The Lokpanta Cattle Market furore: Appreciating government’s honest intentions – Written by Eagle Okoro, an Umuahia-based public affairs commentator


The avoidable furore that followed the Abia Government’s recent discoveries and bizarre revelations about the horrendous criminal activities that persisted over the years at the Lokpanta Cattle Market in Umuchieze Community of Umunneochi Local Government seems to have been orchestrated by a senseless and criminally-oriented opposition groups.

It is only such callous and anti-people elements that could cautionlessly oppose the government’s measures being put in place to beef up security in the area for the lives and property of Abia residents and thouroughfarers.

Indeed, not a few Nigerians were genuinely agitated by the revelations that were made possible through the technological devices installed in strategic areas of the state by the Gov. Alex Chioma Otti-led administration for enhanced security intelligence.

At a recent parley with the media at the Government House, Umuahia, the governor disclosed how the gadgets had assisted in exposing the unimaginable degree of violent crimes and wanton destruction of human lives as captured by his blood-chilling account.

He said: “We installed electronic equipment to find out what is happening in every part of the state.

“A few weeks ago, we found that a lot of the ransom that was paid for kidnapping ended up somewhere around Umunneochi Local Government Area.

“We went in and brought down many brothels.

“We decided to dominate the place and what we saw was shocking.

“When we decided to occupy the market, in less than 48 hours, we discovered 50 decomposing dead bodies, 20 headless dead bodies, men, women and children and uncountable skeletons.”

Needless saying that the security situation in the area assumed an alarming proportion that no responsible government would fold its arms and allow such a criminality to take root in its territory as was the case under the erstwhile Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu’s watch.

So, the present people-oriented government quickly decided to introduce some drastic and pragmatic security measures around the market and its environs to permanently checkmate the unwholesome phenomenon.

Specifically, government resolved to convert the exclusive cattle market to a multi-purpose daily market, “which starts in the morning and closes in the evening, like any other general market”.

Furthermore, the government declared the market non-residential, hence it directed the traders, who hitherto resided inside it, to relocate to the neighbouring communities, rent apartments therein and live with and among the natives. Many consider this directive more fundamental and salutary toward achieving greater sanity in that environment.

Govermment also embarked on the perimeter fencing of the market to further secure it against infiltration and trespass by criminal elements that hide under the cover of the market to perpetrate heinous crimes.

These measures became imperative, following the notoriety that the market acquired over the period as a den of kidnappers, armed robbers and other criminal elements that specialised in narcotic and illicit drug businesses, gunrunning, prostitution and many others crimes.

Of course, government’s honest intention in all of these initiatives was to ensure that hoodlums did not regroup and continue to hibernate in the area, especially inside the market, and resume their terror attacks on innocent Abia residents and travellers on that axis of the Enugu-Port Harcourt Expressway.

This is the reason the governor said, “Anybody not supporting this move must be a criminal, and there is no place for criminals anymore in Abia.”

He described as unfortunate the fact that “some people misinterpreted our action to mean that we asked the northerners trading in the market to leave the state”.

This was how the opposition Peoples Democratic Party and their allies in the All Progressives Congress twisted and obfuscated government’s noble and well-intended security measures, dressed it’s pronouncements on the issue in ethnic garb to mean the issuance of quit notice to the Hausa Community in Abia. Nothing can be farther than the truth!

And no sooner had the devil’s advocate in the opposition parties gone to town with the propaganda and fake news than a certain group, known as the Northern Consensus Movement, (NCM), issued a 14-day ultimatum to Igbo indigenes resident in the north to quit the region.

Thanks to the governor’s timely and proactive intervention, which helped to nip the group’s misapplied reprisal steps in the bud and also douse the already smouldering tension.

Following a meeting he convened with the leadership of the Lokpanta Cattle Market, NCM, which is an amalgam of community-based socio-cultural and economically inclined northern organisations, quickly withdrew its quit order to easterners in the north.

The governor said: “At our interaction with leaders of the northern community, we told them that anyone who was not in support of the moves we were making to secure the state must be a criminal.

“They saw reasons with us and quickly reversed the quit notice they issued to Igbo in the north.

“That’s why we have decided to make the market a daily market, people can go to the market and do their business and go home at the end of the day.

“The market will not only be a cattle market again, but will have other sections for other goods, like every other market.

“Those who live inside the market will now live among other people in the state outside the market.”

“We have taken a stand to provide adequate security to Abia citizens and visitors because we know that no government can succeed in the face of insecurity.

“This government will not get involved in supporting criminals or allow them to occupy any part of the state.”

The governor’s seemingly stern and audacious measure ought not be misread since from day one in his inaugural speech, he disclosed in unmistakable term, his resolve to give a bloody nose to any criminal element that either refused to turnover a new leaf or relocate out of Abia territory.

And even though successive PDP governments tacitly acquiesced in a cohabition arrangement with criminal gangs, Gov. Otti pointedly expressed his indignation to sharing Abia territory with criminal elements.

Therefore, the governor’s unpretentious zero tolerance for crime and criminality in any part of the Abia territory places a huge burden on all residents to join hands with him to make the state safe and attractive to become the most alluring investment destination, east of the Niger.

Thus, whether one is Igbo, Yoruba, Hausa/Fulani, Ijaw, Efik, Ibibio, Idoma, all hands must be on deck to make Abia peaceful and secure for enduring socio-economic development to happen.

Afterall, as the common police maxim says, “security is everybody’s business”. Hence, the task of providing security for lives and property cannot be left for the government alone.

As rightly noted by the governor, amongst the countless number of human skeletons uncovered at the cattle market, presumably belonging to kidnap victims, it is difficult to distinguish the ones that were of the Yoruba, Igbo or Hausa origin.

Eagle Okoro, a public affairs commentator, writes from Umuahia