creation. He asked me some questions about my business and what we have been paying the government. I explained everything to him and he left without any indictment against me or my company.
“However, on May 1st 2019, I saw a group of people with three vehicles who claimed to have been sent by the Commissioner with over three vehicles loaded with boys and they started removing the vehicles in my company’s premises. The vehicles were taken to Urban Terminal Motor Park run by another private company. When I asked what was going on, they said they were acting on the orders of the Commissioner.
“I quickly reported the matter to the Okpoko Police station and the Divisional Police Officer invited them and asked them to release our seized items because we did not commit any offense, but they refused. I then went to Awka to meet the Commissioner, who called one of the boys and ordered for their release of the six heavy duty vehicles they removed, even as they insisted that I must pay N212,000 to recover them, which I did”.
Ezeilo said he was surprised that one of the conditions given by the Commissioner to release my goods and the vehicles was that he should assist another private business outfit, doing similar business, to enable his business to grow.
He said that he later reported the incident to his lawyers, who arranged a meeting with the Commissioner, adding that the Managing Director of Del Trazi Nigeria Limited, Mr. Charles Ezeani, was present with his manager, Chuka Obiora during the meeting.
“It was that day that I knew who were behind my ordeal,” he said, adding that “they even demanded in the presence of the Commissioner that I must close my business at 223 and 240 Obodoukwu road and come into the Urban Terminal Park to do the business”.
According to him, “I asked them for a letter from the government, especially when I know that I do not default in paying what is due to government, but till date they did not come with any. Rather, they overpowered my workers and closed my business without any authority from the Anambra state government.
“I later heaved a sigh of relief when that Commissioner was removed on 1 September 19, 2019, thinking that my ordeal had ended, only to realize that my trouble was just beginning.
Effort to speak with the Commissioner for Transport did not yield any fruitful result as his phone was ringing without any answer. However, his personal assistant said his boss was not in town.
Meanwhile, Ezeilo had dragged the former Commissioner for Transport, Mr. Uchenna Okafor to court over the matter.
In the Suit No. At/49/2019, dated 21st day of October, 2019, between Patrick Okechukwu Ezeifo, Plaintiff, and Del Trazi Nigeria Limited, Charles Ezeani, Chuka Obiora, Uchenna Charles Okafor and Emeka Ude, Defendants, Chief Ezeifo is demanding justice from the court to continue his business which has remained closed down till date.
The Court in Ogbaru Judicial Division presided over by Justice A. O. Okuma ordered that Ezeilo be allowed to go into premises at No. 223 and 240 Obodoukwu Road with his trucks for the purpose of taking his goods from the premises, pending the determination of the motion for interlocutory injunction. The case was further adjourned to 4 December for further hearing.