ONITSHA market, commonly referred to as the commercial city of Anambra state is usually a beehive of activities, as traders travel from other parts of the country to buy goods for retail purposes. This is because goods are reportedly sold at cheaper rates compared to other big markets across the country. For instance, men's singlet is one of the fastest moving businesses in the market as traders prefer to buy there than in Cotonue, Benin Republic.
The reason why singlets are sold cheaper in the market was recently unfolded following the startling recovery of ammunition that were neatly concealed inside twenty-eight cartoons packed with singlets.
The goods which were conveyed in a white Volkswagen bus with plate number XT 537 LSD was reportedly loaded from Seme boarder en route Balogun market at Trade fair complex in Lagos, when some policemen from Trade Fair division of Area 'E' command, stopped it for a search. Suspecting there could be more to what the driver of the bus gave as contents of the sealed carton, the policemen reportedly took the car to the station where they demanded to know what was inside.
During the search, 26 cartoons of live cartridges concealed inside cartons of T-shirts and two bags of beans were discovered. The driver of the vehicle, one James Korinjoh later discovered to be a retired Naval Officer was arrested. Recovered also in the vehicle, according to Lagos State Police Commissioner, Mr Umar Manko, were a Naval Warrant Officer's 'WO2' uniform, ID card, beret cap and shoe belonging to the military.
Investigations, according to Manko, extended to Onitsha, Anambra state where one Maduabuchi Udeh ,suspected to be one of the owners of the consignment was arrested. The Police boss alleged that Maduabuchi offered the sum of N61,200 to the police team to influence release of the consignment but was arrested in the process.
In this interview with the 54 -year-old driver of the vehicle, James, he denied having knowledge of the contents in the sealed cartons maintaining that his job was simply to convey the goods to the designated point. Without any remorse, James said, " I am a retired Master Warrant Officer.
I retired in September 2010. After retirement, I started transport business. I did not know those things were there on that day, I only looked at it from the surface and asked him what were inside and he told me they were vests."
Asked why he was still with military uniform after retirement, he replied, " I was not putting them on . Rather, they were inside the car. You see, on this route, drivers are usually disturbed by policemen and motor park touts. So, what I did was to put the uniform and my ID cards to scare them away.
They are just there as a source of scarecrow. He explained that he met Ejike in a drinking joint. Asked if he regretted his action, he replied, " It is unfortunate that I was arrested for what I know nothing about because I served the country well and will not be a tool for corruption.
When I was arrested, I put a call across to Ejike informing him to come down but he refused. I even lied to him that the policemen demanded for bribe in order to release me and the goods. He asked me to send one of the policemen 's account number but I told him that was not going to be possible considering the Inspector-General of Police stand on bribery.
In other to convince him to come down, I also explained that should they begin investigation if we were caught, the account would indict us. I thought this will make him come down so that I would be exonerated but he never showed up."
The second suspect arrested alongside James was 27 year-old Maduabuchi, who hails from Enugu state. Madu, as he is popularly called, explained that he was into joint business with Ejike , claiming he never knew who the ammunition were sold to. " I gave Ejike the sum of N230,000 .
Ammunition in the goods
I am not the only one that gave him. Other traders are also involved in the joint business. I joined them in February, last year. What Ejike does is to go to Ghana to buy goods and sell same in Onitcha at cheap rates.
The very first time I saw the ammunition in the goods, I asked him what they were and he said it was to make up the gain, that is, to make up for the goods sold at cheap rates. If I had known this is how it will end, I would have put my money into another business. What they do is to trade with the joint money for a year and six months after which we will all share the accrued gain.
We were to share the gain by August . Now, I do not know how to get out of this mess, let alone getting to start life all over again because as it is, I have lost everything . And to think that I borrowed some of the money is worse for me."
Efforts, according to Manko, were still on to track the alleged kingpin, Ejike and other suspects. Meanwhile, he informed that the arrested suspects would be charged to court.