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Butchers in Umuahia, Abia State capital have staged a peaceful protest over alleged threat by certain individuals to evict them from the land allegedly given to them by Government as far back as 1994.
In order to stop the purported eviction plot, which they claimed was being planned by a number of influential people, including a senior government official, they requested Governor Alex Otti’s intervention.
The land is located in Mgbarakuma/Amuzu in Ubakala, Umuahia South Local Government Area, according to Comrade Ngozi Williams, Chairman of the Umuahia Butchers Association, who was speaking to reporters during the protest in front of Abia Shopping Mall.
He claimed that the State Government under a former Military Administrator, Col. Ike Nwosu, in partnership with a former Minister for Agriculture, Adamu Shiroma, secured the land for them after relocating them from the Old Garki in Umuahia North.
The Chairman said that the butchers had been operating from the place peacefully until some individuals rose and claimed that the said land now belongs to them.
A traditional ruler from Umuahia South LGA, and a top Government official were among those fingered by the butchers as the arrowheads.
‘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’.
According to him, 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 butchers who said they were law-abiding, pleaded with Gov. Otti who they said they had much confidence in, to come speedily to their rescue.
‘We are pleading that Government should intervene in the matter and save us’.
Adding his voice, the Vice Chairman, Chief Noah Uwalaka, said that the said Government official claimed that the previous administration in the state gave him the abattoir on lease for 25 years.
He said that the official demanded that the butchers should be paying revenue directly to him and not Government.
Chief Uwalaka said that the butchers had been paying N500 per cow as joint revenue to the State and Local Government Area.
Corroborating the duo, former Chairman of the butchers, Mr Ebere Akandu, claimed that Government had settled the owners of the land before relocating the butchers in 1994.
‘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’.
Meanwhile, the butchers accused a Special Adviser to the Governor on Security, Commander MacDonald Ubah (retd), of threatening to evict them out of the land by force.
When contacted, Ubah denied any threat or plot to eject the butchers, dismissing all the allegations as spurious and mischievous.
He said: ‘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.’
The Governor’s Security Adviser who accused the butchers of opposing Government’s move to sanitize 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 sanitize 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.