Amansea community in Awka North Local Government Area, Anambra State hosts one of the state’s three abattoirs. For 15 years the abattoir had existed, there had not been any squabble between members of Chisom Butchers’ Association and the community. But NWANOSIKE ONU writes that penultimate Sunday, operators of the abattoir were allegedly attacked by thugs over local government revenue issues
Until recently, the 15-year-old abattoir at Amansea in Awka North Local Government Area, Anambra State, has never witnessed any form of squabble. Being one of the three abattoirs in the state, it usually is a Mecca of sorts to nearby communities. According to some residents, this is so because beef from there is neat and cheap.
Regrettably, the chairman of Awka North Local Government Area, Cosmos Okonkwo, was alleged to have stormed the abattoir with 10-bus loads of thugs who were allegedly armed with dangerous weapons such as guns, machetes and clubs, among others and beat the chairman of Chisom Butchers’ Association, Christian Nwankwo mercilessly. The event occurred penultimate Sunday,
Explaining his ordeal, Nwankwo told our correspondent that trouble started when the council chairman demanded that the association should pay to him the revenue which accrues from the abattoir instead of paying it to the state government coffers.
He said Governor Willie Obiano had directed that all the abattoirs in the state should pay all revenues to the state government and not to any other person, group or association.
Before then, Nwankwo had alleged that the association has been giving the local government chief N30, 000 per week, adding that the sum of N300 was paid for each cow that was slaughtered in the abattoir. He said that was after signing some agreements with him before the Governor’s directive.
According to counsel to the butchers’ association, Emma Okechukwu, the earlier agreement was that the council would provide water supply (boreholes and overhead tanks), re-roofing of the slaughter house and slabs, re-roofing of concrete slabs and provision of good drainage system within the premises of the abattoir.
But after five months of payment to the council without commensurate facilities at the abattoir as agreed with the council, the butchers started asking questions. This, he said, infuriated the council chairman who began to threaten and intimidate members of the butchers’ association.
Based on the threats, harassments and intimidation by the council chief to force his clients to pay, he was reminded of the subsisting injunction by the Federal High Court for stay of execution until the determination of the matter pending in the court since 2010.
But in disregard to the order, Okechukwu said, the council chairman sent his internally-generated revenue (IGR) team who came with a letter from the council chief demanding the sum of N800, 000 as environmental levy. He added that the meat sellers had no other option than to join him in pursuing the case that has been pending in the Federal High Court.
Speaking with our correspondent in Awka, the Vice-Chairman of the meat sellers, Emma Nwagu, said but for the intervention of the Awka Police Area Commander, Usman Yusuf, there would have been a bloodbath in Awka.
He said the people took them unawares because they were not envisaging such a thing from the chairman of a council. He said the thugs disembarked from the buses and held Nwankwo on the jugular and forced all of them to lie down on the ground.
He said: “When we saw some vehicles approaching the abattoir, we thought they were customers because this place is always like a market because of the kind of meat we sell here.”
Not only that the chairman of the council allegedly invaded the slaughter house with thugs, Mr. Nwankwo and members of his executive alleged that the thugs stole N18.7 million which the members contributed in order to buy cows.
Also, they alleged that Okonkwo and his men made away with 16 live cows the cost of which they put at N2 million.
While reacting to the allegations by the butchers, the council chairman described them as baseless and unfounded.
He said if anybody wanted to know the true position of what transpired on that day, such information could be provided by police men from the B–Division Department who were present.
Furthermore, he told our correspondent that since the butchers had reported the matter to the police, they are supposed not to be carrying up such baseless allegations.
When the police Area Commander, Usman Yusuf was contacted for comment on the matter, he confirmed the near mayhem that almost crippled the community.
Yusuf said when the report reached the police, they had to mobilise their men to the place to avoid any break down of law and order.
“The story is true, but we thank God that we restored peace to the warring parties. The matter has not ended because the command has gone into investigation already.
“We are not going to say anything on the matter yet, until investigations are completed to establish what really happened,” he said.
Already, Mr. Nwankwo has appealed to Governor Obiano to come to their aid.
He wondered if it was a crime for people from other states to establish businesses in Anambra State, adding that the council chairman has allegedly threatened to deal with them because they are from Ebonyi State.
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