The Northern Community in Umuchieze Cattle Market in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State has dismissed the government’s allegation of decomposing corpses around the market as a pretext to execute a plot to evict them from the land they had occupied since 2005.
Governor Alex Otti had earlier told the media that many decayed and headless bodies, as well as skeletons, were found in the market located at Lokpanta in Umuchieze.
The governor also said that intelligence revealed that most ransoms for kidnapping were dropped around the market.
Otti, who had expressed worry over the state of insecurity at the Umuennochi/Isuikweato axis, said the market had become a hideout for criminals and kidnappers.
He had insisted that the government was going ahead with its plan to make the market non-residential.
He, therefore, ordered the traders to live with the natives in the neighbouring communities.
But the spokesperson for the community, Buba Abdullahi, expressed displeasure with the governor’s stance.
Abdullahi refuted the government’s claim that the market was filled with decomposed corpses and skeletons and that the market sheltered criminals.
He alleged that part of the plot was the recent demolition of houses in the market.
Abdullahi put their population at 15,000, saying that they occupied about 80 hectares of the land that was donated to them by the Orji Kalu-led government.
According to him, if the government would fence the market, demolish our houses, and ask us to go and live in the neighbouring villages, it means it has automatically chased us away from Abia.
He said, “We northerners are peace-loving and very accommodating. This is why there are many Southerners in the North doing their business without harassment or threats of eviction.
“It is unjust, unfair, and ungodly for anyone to prevent any Nigerian from staying in any part they so desire in Nigeria.
“There is a general misconception that the northern community is harbouring criminals, but all the brothels, rooms, beer parlours, nightclubs, and lodging accommodations recently demolished belong to the natives.”
Appealing to the government to allow the traders to reside inside the market, Abdullahi said it would be a “tactical mistake for us to relocate to communities in Umuchieze, considering the prevailing high rate of crime in the area”.
He said that some of them were also victims of the crimes taking place around the area.
He expressed their willingness to collaborate with the state government towards finding a lasting solution to the security challenges in the area.