By Akeem Abas
No fewer than two traders on Thursday lost their lives in a clash between security agents and butchers at Bodija market in Ibadan.
The State Commissioner of Police, Mr Abiodun Odude who addressed newsmen after the incident confirmed that the clash left at least two persons dead.
Odude said his men, who were on an assignment to enforce a court order at the Bodija abattoir, were attacked by suspected hoodlums allegedly hired by recalcitrant butchers.
The state government had some months back directed butchers in Ibadan to relocate to the new central abattoir at Amosun village in Akinyele Local Government.
However, while some of the butchers have relocated to the new abattoir, some recalcitrant butchers had remained contrary to the directive.
Crisis had on Thursday erupted at the Bodija abattoir when a government task force and security personnel visited the place to enforce a court order which banned further operations at the abattoir.
The during the mayhem the police station in the market was razed. The state government shut down the market to prevent further loss of lives and property.
Mr Yinka Fatoki, Executive Secretary, Oyo State Bureau of Investment Promotion at a news conference, said the incident erupted when suspected hoodlums allegedly hired by recalcitrant butchers attacked members of the government task force.
He stated that the government task force and security personnel had visited the illegal abattoir in Bodija market to enforce a court order secured by the State Ministry of Agriculture.
Fatoki explained that the licenses of the abattoir had been revoked by the ministry since 2014 due to the untoward activities, adding that their operation had since then become illegal.
“Since then, government has directed that butchers in Ibadan should relocate to the new central abattoir located at Amosun Village in Akinyele Local Government.
“The governor had out of his magnanimity directed that the butchers should not be ejected forcefully but be enlightened on the benefit of relocating to the new central abattoir valued at four billion naira,” he said.
He stated that government had made provision for their transport to the new abattoir and has erected a police station as well as bank in the facility on their request.
“Activities has commenced at the new abattoir and several butchers have relocated to the facility. The facility is just for them to slaughter their cows and bring to the markets for sale.
“Government has even pledged to give loans to the butchers like it has always done. The governor has given the union a bus and they have benefited from its loan scheme in the past.”
Fatoki stated that the effort of government was to promote healthy environment and protect the people from consumption of unhealthy meat.
Mr Lateef Olagoke, State Secretary, National Butchers Union of Nigeria(NBUN) expressed sadness over the incidence.
Olagoke, who spoke on behalf of the Union, said that the incident was avoidable if the directive of the state government was heeded by the recalcitrant members.
He explained that the union had signed a Memorandum of Understanding(MoU) with government and other relevant stakeholders, adding their fears have been addressed.
“We have relocated to the new central abattoir as directed by government but some recalcitrant members have vowed not to obey it.
“The governor even went to the extent of facilitating our trip to the Lagos Central Abattoir at Oko-Oba to see the benefit in relocating to the central abattoir.
“On our return, there was a stakeholders’ meeting held with the governor where we presented our fears and the governor addressed all which made us sign the MoU.
“All the issues raised were truly addressed in the MoU with other benefits to our members. Today, the recalcitrant members have issued several threats on us and our families,” he said.
Alhaji Biliaminu Elesinmeta, South West Coordinator, NBUN, said that the union in the state has enjoyed a cordial relationship with the state government, adding they have benefited unlike other states.
He called on the recalcitrant members to obey government’s directive which he said would benefit them and their customers.
“I have seen the MoU and know that they will benefit from it. This same policy is operated in some other states and members have begun to benefit from it tremendously.
“I am calling on the recalcitrant members to relocate as their fears have been addressed in the MoU signed by their leaders and other stakeholders,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Bodija Market Traders Association has called on the state government to reopen the market, saying their members have always complied with government regulations.
Alhaji Sumaila Jimoh, Babaloja of Bodija Market, said their members would suffer a lot from the closure of the market, which he described as their means of livelihood.
He said that the crisis erupted from the abattoir section of the market, adding that their members were not part of the mayhem.
Normalcy has returned to the market as security agencies have been positioned around it to prevent further break down of law and order.