Claims govt allocated 80 hectares of land to them
Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
The dust raised by the move by the Abia State Government to fence Lokpanta Regional Cattle Market is yet to settle, as the Northern community in the market, has told Gov. Alex Otti to allow them live inside the market.
The Northern Community vehemently opposed the proposal by the Abia State Government to fence the Cattle Market, claiming that that the action is targeted against them.
This is as the Northern community claimed that Abia State Government in 2005, “duly allocated 80 hectares of land at Umuchieze” to them as cattle market.
Claiming to have occupied the cattle market “since 2005,” the Northern community argued that it was not ideal to eject residents of the market and fence it.
“Every Nigerian has the right to stay in any part of the country. Abia State Government through the then Deputy Governor, the late Dr Chima Nwafor, flagged off Umuchieze cattle market which was duly allocated to the Northerners at its present location at Umuchieze. The land is about 80 hectares on the right side along Enugu Port Harcourt Expressway.
“The allocation of land to the Northerners was not predicted on any condition save for the Northern community to maximally utilise it for the purpose of cattle trading and other allied business transactions, residential quarters, and a motor park.”
The Northern community which addressed a press conference on Wednesday at the market, kicked against any attempt to fence the market and convert it to a day market.
Speaking through their Spokesman, Malam Buba Abdulahi, the Northern Community distanced themselves from various atrocities by criminals around the market.
The press conference was coming on the heels of the recent shocking revelation by Gov. Otti that over 50 decomposing and 20 headless bodies were recovered from around the cattle market recently.
The Northern community claimed that contrary to misconceptions, they were not “accomplices but also victims” of criminalities in the area.
They claimed that the revelation by the Governor was a ploy to discredit the Northern community in the market and portray them as criminals.
According to them “all the brothels, beer parlours, night clubs and lodging accommodations recently demolished by the State Government, belonged to the natives and members of the host community.”
Reading from a prepared speech, Abdulahi said: “If Government will fence the market… and ask us to live in the neighbouring villages, it means the Government has automatically chase (sic) us away from Abia State.”
The text further read: “The allocation of land to the Northerners was not predicted on any condition save for the Northern community to maximally utilise it for the purpose of cattle trading and other allied business transactions, residential quarters, and a motor park.”
They claimed they had supported security agencies in identifying criminal hideouts close to the market.
Asked why they took the Government’s directive for residents to vacate the market to mean pursuing Northerners out of the state, they claimed that the market was dominated by Northerners.
Responding to further inquiry, they said that when the cattle market was in Umuahia and Okigwe respectively, traders operated from inside the town but decided to live inside the market at Umuchieze because of the remoteness of the community.
The Northern community demanded a housing estate in the vicinity to accommodate them, claiming that they are up to 15,000 in number.
They also demanded that banks be sited in the cattle market to prevent movement of cash which exposes them to attacks by criminals.
“Considering the high rate of crimes in Umunneochi today, it will be a tactical mistake for us to relocate to various communities in Umuchime. We passionately appeal to His Excellency to allow us to live in the cattle market.”
Gov. Otti had explained that he never directed any Northerner to vacate the market, but only out to rid the market of criminal elements.
He explained that the proposed fencing was part of efforts to improve security around the vicinity , insisting that the move is not targeted at any law-abiding citizen irrespective of tribe or religion.
The text was jointly signed by the Chairman of the Cattle market, Alhaji Saleh Algare; Secretary General, Auwal Hamma; Saraki Hausa, HRH Alhaji Yaro Danladi, Buba Kedemure, among others.