ANAMBRA: The activities of Ocha Brigade, a private security firm being used by the Anambra state Government to raid illegal street traders have been generating tension in the state.
Market leaders in Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of the State have accused the commander of the Brigade Mr.Kenneth Okonkwo, of working at cross -purposes with Governor Willie Obiano’smandate.
Chief Eric Umacoma, the Chairman of Onitsha South Shop Owners, told newsmen in Onitsha that Okonkwo runs an illegal private cell in Awka, where he detains and extorts money from his unsuspecting victims
“l am afraid that what this man is doing will effect our Governor’s second tenure bid. Even police, Army and other uniformed organizations cannot do what he is doing. He is taking laws into his hand, working against the Governor’s interest. I wonder whether this man want Obiano to come back. He will soon run into touble with traders”, said Chief Uwaoma.
He alleged that Chief Ohonkwo’s men came to Zik Avenue by Ochanja , Ozomagala Street to arrest his boys and carted away his members’ wares.
Uwaoma lamented thatChief Okonkwo carried out these operations against the directive of the Governor that before any of those his illegal arrests and raids, he shouldbrief the should chairman but he did not.
But Ohonkwo in sharpreaction when called on his cell phone denied having a private cell and using Police tointimidate, extort and sieze traders’ wares as alleged by Chief Uwaomam, sayingthat he was raiding the streets in the overall best interest of the State.
However, Chief Uwaoma said on April 3, 2017 he raided street tradersat Ziks Avenue, where his men carted away their wares.
On April 11, 2017 at Ozomagala street, said Uwaoma, Chief Ohonkwo’s boys arrested a member of ourtask force, Uchenna Nwakalor, who collects the AMATAS’ welfare revenue for them, dumped him into their vehicle and took him to Awka,where he was detained for three days in his private cells.
He said the boy was released after the payment of N20,000 bail fee in addition to N5,000 they collected from him when they arressted him, alleging that he was treated and made to take photographs like common criminals.
“What this man is doing with Ocha brigade is kidnapping. I call ontheGovernor to stop him now. He is termishing his image.He boasts that police in the state cannot do anything . But he should not do this this critical period we are going into anelection. The best he can do is to join the campaign to help the Governorreturn back. I was shocked that after the meeting at Governor’s lodge, where hewas warned, he went ahead to raid our people ’ said Chief Uwaoma.
However the Ocha Commandersaid they were working to sanitise the state, saying that street traders have takingover Ochanja Round About through Zik Avenue, displaying their wares on the roadwith ignominy.
He said that as anenforcement agency, they don’t just go out of their way to raid any place but with directives, saying that they acted onthe directive of the Ministry of Environment officials due the way they abused the road.
Okonkwo said they do not return the traders’ wares becausethey have discovered that the traders don’t feel any pain afterpaying N5,000 or N10,000 they, hencethe long seizure.
He also said that they work in concert with the police,stating that 30 mobile policemen and 10 from state Criminal Investigation Departments, so anybody arrested was arraigned in court the following day.
“Anybody who wants to attract sympathy can say anything. All we do is to sanitize the state. We use the police to carry out our raid. People behave as if there is no government. No, if you give them one revenue window,they will duplicate it and start extorting money from people. We will not allow that” said Okonkwo.