The Abia State Government has said it cleared out the Lokpanta cattle market and condemned Hausa community leaders for condoning criminals and peddling untruths about the state government.
The Special Adviser to the Governor on Security Matters, Macdonald Ubah Rtd, said this during a press briefing at the Government House, Umuahia.
The News Agency of Nigeria reported that he stated that Governor Alex Otti’s administration would make the market a daily market for security reasons and, therefore, issued a seven days notice for people residing within the market to move out.
Mr Ubah said the government’s decision was informed by findings which showed that the market served as a rendezvous for the perpetrators of kidnappings in the area.
He said it had been observed that several kidnaps, which had happened for over a year, took place around the Lokpanta-Umunneochi and Uturu axis of Abia.
Mr Ubah said the spate of kidnappings in Abia became worrisome, and the Otti government began taking measures to curtail or stop its occurrence.
He said it was unfortunate that the cattle market leaders and traders had not carried themselves well, as they had allowed criminals to infiltrate and take over the market.
He said, “Every intel we have gotten concerning the kidnap incidents in the state points to the cattle market, as it has been noticed that ransom is paid around the Lokpanta cattle market. About two months ago, we went to the market and delivered a stern warning that the government will not tolerate the market being a safe haven for criminals and criminality.
“They extended the market to the median of the road, which they use to carry out their criminal activities. So the first thing we did was to dismantle the market in the median, and then three weeks ago, we carried out a deliberate action of demolishing brothels numbering over 160 rooms and shanties in the market.
“Arrests were made and monies in the neighbourhood of millions were recovered and investigations are ongoing.”
According to him, plans were underway to fence the market and make it a daily market to set up the market to be actualised. He urged the public to disregard the rumours about the sacking of the Hausa community from the state, adding that it was the handiwork of mischief makers.
Mr Ubah said the government had, in a meeting with the cattle market leaders, informed them of its decision to make the market a daily market, adding that they said that notice was too short and pleaded for more time.
“It is surprising and very embarrassing to the government that they have turned around to say that we have driven them out. This is spurious information and should be disregarded.
“The position of the government is that the market will no longer be residential because key performance indicators have shown that there has been no kidnap around that axis in the past six weeks since we took all the measures we did.
“So, it is untrue that we told them to leave, but it is the responsibility of the governor, who is also the chief security officer of the state, to ensure that the state is safe,” Ubah stated.