…It’s lie from pit of hell – Govt
Stephen Ukandu, Umuahia
Butchers in Umuahia, Abia State capital, have taken to the streets to protest alleged plot to evict them from the portion of land at Ubakala allegedly given to them by Government in 1994.
The butchers who refused to slaughter any animal so as to register their grievances, carried placards with various inscriptions, demanding the intervention of Gov. Alex Otti.
They accused certain individuals close to power of masterminded the alleged eviction plot.
Chairman of Umuahia Butchers Association, Comrade Ngozi Williams, who addressed newsmen during the peaceful protest, said that the land was located at Mgbarakuma/ Amuzu in Ubakala, Umuahia South Local Government Area.
According to him, the State Government under a former Military Administrator, Col. Ike Nwosu, in collaboration with a former Minister for Agriculture, Adamu Ciroma, secured the land for them after relocating them from the Old Garki in Umuahia North.
He claimed that the butchers had been operating from the place peacefully until recently when some persons came to lay claims on the land.
A traditional ruler and a top government official were among those fingered by the butchers as masterminds of the plot.
“This group of people are troubling butchers to vacate from the land,” the chairman said, adding that they also claimed that government has sold or transferred the land to them.”
He said the top government official claimed that “we should be paying revenue to him and not to the government, that the government has sold the land to him.”
The protesters pleaded with Gov. Otti to intervene, restating their confidence in the Governor.
“We are pleading that government should intervene in the matter and save us.”
Corroborating the claims of the Chairman, the Vice Chairman, Chief Noah Uwalaka, said one of the arrowheads even claimed that the previous administration gave him the abattoir on lease for 25 years.
The Vice Chairman further claimed that the said official demanded that the butchers should be paying revenue directly to him and not Government.
He claimed that the butchers had been paying N500 per cow as joint revenue to the State and Local Government Area.
Adding his voice, former Chairman of the butchers, Mr Ebere Akandu, claimed that Government had settled the owners of the land before relocating the butchers in 1994.
“Government gave us over 100 acres of land at the place to build slaughter, and to graze our cows. A Police Post and banks are also to be sited in the place.
“But suddenly, these people said we should go, claiming that the Government has given the land to them. We want the Governor to save us. We have written to the Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, but he said we should wait. We want the Governor’s quick intervention.”
The butchers alleged that the Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Commander MacDonald Ubah (retd), threatened to use force and drive them out of the land.
But in a swift response when contacted, the Security Adviser denied any threat or plot to eject the butchers, dismissing all the allegations as spurious and mischievous.
He accused the butchers of being driven by self interest, insisting that no amount of blackmail will force the Government to drop the move to sanitise the market.
“When we are driving government policy, people who feel they will be adversely affected will come up with all sorts of allegations to further their selfish interests.”
Commander Ubah who accused the butchers of opposing government’s move to sanitise the abattoir, likened their protest to the resistance by traders at Lokpanta Regional Cattle Market who falsely accused him of chasing away Northerners when he wanted to carry out government directive to sanitise the market.
“When I was given the mandate to ensure that the criminality at Lokpanta cattle market stops, and the market fenced and made a daily market, I followed through. The next thing I heard was that I was chasing away Northerners from Abia State but it was a pure lie.
“The same way, these allegations are lies from the pit of hell. The truth is that government wants to fence that place and make it more hygienic for beef to be processed. They have been in breach of the sanitary condition of that place, and government won’t allow that.
“Three weeks ago we received Bulgaria investors and we took them there and they were not happy with the sanitary condition of the place where cows are killed and butchered on mats. The slabs are full of maggots. The place is open and not fenced. Instead of doing what they are supposed to do they resorted to propaganda but they can’t cow government.
” Nobody asked them to relocate. Where are we driving them to? That’s a source of revenue for Government. All we did was that government brought investors to see how it can deepen its revenue generation base, and also improve the hygiene condition.”
He accused the butchers of being driven by selfish interests, saying they are crying wolf where none exists.
“What negative impact will it have on the butchers if that place is fenced, or if investors come and develop that place? Won’t they still be killing their cows even in a more hygienic environment? So, what is it that is biting them and making them feel that investors should not come in there?”
He challenged them to disclose who they have been paying revenue to as they claimed, saying that the current administration from inception, banned revenue collection in all markets and parks.
The SA also challenged them to provide proof that Government gave them 100 acres of land at the said place, insisting that there is no grazing field in any part of Abia State.
“Abia did not ratify open grazing, so, they shouldn’t talk about giving them any land for grazing.”
He warned people against actions capable of breaching security of lives and property in the state.