Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Foundation for Environmental Rights, Advocacy and Development, FENRAD, a leading human and environmental rights advocacy group, has called for proper investigation of anyone opposed to the move by the Abia State Government to fence the Regional Cattle Market at Lokpanta, Umunneochi Local Government Area.
Gov. Alex Otti had vowed to fence the market and convert it to a day market as part of efforts to improve security in the area after he had revealed that over 50 decomposing and 20 headless bodies were recovered around the market.
FENRAD knocked those challenging the credibility of the Governor’s revelation, accusing them of instigating needless tension.
The group which expressed sadness over the shocking discovery, commended the Governor for his bold move to contain insecurity in the area including the proposed fencing of the cattle market.
It declared full support for any action towards flushing out criminals who it said had infiltrated the market to terrorise innocent citizens.
FENRAD in a strongly worded statement by its Executive Director, Comrade Nelson Nwafor, said no responsible Government fold its arms while any part of its territory is converted into a breeding ground for criminals.
The statement read: “What an infamy that the market built to promote cattle and foodstuff enterprise was turned into a den of hostage takers who run a kidnapping and abduction industry that has thrived for decades now!
“FENRAD is aware of the gruesome activities of these faceless gangs which have been extended from Lokpanta and Umunneochi to Ihube, Uturu, Okigwe and Isuikwuato axes. A previous release from the Foundation urged the then state government of Abia to end the kidnapping of Abia State University, ABSU, students and lecturers which became an industry following the 2020 lockdown.
“The bigger question now is: if this number of headless and lifeless humans, likely Abia indigenes and others, was found only recently, how many more have been killed in the intervening years following the lockdown when this menace began or the years before?”
FENRAD which supported the planned eviction of residents from the market, urged traders residing inside the market to comply with the Government directive.
“That fact that the killings and decapitation happened and were not reported, neither by the traders nor market occupants, only leaves much to be desired.
“We cannot have a concentration camp in the name of market anywhere in Abia. Enough.”
FENRAD also supported the move to convert the market to “a daily market so it won’t serve as an encampment or brothels where forced organ harvesting and other illicit trades may be carried out.”
The statement further read: “It is a shame that some anarchists are citing irredentism or forced removal of the Hausa community in Abia just to demarket the state government. This should not be condoned.
“There is no where in the world markets serve as settlements or a base for hoodlums. The fact that the presence of heavy-duty trucks by the roadside slows traffic on the road is another unacceptable thing that must not be seen on any expressway.”
FENRAD recalled “the experience of His Eminence, Dr Samuel Kanu, former Prelate of Methodist Church of Nigeria who was abducted alongside his Aides,” recalling that “upon release, the Prelate had narrated his ordeal and told newsmen that his abductees were Fulfulde-speaking herdsmen.”
“Again, local intelligence has it that some natives, working in cahoots with these herdsmen, provide information on some victims and are beneficiaries of this trade in abduction,” the statement added.
The statement further read: “What is deeply worrying about the whole development is that within the Lokpanta and Umunneochi radii are military and police checkpoints, yet citizens cannot travel through the Enugu-Port Harcourt road in peace.
“It should be recalled that sometime last year, angered by the growing inability of these security agencies to check this menace, Umunneochi youth threatened to sack the military. There is now need to protect Abia forest margins, as these coordinates may be hosting killer herdsmen.
“It is on this note that the Foundation salutes the bold step taken by Governor Alex Otti.”
Ikengaonline had reported that Northern community in the market, had asked Gov. Otti to jettison the idea of evicting residents from the market, arguing such action would expose them to attacks by criminals.
They pleaded with the Governor to allow them to continue to live inside the market, or in the alternative, provide them with housing estate around the vicinity of their over 15,000 members.