From Judex Okoro, Calabar

It was celebration galore in Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, as the Automobile Spare Parts Dealers Association (ASPDAC) inaugurated a new executive committee after 17 years of leadership tussle.

The association was founded 30 years ago by a group of traders, including Oruche, Obi Nnajiofor,  Samuel Osumou, Uche Okafor and the late Ejike Egwuonwu, as a result of the incessant harassment and intimidation of spare parts dealers in Calabar metropolis by government agents.

In the light of the above, they (founding members) decided to come together to, among other things, protest against illegal taxation and levies by agents of government and then  promote the welfare of members.

But a few years after its formation, the association was engulfed in a leadership crisis, leading to factionalisation and litigation by the contending groups. However, after several meetings organised by some concerned elders and young traders, peace was brokered, as the two factions came together recently, conducted election and subsequently inaugurated a new executive committee, led by Mr. Felix Odigwe.

Describing the event as epoch-making, the chairman on the occasion, Chief Okechukwu Maduekwe, said the storm was over and advised them to be law-abiding as well as supportive of host communities.

Maduekwe said the spare parts dealers were the engine that ran the Cross River State economy and, therefore, should work towards serving their numerous customers as well as ensure that their members don’t engage in illegal deals that would tarnish the image of the association.

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Speaking shortly after the inauguration of the new leadership, the chairman of the association, Mr. Felix Odigwe, expressed confidence that the new team would consolidate on the peace process and promised to work for the overall interest of traders, adding that the inauguration was historic and a journey to greatness. 

He said: “We would rebuild the association that has existed for 27 years without executives. We have been divided for too long without peace and unity. I will restore peace and ensure that we work under an umbrella so that peace and tranquility will always prevail. 

“We shall embark without delay on some programmes such as know-your-neighbour and identity cards would be provided for all our nominal members and also our salesboys and girls. This would enable us to know when miscreants infiltrate our business environment. Security has become everybody’s business and we should contribute our quota towards the development of the state.

“Besides, we shall partner with relevant government and non-government agencies to see how we could genuinely relocate to a permanent and befitting auto spare parts market of our own in Calabar.”

Advising the new leadership to shun politics and concentrate on their business, the president of the Igbo community in Cross River State, Chief Obi Onyeka, said it is high time the traders closed ranks and promoted business developments among members.

In his goodwill message, the chairman of Calabar Traders’ Association, Mr. Festus Mbaonu, expressed delight that the auto spare parts union was back, and enjoined the leadership to shun politics of acrimony and  concentrate on promoting business and economy of Calabar metropolis.