Cattle Dealers Drag Abia to Court over Plan to Make Market Non-Residential

Cattle Dealers Drag Abia to Court over Plan to Make Market Non-Residential

Cattle dealers at the Umuchieze Garki cattle market have dragged the Abia State government to court, claiming that they have a right  to reside inside the market, while the government forges ahead with its plan to remodel the market and make it non-residential.

The dealers insist on sustaining their culture of living inside the cattle market, but the Abia government has decided to end the practice, citing security reasons.

The suit marked No. HUM/9/2024 was filed by 12 persons, including Sarkin Zango, Hussaini Muhammad and Buba Kedemure, the spokesman of the group, for themselves and on behalf of cattle dealers and the market residents.

Joined as defendants in the suit were the state Commissioner for Lands, Chaka Chukwumerije, the Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Ikechukwu Uwanna, the Chairman of Umunneochi local government, Ndubuisi Ike and the State Commissioner of Police.

Hearing of the suit is slated to commence on March 13, 2024 when the court would consider the application for interlocutory injunction filed by the applicants to stop the government from executing its plan of demolishing residential houses in the market.

The application was prompted by a “warning notice” issued by the Town Planning Authority of Umunneochi Local Government, notifying the market dwellers of its readiness to embark on demolition exercise any moment.

The plaintiffs/applicants want the court to issue an order of interlocutory injunction to restrain the government from carrying out demolition of residential houses inside the market, pending the hearing and determination of the suit.

The cattle dealers’ rising anxiety was stoked last October after the Abia government took a decision to remodel the cattle market and make it non-residential, which did not go down well with the market residents.

Though the interlocutory injunction is meant to restrain all the defendants and their agents, it is specially targeted at the third defendant (Umunneochi Council Chairman) since the warning notice for demolition emanated from his council.

They also want the court to issue an order directing the defendants, “and in particular the third defendant (council chairman) to maintain the status quo as at February 13, 2024 when the Umunneochi Town Planning Authority served the plaintiffs “warning notice” of demolition.

In a 29-point supporting affidavit deposed to by their spokesman, Kedemure, the plaintiffs said that the demolition of the market would adversely affect them as it would render them homeless.

The market dwellers stated that their application “has become necessary because the third defendant has concluded a plan to go on with the demolition in defiance of the pending process before the court”.

They argued that the land on which the cattle market is located was acquired by the Abia government in 2005 and handed over to them for their mass relocation from Okigwe in Imo State to Umuchieze in Abia.

According to them, at the time the land for the cattle market was given to them to occupy, the Umunneochi Council “never developed a site plan/design or development plan to guide them on the development of the market.

The applicants, therefore, averred that Abia government “knew and ought to know” that by the nature of their business, they not only sell cattle but also other animals, including goats, rams, fowls that “require close monitoring and care” round the clock.

In defending their choice to live in the market, the cattle dealers said that their business makes it “mandatory” for them to live with the cattle to cater for the animals, minimise mortality and keep them in healthy condition for human consumption.

They further claimed that “it is inhuman and unconscionable” for the Umunneochi council boss to demolish the residential buildings within the cattle market “without providing an alternative site” for their relocation.

In their statement of claims, the plaintiffs said that it was the Abia government under then governor Orji Uzor Kalu that acquired the land and gave it to them for business and residential purposes.

They stated that having settled in the market for 20 years now, the Umunneochi council boss cannot turn around to demolish the houses built on the land, thereby rendering the residents “fugitives and homeless”.

Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo

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