To oppose change of leadership at the Nigerian Automobile and Technicians Association(NATA), Ebonyi State chapter, a clan in the union, which has been holding leadership of the group for years and its supporters went on rampage, destroying properties worth millions of Naira. UCHENNA INYA in Abakaliki reports
E ight blocs make up the Nigerian Automobile Technicians Association. The blocs are those who specialize in furniture making, welding, electrical matters, mechanics and others. They came together to form the NATA union.
The NATA union is one of the largest union in the state. The headquarters of the union is located at a place called mechanic village with Izzi clan as the host community. Since the union came into being in 1983, the mechanics who are of Izzi clan has been producing chairmanship position of the union though other blocs of the union always form the executives.
This year, other seven blocs resolved that they must taste the chairmanship position which did not go down well with the mechanic bloc which opposed the decision. This created division in the union. The seven bloc came up with the decision to amend the constitution of the union for conduct of an election that will produce the next chairman of the union. The mechanic bloc already had its own constitution and it created more division, confusion and crisis in the union.
The state government stepped into the matter and appointed caretaker Committee, pending when election would be conducted following expiration of tenure of the present executives. Members of the committee were drawn from the two opposing groups. But the chairmanship position was given to a someone that is not from the mechanic bloc.
The mechanic bloc and its supporters opposed the decision and went on rampage, destroying valuable properties at the mechanic village. Shops at the village were hurriedly shut during the melee. Those who couldn’t close their own shops while running for their lives were badly hit in the destruction of properties at the mechanic village.
A widow, who sells cooked food for the artisans was also badly hit as her foods were turned upside down during the riot.
The porters set fire on the roads and adjoining streets in the area. They used spare tyres and big woods to barricade the areas they did not set fire. But for the quick intervention of Anti-riot policemen, there would have been total breakdown of law and order in the mechanic village. The protesters alleged that the state government imposed a candidate on them for the Chairmanship position of the association.
There has been rising tension in the mechanic village for some weeks now following frustrated attempts to elect new executives to pilot the affairs of the state chapter of the Nigeria Automobile Technicians Association in the state.
The tension metamorphosed into violence when one of the factions contesting the leadership of the association was allegedly endorsed by the state government on acting capacity. According to an eyewitness, the development did not go down well with the opposing factional members as they embarked of violent protest, burning tyres on the roads and smashing plastic chairs and some vehicles. One of the mechanics in the village, Fred Ugba, blamed the development on interference by some highly placed persons in the government who he said, cancelled the association’s chairmanship election severally.
“When we went for the election, they cancelled it. The second time, they said that we couldn’t do that election and they also cancelled it. The cancelled it three times and the one of the chairmanship contestants has population more than the other one and government has interest in one of the candidates. Let the government drop two of them and look inside that area and provide one person for us as an electoral body”, he said.
Senior Special Assistant to Governor Dave Umahi on Internal security, Dr. Kenneth Ugbala, said while the allegation that government cancelled the election was not true, the idea behind an Acting Chairman came up when it was obvious that the election if conducted as planned would be bloody.
Ugbala said: “These caretaker committee members were drawn from the two warring factions. If one is particularizing that a candidate that is made the chairman is from Onicha Local Government, somebody for Izzi clan just ruled for seven years”, he said. Administrative Secretary of the association, Nweke Nwabueze told our correspondent thus “my job is to keep the administrative record of the union.
Before I could return from where I went to eat, I saw everywhere scattered with properties destroyed. There was a kind of leadership tussle; who will be the chairman and I did not know that it will degenerate to this level. This is an association and revenue is generated here, no budget comes in, no allocation comes in. so, I don’t know what they are struggling for.”
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