By Praise Necherem
Drug dealers at the popular Ogbo-Ogwu International Market, Bridge-head, Onitsha, Anambra state have protested against what they called illegal extortion, arrests, harassments and intimidation of their customers in the market, a development they said had impacted negatively on their business.
They particularly accused one police sergeant Ogbonna from the Fegge police division attached to a federal agency of extortion of huge sums of money from their clients. The traders claimed to have lost many of their customers, who after being extorted, swore never to visit Onitsha again either to patronise them or any other reason.
The protesters, numbering over 20,000, carried placards with inscriptions: “Sgt. Ogbonna, leave us alone. Sgt. Ogbonna, stop chasing away our valued customers. EFCC should investigate him properly”, among others. Speaking to newsmen, chairman of the drug market caretaker committee, Anthony Ezioba, called for immediate redeployment of the officer.
“The relevant anti-graft agencies like EFCC should beam their searchlight on him and evaluate his assets and investments whether they are commensurate with his legitimate earnings as a police sergeant,” he said. He said the committee adopted the civilised protest to express their anger to the authorities concerned.
“Left for the traders, they would have launched a physical attack against Sgt Ogbonna while carrying out his nefarious operations inside the market. Also speaking, the market public relations officer, Marychaplet Igboamaeze claimed that the officer had informants who alerted him through phone of the arrival of customers in the market with huge sums of money.
He said, “Once the customer is done with his transactions and about leaving, he will be arrested by Sgt Ogbonna who will order his drug laden vehicle to the police station. “The next thing is to accuse him of purchasing fake, unwholesome or contraband and will demand for millions of naira from the buyer.”
He added, “The committee since inauguration last year, has been law abiding by adhering to all the stipulated guidelines and directives issued by the federal government, pharmaceutical council of Nigeria, NAFDAC, ministry of Health and other relevant bodies in sanitising the market. “We have never obstructed NAFDAC officials, police or NDLEA from carrying out their duties and have also gone out of our way to advise our members and give relevant information that could aid these agencies in succeeding in their functions. “The market has also been sanitised of fake, adulterated and pirated drugs but unfortunately, Ogbonna and his conscripted spies have turned us into cash
cows, milking our members dry and crippling our businesses”. “We pledge our continued allegiance to the relevant government authorities and our renewed commitment to carrying out our business with utmost decency and regard to best ethical standards”.
When contacted, the officer, Sgt. Ogbonna declined comments but divisional police officer at Fegge, Rabiu Garba (CSP) told newsmen on phone that he was unaware of the rift between the officer and the drug dealers. On his part, the police public relations officer, Anambra command, Haruna Mohammed (SP), said, “The most effective way of handling this type of matter would have been for the traders to channel their grievances in writing to the state commissioner of police. “The commissioner will, in turn, look into it critically and, if need be, summon Sgt Ogbonna for interrogations, rather than embarking on a demonstration of such a volatile nature.”