Eating Ponmo Can Cause Cancer — Ogbonna | Independent Newspapers Limited
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Eating Ponmo Can Cause Cancer — Ogbonna

Posted: Oct 3, 2015 at 12:27 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Chief Charles Ogbonna is the Chairman, Committee for the Relocation of All Abattoirs in the Commercial city of Aba, Abia State, in the renews plans to transform the area to a megacity by the Governor Okezie Ikpeazu-led administration. In this interview with, Ben Duru, he spoke on the activities of the committee so far and the challenges facing other relocated markets in the state. Excerpt:

We have witnessed a flurry of activities in Aba. Now you are heading one of the committees that are pushing the transformation of the commercial city. What actually is the work of this committee?

Thank you very much. I am heading one of the committees as you rightly pointed out and it is the committee for the relocation of abattoirs in Aba. Anywhere blood is spilled in Aba is to be relocated outside the metropolis.

I am also a member of the committee looking at the Ariaria International Market, as well as other markets in the area. I’m sure you are aware that at one time Ariaria International Market was one of the highly revered markets in Africa.

At that time traders from Sub-Sahara Africa was coming to that market to transact business, but now the market is a shadow of itself. At the time the market was established, it was meant to cater for 2,500 shops, but now you have over 20,000 shops there.

The committee I am heading deals directly with cow dealers, abattoirs and as I’m talking with you now, we have counted not less than 15 abattoirs owned by individuals in Aba and those abattoirs, aside from the environmental hazards they create in the area, we also have not overlooked the health hazards, not to talk of the cow dealers.

Oftentimes going down Ogbor Hill is more difficult than the Biblical Carmel passing through the eye of the needle. If you are heading towards Akwa Ibom, or Obingwa Local Government Council, because of the movement of cows, Governor Okezie Ikpeazu, being a homeboy, who grew up in Aba and understand these issues very well decided to address it once and for all.

This is why we keep insisting that whoever must govern Abia must be one that is on ground that understands the terrain and not one that will only fly from anywhere in the world to Owerri or any nearby airport and take a helicopter to his village and the same thing when he is leaving.

He has no means of interacting with the people or knowing what the real developmental issues are. Such a person cannot deliver. So being conversant with the problem posed by the cow dealers and abattoirs, the governor decided that the best thing to do in the overall interest of the people of Aba is to relocate them to a more convenient place so as to deal with the environmental and health hazards.

Remember also that the governor is totally committed to the renewal of the entire Aba city; this is one of the ways. So, we have discussed with all of those affected and as you know it is difficult to make a change especially when it has to do with individuals who are making a lot of money.

It has not been easy but majority of them having seen the proposed site are ready to relocate, but they’re asking for security and roads. So far I can assure you that the governor has made adequate arrangement for security within the area.

Against these backgrounds therefore, we have itemized what we’re going to do. Beginning from September 10, the groundbreaking ceremony would be performed by the governor, so we have already commenced the clearing of the site for the ceremony and also the governor has fully provided for the take off and completion of the project.

What really does government want to achieve?

It is the responsibility of government to create a good atmosphere for the people, so the relocation will deal with the environmental problems, it will also sort out the health hazards caused by abattoirs because if you have ever been to any abattoirs, you will appreciate what I’m telling you.

Government wants to put in place a properly built abattoirs meant for slaughtering of cows in the commercial city, where the environment would be properly taken care of, where the products from the place will be hygienic for the consumption of the people.

Remember that Aba of today has very great for leather and there is no law banning the eating of animal skin in Aba, whereas people travel to Kano and Maiduguri to get leather for their business in Aba.

So nothing stops the government from saying that the era of animal skin eating is over and this relocation will enable government monitor the movement of animal skin.

We’re not talking of the hazards connected with the way the animal skin is prepared by the meat vendors before selling to their clients. Meanwhile, WHO has said that cancer can be contracted through the consumption of animal skins.

It is also instructive to mention that the Okezie led administration is preparing rounds for the building of an Industrial Cluster in Aba, hence the relocation.

It is important to state that government cannot conveniently build a road in Aba that will last the test of time because while some roads are built with smaller vehicles in mind, the heavy duty vehicles take over the area, especially vehicles carrying generators, building materials, cows and electronic gadgets will over run it.

So government is trying to avoid all these, we’re starting gradually to handle these issues. Government is going to provide four distribution vehicles to enable the traders convey the meat to the various markets where they sell to their clients; it is not going to be a difficult task for them.

We requested for six vehicles, but approval was given for four and we have some banks also assisting the committee to get the job done, successive governments have complained of non-payment of taxes and rates by traders and others.

How is government going to treat this cankerworm?

It is very unfortunate particularly in Aba where the people expect a lot from government, but they don’t want to contribute their own quota towards making things work properly. This is why at any point I always doff my hat for the civil servants in Abia State because they are the only people that pay tax, the so called business people don’t pay tax.

Remember I told you that there are 15 private abattoirs in Aba; these have never paid anything to government. It can only happen here, it cannot happen in any other part of the country.

We went to Lagos to understudy the system there and we discovered that there is only one abattoir in Agege, but because of the population explosion, two more have been established in Berger and Ikeja.

Ikeja has one standard abattoir, but Aba has 17, owned by individuals. What is your take on this?

The establishment of one abattoir will enable government control things effectively, knowing the number of people operating there. What Internally Generated Revenue will accrue from there?

Government is also going to make sure that no other abattoir is established anywhere in Aba, owned by any individual no matter how highly placed.

We have witnessed the relocation of many markets in the state such as the Timber Market from World Bank to Ahieke, the Umuahia Main Market to Ubani Ibeku and the Spare Parts market to Mechanic Village in Ohiya, traders have always complained that they have been short-changed.

What are the assurances that only genuine traders will be allocated shops instead of merchants who want to get the shops and sublet to interested individuals?

You are probably dragging me into the issue of allocation of shops in these various markets. Well let me clear the air once and for all because I had refused to make any comment on the issue over the years.

Let me start with the industrial market. The former governor called me and said he wants the market to be relocated because it constituted a menace to the residents. I located a sight, had series of meetings with the various associations in the market, about five associations

plus the apprentice youths made up of those who were still learning and those that had already concluded their apprenticeship but were yet to open their own shops.

We agreed that based on their nominal register, we will allocate shops. The former Timber market had a total

of 1100 shops, so we decided to build 3000 shops. We numbered all the shops and allocated and remember that government did not contribute in the building of these shops; these shops were built by the traders themselves.

What we did was to bring out a system where we encouraged the interested traders to build 10 shops and take five and give government five. An allocation committee was put in place with the various association chairmen as members and all the traders were allocated shops, so nobody can say he did not get allocation.

However, while the project was on-going, some political issues were raised, those who called themselves non-indigenes decided to go to elsewhere to build their own market.

I pleaded with them to no avail, so they built their own outside the state. We ended up building a good market with access roads, drainages, banks, toilets, boreholes security name it.

Now because the market they built outside the state is not

Functioning at it optimum capacity, they’re now returning and setting up building material shops in residential buildings and it cannot work.

Coming to that of Ubani Ibeku the total number of shops in the Umuahia Main Market then were about 3000 shops, and we got the Market Master to produce a ledger. We began to number the shops according to the numbers and somewhere along the line, we saw the need for expansion because more people, including politicians were interested.

We did not want to encounter the same problem the one built in Orlu, Imo State had, but which Governor Rochas Okorocha has used his good offices to sort out.

But in the end I was removed. I know that about 7000 people purchased the form and because I was removed not many of these 7000 people got allocation in the market, it was hijacked mostly by politicians.

You discover an individual claiming ownership of more than 20 shops and he is not a trader, but he rents out the shops to the real traders at exorbitant prices, which the traders have objected to. These same ‘big men’ are building shops in the metropolis and renting out at exorbitant rates.

So, instead of traders going to the market, they rent shops in the metropolis, yet government is pursuing traders around Ishi gate everyday, petty traders who sell vegetables and crayfish. These are women who cannot afford the exorbitant prices the business people now want to give out the shops. So if government wants to correct this, government should first of all make sure it is only genuine traders that own shops there.

Two, government must deal with landlords erecting news shops in the metropolis. Instead of chasing petty traders here and there, government should treat those erecting shops in the metropolis as saboteurs, and then the market will function optimally.

My committee is committed to making sure that only the genuine traders are allocated shops in Aba and we are going to keep to that. I am a politician, in the last election; the people from Orie Ugba refused to vote for my party because they said if we vote for you now, you will use police to be pursuing me. Politicking is my business and the electorates are my raw materials, so I must protect their interest.