The Abia State Agriculture Commissioner, Uzo Azubuike has promised to resolve the crisis over alleged confiscation of a public abattoir in Ohafia by the 14 Brigade of the Nigerian Army.
He made the promise in an interview with newsmen in Aba .
Azubuike, who conceded that he had no prior knowledge of the problem, said that he would promptly act on it now that the Permanent Secretary had properly briefed him on it.
A public abattoir at Ohafia, which has been in existence before the establishment of the 14 Brigade military cantonment in the area, had been taken over by the army.
Some people in the neighbourhood said that the military recently fenced the place and incorporated abattoir in the premises of the cantonment, thereby claiming authority over the facility and controlling its operations.
For instance, Mike Okeke, a resident of Ohafia said: “Before the Army captured the abattoir, it was serving the people of Ohafia and it was then under the supervision of the Abia State Ministry of Agriculture.
“It was the ministry that assigned veterinary doctors to the abattoir to inspect the animals and prepare them for slaughtering, while scrutinising the meat before sales to the public.
“The abattoir was also a source of revenue to the state but when the 14 Brigade of the Nigerian Army erected the fence and enclosed the abattoir inside its compound, the soldiers refused to allow the Ministry of Agriculture to continue to manage it.
“The military, right from the time of the fencing some years back, refused to allow veterinary doctors, who were hitherto assigned to oversee the place, to enter the abattoir, claiming it is now inside the cantonment.
“They also claimed that their personnel, who we learnt, are not actually veterinary doctors, usually examined the animals before they were slaughtered.
“The butchers using the abattoir now refuse to pay their service fees, alleging that the soldiers now demand levies from them. They insist they will no longer pay the state government fees so as to avoid double taxation.
“This has become a problem to the people of Ohafia because there have been incessant complaints that dead animals are dissected and sold out to the unsuspecting public because the abattoir is not monitored properly by the state government’s veterinary doctors.
“We, the people in this area, want the Army to allow the state government to take over the control of the abattoir in order to ensure that its operations are good and order, while protecting the health of meat consumers in Ohafia,” .
A source at the Ministry of Agriculture, Umuahia, who pleaded anonymity, said that several letters had been written to the 14 Brigade authorities on the issue since 2016.
He said that in the letters, the ministry had asked the Army to hand over its authority over the abattoir to the ministry, all to no avail.
When contacted for reaction, Major Oyegoke Badamasi, the Army Public Relations Officer, 14 Brigade, said via phone text messages and calls that he was out-of-town and could not respond to any issue he had no information on.