Fencing cattle market means chasing us out of Abia, Northern community tells Otti
* Distances selves from 50 recovered corpses around mkt
* Claims Abia govt duly allocated 80 hectares of land to Northerners
By Steve Oko
The Northern Community in Abia State has strongly opposed the move by the Abia State Government to fence the Regional Cattle Market at Umuchieze, claiming that doing so amounts to chasing them out of the state.
Spokesman of the Northern community Malam Buba Abdulahi, who addressed a press conference Wednesday inside the cattle market, distanced Northern community from atrocities by criminals around the market.
Abdulahi who was reacting to the shocking revelation by Gov. Alex Otti that over 50 decomposing and 20 headless bodies were recovered from around the cattle market recently, said Northerners were not “accomplices but also victims” of criminalities in the area.
Gov. Otti had during a media parley on Sunday, disclosed that over 50 decomposing bodies were recovered from the vicinity of the market, and vowed to flush out criminals around the region.
The Governor said that part of the measures to improve security in the area was to eject residents from the market, fence, and convert it to day market.
But the Northern community claimed that the revelation by the Governor was a ploy to blackmail them.
Absolving themselves of any complicity, they said that “all the brothels, beer palours, night clubs and lodging accommodations recently demolished by the State Government, belonged to the natives and members of the host community”.
According to them, ejecting residents from the market and asking them to live in the neighbouring commuinites or cities would expose them to attacks by criminals.
Abdulahi who read from a prepared text 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 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.
They claimed that Abia State Government in 2005, duly allocated 80 hectares of land at Umuchieze to the Northern community as cattle market, arguing that it would be unfair to displace them from the land which “we have occupied since 2005”.
” 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 Northerns at its present location at Umuchieze. The land is about 80 hectares on the right side along Enugu Port Harcourt Expressway”.
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”.
The Northern community said they had supported security agencies in identifying criminal hideouts close to the market.
Responding to questions on why they were opposed to fencing the market, the traders said their “goods arrive at any time of the night”.
Asked why they interpreted 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.
They further admitted that when the cattle market was in Umuahia and Okigwe respectively, they lived inside the town but decided to live inside the market at Umuchieze because of the remoteness of the community.
The Northern community which claimed that they were about 15,000, demanded a housing estate in the vicinity to accommodate them.
They equally demanded the siting of banks 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 criminals 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.