Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Special Adviser to Gov. Alex Otti of Abia State, Navy Commander MacDonald Ubah (retd), has refuted media reports that the Governor issued a two-week ultimatum to Northerners at the Lokpanta Regional Cattle market to relocate to the North.
The SA who addressed newsmen Monday in Umuahia, described the media report as false and a fabrication by mischievous elements to discredit the Governor.
Clearing the air on the misconstrued directive of the Governor, the SA said that security reports revealed that most of the criminal activities in the Umunneochi/Uturu/Lokpanta axis were traceable to the market.
He explained that the Governor never ordered Northerners at the cattle market to quit but only gave directives that the market would no longer operate at night based on security reports.
According to him, Government decided to introduce some security measures to curb criminality in the region, hence the idea of making the market a day market.
He expressed disappointment that cattle dealers in the market allowed the market to become a hiding place for criminals.
According to him most of the ransoms from victims of kidnapping were paid at the market.
“We went to the market and told the cattle dealers that Government would not tolerate a situation where the market becomes a safe haven for criminals.
“They even converted the median in the road into market where they target buses passing by and obstruct their movement. They give information about the bus and the occupants get kidnapped on the way.
“So, we dismantled the market in the median. Three weeks ago we carried out a deliberate action in the market, and brought down brothels numbering over 160 rooms. Millions of Naira were recovered, arrests were made, and investigations are on.”
The SA insisted that Government had decided to make the cattle market a day market as obtains in other major markets in the country as part of necessary security measures to curb infiltration by criminals.
“We have communicated to the cattle dealers that the market will no longer be a residential market. We will fence the market and everybody comes in the day to transact and leaves in the evening as done at Alaba International Market Lagos or Sabongari in Kano or Ariaria in Aba.”
He further explained that when the position of the State Government was communicated to the dealers, their leadership begged for extension of time, adding that a meeting has been scheduled for Tuesday (tomorrow) to hear their complaints.
He expressed shock that some mischief makers went to the media to accuse the Governor of issuing a quit notice to Northerners.
The SA said that Governor Otti “is not tribalistic and does not believe in state of origin,” and could not have given such order.
According to him, most of the traders in the market are second generation Igbos who were born and brought up in the state, and could not have been ordered to leave the state.
He admitted that since the latest security measures were introduced, criminality especially kidnaping has drastically subsided in the area.
The SA insisted that no amount of blackmail would make Government to back down on its determination to rid the market of criminals.
He maintained that security of lives and property of citizens “is the primary responsibility of Government,” saying that Gov. Otti cannot afford to shirk his responsibility.
Urging the members of the public to disregard purported quit notice, the SA urged traders in the market to comply with the Government directive.
He re-stated the preparedness of the state Government to protect every law abiding citizen or resident of the state.