Cattle Dealers Launch Legal Battle to Stop Abia Govt  from Demolishing Houses Inside Market 

Emmanuel Ugwu-Nwogo in Umuahia 

An Abia State High Court sitting at Isuochi would on March 13, 2024, commence hearing in a suit seeking to stop the state government from going ahead with its plan to remodel the Umuchieze Garki Cattle Market. 

The government has also decided to end the practice of cattle dealers and their families making their homes inside the market. 

But the cattle dealers and residents of the market have dragged the government to Court following a warning notice served on them by the Town Planning Authority of Umunneochi Local Government, which is poised to commence the demolition of residential houses inside the market. 

The suit 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. 

In the interim, the Court would decide on an application for an interlocutory injunction seeking to restrain the government from carrying out the demolition of residential houses inside the market, pending the hearing and determination of the case. 

Since last October, the cattle dealers have been at loggerheads with the Abia government after the government took a firm decision to remodel the cattle market and make it non-residential, citing security issues. 

Joined as defendants in the suit are 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. 

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 of February 13, 2024, when the Umunneochi Town Planning Authority served the plaintiffs “warning notice” of demolition. 

In a 29-point supporting affidavit deposed by their spokesman, Buba 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 plaintiff/applicants, therefore, averred that the 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, and 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 to the animals, minimize 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”. 

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