We Need More Dialogue With The Abia State Government


The Northern Community in Lokpanta , Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State, largely made up of cattle dealers, has claimed ignorance of the said decomposing, headless bodies and skeletons discovered at the Lokpanta Cattle Market by the State government.

The State Governor, Dr. Alex Otti, had during a media briefing said that government, in a security operation, raided the Lokpanta Cattle Market and discovered 50 decomposing bodies, 20 headless bodies and many human skeletons around the market.

“A few weeks ago, we found that a lot of ransom that was paid for kidnapping ended up somewhere around Umunneochi, and we decided to raid the place. During the raid, we made shocking discoveries.

In less than 48 hours, we recovered over 50 dead bodies around the cattle market in Umunneochi.

“We recovered over 20 decomposing headless bodies — men, women, children! We recovered so many skeletons of people killed. We also discovered that narcotics trade, gunrunning, prostitution and so many things were happening in the market.

“So, we realised that the first thing to be done is to secure the market. We went in and brought down many brothels. And we felt that the market, just like any other market, should be a daily market which starts in the morning and closes in the evening,” Otti told Journalists.

The Governor further hinted that part of the measures to boost security in the area was to convert the market to a general-purpose one and to fence it round and non-residential.

“We also feel that those people hibernating in the market should go and live in the communities. We want to have a peaceful Christmas around Umunneochi and other parts of the state,” he said.

 Briefing Newsmen at the market on Wednesday, November 1, 2023, a spokesman of the Northern Community in Umuchieze, said that leaders and traders in the market were not aware of any such development. The Community spoke through Buba Abdullai Kedemure, who read from their text.

They contended that the allegation of the uncovering of the dead bodies was part of the plot  by the government to make them to vacate the 80 hectares of land where over 15, 000 Northerners have been doing business since 2005, and warned that realization of such a plot may not only create tension but also lead to the disintegration of Nigeria. They maintained that every Nigeria has a constitutional right to live in any part of the country.

“We have called you up again to update you on our position on the alleged 50 decomposed bodies, 20 headless bodies and many human skeletons alleged to have been found in Umuchieze Cattle Market.

As you are aware, during his Press Briefing on Sunday, 29th October, 2023, the Executive Governor of Abia State, His Excellency, Dr. Alex Chioma Otti, alleged that 50 decomposed bodies, 20 headless bodies and many skeletons were found in Umuchieze Cattle Market.

“We have called you to alert Nigerians and the International Community of plots by Abia State Government to chase us away from the land we have occupied since 2005,” the Community said, accusing the Governor of painting them black.

The Northern Community in Umuchieze said information available to them from security sources indicate that the skeletons, decomposing and headless bodies referred to by the Governor were not found either in the cattle market or around the area.

The allegation by the Abia State government is meant to give a dog a bad name in order to hang it. In other words, the government wants to chase us away from the land we have occupied since 2005 and create tension across the country,” the Community said, adding that the state government gave them the land without any condition, except for the Northern Community to “maximally utilize it for the purpose of cattle trading and other allied business transaction, residential quarters and a motor park.”

The bone of contention over the Lokpanta Cattle Market has been that the area has been the hotbed of insecurity in Abia. Government said it discovered that the market serves as a hideout for criminals, even as drugs business and prostitution thrived in the area. But the Community leaders denied harbouring criminals in the area, stressing that “all the brothels rooms, beer parlour, night clubs and lodging accommodation recently demolished belongs to the natives.”

To curtail insecurity in the area, including kidnapping for ransom and killings, government decided to convert the cattle market to a conventional market which would operate daily (6 a.m – 6 p.m). Government said it would fence the market, open and lock it at the end of everyday’s business and that it would become non-residential and asked the cattle dealers to look for accommodation in nearby villages.

But the cattle market dealers are kicking against the plan, saying they were plots to chase them away from the cattle market.”If the government will fence the market, demolish our house and urged us to go and live in the neighbouring villages, it means the government has automatically chased us away from Abia State.

“Every Nigerian has the right to stay in any part of the country. This is guaranteed in section 4 (1) of the 1999 Constitution (as amended). We, the Northerners are peace-loving people and very accommodating, as this explains why there are many Southerners in the North doing business without harassment and threat of eviction.

“It is unjust, unfair and ungodly for anyone to prevent any Nigerian, irrespective of their tribe and religious affiliation, from staying in any part they so desired to stay in Nigeria.

“Therefore, it is our strong belief that any attempt or threat to evict the Northern Community at Umuchieze Cattle Market in Abia State is an attempt not only to subvert the Constitution but also fanning the ember of disunity, chaos and disintegration of Nigeria. Most of the cattle traders you see here today were born and brought up in Umuahia. They have no other state than Abia,” the Community insisted.

They maintained that given the high crime rate in Umunneochi currently, “It will be a tactical mistake for us to relocate to various communities in Umuchieze.” “We passionately appeal to His Excellency to allow us to live in the cattle market,” they added.

Many stakeholders who spoke during the briefing, including Igbo people doing business in the cattle market, said what they need was improved security in the market, which, they said, was not known for criminality.

Though some posited that the market is for trading anywhere in the world and should not be turned to residential quarters.

Even Igbos who trade in the Northern and Southern States do not make the shops residential and there is nothing wrong with integrating with the natives of the different communities for development of the areas.

Stakeholders of the Community who endorsed the document made available to Journalists includedAlhaji includedAlhaji Saleh Algare (Chairman); Alhaji Auwwal hamma (Secretary) Buba Kedemure (spokesman), Hussaimi Bellor (Sarkin Zango); Alhaji Al’Abith Jibrin (Chairman, Finance Committee) and Alhaji Baba Ahmed (Secretary NURTW). Cattle traders who signed the document are Kakri, Ali Sheriff, Alhaji Sani Maiwada, Alhaji Garba Kawu, Alhaji Gujja; Sa’adu Zubairu and Alhaji Hamiru Panda.