Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Abia State Government has ordered herdsmen, settlers and all persons living inside the forests around Umunneochi Local Government Area where the Prelate of the Methodist Church of Nigeria, His Eminence Samuel Uche, was abducted by suspected herdsmen last Sunday, to vacate the forests without delay.
Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu who issued the directive Sunday, said the safety of such elements was no longer guaranteed.
The directive is coming about four days after the youths of Umunneochi gave Government seven-day ultimatum to relocate the Regional Cattle Market at Lokpanta which they claimed, provides harbour for criminal herdsmen behind incessant kidnappings and other atrocities in the area.
The youths who accused soldiers posted at Lomara military checkpoint of frustrating efforts to confront the criminal herders on the prowl in the area also demanded immediate dismantling of the Army checkpoint, and the opening of Isuochi/Ihube Road connecting Imo and Abia.
Ikpeazu had during a town-hall meeting with stakeholders of Umunneochi in the aftermath of the abduction and release of the Prelate, vowed to take measures to flush criminals out of the area.
The State Government in a statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Eze Chikamnayo, also restricted the movement of cows to the Cattle Market for now.
The statement made available to Ikengaonline read in part: “His Excellency, the Executive Governor of Abia State, Dr Okezie Victor Ikpeazu hereby directs as follows:
“That the Commissioner of Police, Abia State alongside with Umunneochi Youths, provide immediate Security along the Ihube to Isuochi Road stretching from Ngodo through Lomara Junction all the Way to Ihube.
“Upon the implementation of the above directive, The Governor directs the Chairman of Umunneochi LGA, Chief Ifeanyi Madu, to open the Road leading from Ihube through Lomara Junction to Ngodo Isuochi immediately.
“The Commissioner of Police, Abia State has been mandated to draw up logistic requirements for mounting six additional check points at strategic locations across Umunneochi LGA.
“Governor Okezie Victor Ikpeazu hereby directs that all settlers, herders and individuals residing inside the forests around Umunneochi LGA to vacate such locations with immediate effect. Government can no longer guarantee the safety of any person or group found to be residing in the forests around Umunneochi LGA.
“All Cows and herders around Umunneochi LGA are hereby restricted strictly to the Cattle Market located at Umuchieze until a final decision is reached concerning the menace in the Cattle Market.
“The Leadership of the Youths of Umunneochi LGA, Vigilante Groups, Hunters and the Hausa Community will continue to meet with the Governor until an amicable solution is found to the incessant cases of Insecurity in the area.
The statement urged “all parties to show restraint and circumspection in their utterances and actions in order to maintain the peace and promote peaceful coexistence of all law-abiding citizens.”