■ Owerri, Aba, Abakaliki, others defy IPOB
From PAUL OSUYI, Asaba, GEORGE ONYEJIUWA, Owerri, EMMANUEL UZOR, Abakaliki, JEFF AMECHI AGBODO, Onitsha, OKEY SAMPSON, Aba, GEOFFREY ANYANWU, Awka
Two major cities, Onitsha and Nnewi in Anambra state were yesterday shut down following the sit-at-home order by pro-Biafra agitators.Most residents and traders across other South-east states however shunned the directive issued by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The group had given the directive to mobilise protest against the continued detention of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu by the federal authorities.
Reports from across the states in the South-east region suggest that residents and workers refused to comply with the directive in most states, while partial compliance was recorded in a few towns. IPOB and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB however, claimed the sit-at-home order was successful in major cities across the zone.
Most residents of Asaba and its environs in Delta State defied the order, as they went about their normal businesses without hindrance.
However, some business operators shut their outfits for fear of being attacked by the IPOB agitators. This is even as some parents ensured that their children stayed away from schools also for fear of violent protest by the group.
Saturday Sun further observed that some shops at the popular Ogbogonogo market were shut while other shop owners defiantly opened for business, waiting for patronage.
Areas where there were partial compliance with the sit-at-home order include Okwe, Osadennis way and Cable Point while residents and business owners at high brow areas of Nnebisi, West-End, Summit, Anwai and Okpanam roads defied the order outrightly.
However, there was heavy presence of anti-riot policemen at every strategic point particularly at the Asaba end of the River Niger Head Bridge which is the entry point from the eastern part of the country, the hot bed of activities of the secessionist group.
Twelve hilux vans and one armored tank of the Delta State Police Command were stationed at the Head Bridge apparently waiting to quell any violent movement from the South-East region.
Saturday Sun also observed that security hilux vans were stationed at the Hausa Market along the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha expressway, Summit Junction, Koka Junction and Asaba Airport.
Public Relations Officer of the command, SP Celestina Kalu said over 500 policemen were deployed in Asaba and its environs in readiness to deal with any uprising occasioned by the secessionist group.
In Imo, the IPOB order was not observed in the state, as the people went about their usual businesses. This was even as armed policemen were seen at strategic junctions in the state capital, Owerri as early as 7am on Friday.
One of our reporters who went round Owerri, the Imo State capital observed that the directive by the pro-Biafra agitators was shunned by the people as markets and commercial activities continued as usual. Also, both private and public schools were opened as pupils were seen going to school.
In Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, the police tightened security within the metropolis and its environs to ensure that law-abiding citizens moved around unmolested.
The Police Public Relations Officer, DSP George Okafor said he went to all the major markets in the state with his photographer to ensure that traders went about their normal businesses without molestation or apprehension and disclosed that the police command had made it a point of duty to protect the lives and property of the citizens.
He disclosed that all shops were opened for economic activities but they would continue to patrol around major markets in the state to ensure that the agitators did not cause harm to innocent citizens.
However, economic activities and vehicular movements were crippled in Onitsha, the Anambra State capital.
Our correspondent who monitored the exercise observed that most schools, markets, banks, parks and petrol filling stations were shut down.
Some IPOB members and other pro-Biafra agitators gathered at the old market road, opposite post office Onitsha celebrating the total compliance of the order, while they were singing and chanting “free Nnamdi Kanu, free Biafra; no Biafra, no peace, Biafra is assured and agitation continues”.
There was also tight security in Onitsha, as police helicopter was seen hovering around the city while there were other security agents patrolling the commercial city to maintain law and order.
While some residents said that they observed the order due to fear of the unknown and not necessarily that they wanted to stay at home doing nothing, others said that they were sick and tired of Nigeria and wanted their own state or country.
Mr. John Okafor, an artisan in Onitsha said that what he wanted was freedom from Nigeria, saying that Biafra is an Igbo agenda, not IPOB or MASSOB’s as claimed by some groups.
Mrs. Agnes Obiozo, a trader in Onitsha main market said she stayed at home because the market was closed, not because she wanted to stay at home doing nothing, adding that things were difficult these days that one has‑ to be up and doing to be sure of a meal.
Another market leader Mr. Okechukwu Emenike said that the markets were shutdown due to the fear of attack because of previous experiences when hoodlums and criminals took advantage of that to loot and steal traders’ goods.
In Aba, Abia State, banks, markets, filling stations and most schools opened for business. When Saturday Sun went round the city to observe the level of compliance, it was discovered that while a handful of schools did not open, majority of the schools opened as teaching and learning went on smoothly.
All the filling stations visited opened for business as some of the managers who spoke on condition of anonymity said they had no choice than to open for business.
In the case of markets and banks, the compliance was partial. While the gates of a market like Ariaria International were opened, traders on their own decided to lock their shops in compliance with the order.
In Ahia Ohuru and Cemetery markets, the situation was the same. Although the gates were opened, traders clustered around to discuss the development as buyers were not forthcoming.
Commercial banks in the city which earlier in the morning opened their doors for business had to shut them later in the day for fear of the unknown. Customers in the two commercial banks our correspondent visited, were asked to access the banking halls through the back exist doors.
One of the staff of a new generation bank on Ikot Ekpene road who spoke on the development said they got orders from above to shut their doors to forestall any ugly incident.
Movements were not hindered as commuters move freely from one part of the city to the other, while policemen mount surveillance in strategic places; others patrol the city with maximum ease.
In Awka, the capital city of Anambra state, while some schools directed their pupils and students not to attend school, some others had to send theirs back yesterday morning.
Though vehicles moved freely and civil servants went to work, the Eke Awka main market though had its gates opened very early as usual; traders started entering it at about 9am when it was clear to them that the order was not being enforced in Awka. Also banks and other business premises were opened.
One of the traders who pleaded to be anonymous told Saturday Sun that “It is unfortunate that our people here because of fear of the government and police decided to open the market. Onitsha and Nnewi as I speak to you are closed and the entire city is calm, no work, no business.”