Isuochi youths in Umunneochi Local Government Area of Abia State have given the Federal and Abia State Governments a seven-day ultimatum to relocate the cattle market and remove all military checkpoints in the area.
The youths, on Wednesday, demanded this while protesting the incessant kidnappings by suspected herdsmen in the area.
The protest was as a result of the kidnap of the Prelate, Methodist Church Nigeria, His Eminence Samuel Uche and two other clerics last Sunday and their subsequent release after an alleged payment of N100 million ransom.
Carrying placards with various inscriptions such as “Enough is enough”, ” Garki cattle market must go”, “Army should open Ihube/Isuochi road”, among others, the youths numbering in hundreds and dressed in black attires marched to the Umunneochi Council headquarters at Nkwoagu Isuochi where they conveyed their grievances to the Council Chairman.
Chanting war songs, the youths decried the menacing activities and atrocities of herdsmen in the area.
Speaking at the Council headquarters, their spokesperson, Comrade Divine Uche, said the youths would no longer tolerate the continued harassment, torture, and Kidnappings for ransom by herdsmen in the area and accused security agents especially the Army of not doing much to checkmate the murderous herdsmen on the prowl in the area.
They demanded the immediate relocation of Lokpanta regional cattle market where they alleged provided cover for the criminals instead of deterring them, demanding also that the military checkpoint at Lomara junction be removed and the barricade by the soldiers blocking the Ihube/Isuochi road cleared without delay so that motorists would be plying the route again.
They emphasised that the presence of the military checkpoint at the area has not stopped kidnappings and other criminal activities of herdsmen, “rather, abductions for ransom go on with impunity under the nose of the security agents at the area.”
They warned that if after seven days their demands were not met, they might be forced to take laws into their hands to protect their people against criminal herders on the prowl in the area.
According to one Madam Nwoke, people in the area now live in fear of herdsmen who have been terrorising the people and challenged security agencies to rise to the occasion to avoid angry youths taking laws into their hands.
Responding, the Chief of Staff to the Council Chairman, Mr. Emmanuel Azubuike, who stood in for the Council Chairman promised to convey their grievances to the Chairman, noting with concern, the atrocities of herdsmen in the area and the docility of security agencies.
All efforts of the Council to open up the Ihube/Isuochi road were being frustrated by the soldiers at the Lomara military checkpoint who insisted that the Council must first complete a perimeter fencing of their post there, stating that the Council had done over 80% of the work but regretted that the soldiers had continued to frustrate efforts to complete the project.
He alleged that cement bought by the Council for the work was even destroyed by rain due to the hostile attitude of the soldiers adding that the Council was already overwhelmed by the security challenges in the area, and appealed to both the State and Federal Government to come to their rescue.
When contacted, Spokesman, 14 Brigade Ohafia, Lt Omale, said he was in a conference.
Leaders of the Cattle market in the area have always denied the allegation that criminals are being haboured in the market.