From Magnus Eze, Geoffrey Anyanwu Enugu, Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha, Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri, Chijioke Agwu, Abakaliki, Obinna Odogwu, Awka and Paul Osuyi, Asaba
Tension and anxiety have pervaded the whole of the South East and parts of South South states ahead of the sit-at-home ordered by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
Pro-Biafra groups had shifted the observance which is usually on May 30 to today because this year’s anniversary fell on Sunday. However, many of their members used yesterday for prayers in the churches.
IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, had warned, at the weekend, that any person that flouted the directive in the region would have him or herself to blame.
Similarly, MASSOB leader, Uchenna Madu, yesterday, warned the Nigeria security agencies that their threats would not hold waters. He advised them to steer clear during the commemoration of the Biafra day anniversary.
“We can never be cowed or intimidated by empty threats of cowardice security agencies. Sit-at-home exercise must hold tomorrow. Our people will once again prove they want Biafra. The declaration of Biafra independence by General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu must always stand,” he said.
This came as the various police commands threatened to crush any form of procession or gathering relating to Biafra today.
In Onitsha, tension started building up on Saturday, May 29, following an alleged shooting of soldiers at Ihiala Local Government Area of the state by suspected gunmen which caused gridlock for hours at the Onitsha bridgehead due to tight security check there.
There was show-of-force patrol by joint-security forces along roads and streets of Onitsha and its environs, ostensibly to instil fear in anybody trying to cause breach of peace and breakdown of law and order.
Within the week, there was rush by people to the markets to make purchases and stock foodstuff due to fear of unknown during the exercise.
Announcements were made in various churches in Onitsha during the services, advising worshippers to obey the sit-at-home order today to avoid any possible attack or being hit by stray bullets.
Attendance in many churches was scanty due to fear, as many people assumed the sit-at-home started yesterday as it used to.
Chairman of Onitsha Main Market Association, Kenneth Onyeka, said the market will remain open for business.
One of the traders, Johnson Dikemba, told Daily Sun that for the past few years when Biafra Day was marked, the major markets in the Onitsha shut down to respect their fathers, grandfathers and mothers who lost their lives during the civil war.
Decide what you want, Umahi tells residents
Ebonyi Governor, David Umahi, yesterday, seemingly recanted as he asked residents of the state to feel free to participate in the sit-at-home exercise if they so wished.
The governor had, on a statewide broadcast on Saturday evening to mark his six years in office, directed Ebonyi people to go about their normal businesses today.
Umahi also said he had withdrawn his earlier threat to punish any trader who closed his shop in obedience to the order, saying it was within the rights of anyone to sit at home.
His Special Assistant on Media, Francis Nwaze, who addressed a press conference in Abakaliki, yesterday, said: “Ebonyi government has received several requests from some families and residents of the state, requesting they would like to remain indoors today to organise private family prayers in honour of their loved ones who were murdered during the civil war. Some of the people with this special request own shops in some of our markets across the state.
“While as a government, we remain resolute in the protection of lives and property of Ebonyians and all residents of Ebonyi State, we are aware that it is the right of anyone to remain at home or go about his/her normal businesses in this regard.
“Following the foregoing, Governor Umahi, who is highly in touch with the people has directed that those who may wish to remain at home with their shop(s) locked should neither be penalised, nor their shop(s) seized as it is their constitutional right while the rights of those who may wish to go about their normal businesses should not be infringed upon as it is equally their constitutional right.”
Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Abia set for sit-at-home
In Anambra, preparations for the sit-at-home appeared to have started on Saturday as there was panic buying by the residents of the state. Many residents thronged the markets to buy food stuffs that would last them till Tuesday.
Food stuff markets all opened yesterday for business as those returning from churches were also seen stopping over to buy food items.
Meanwhile, the Anambra State Police Command said it was adequately prepared to ensure there would be no breakdown of law and order in the state.
Police Public Relations Officer, Ikenga Tochukwu, told Daily Sun: “We are not deterred by the speculations but the command is concentrating on our mandate of protecting lives and property.”
Commissioner for Information and Public Enlightenment, Don Adinuba, said: “As far as we are concerned, today (yesterday) is the anniversary of the creation of Biafra. And Anambra State Government, in 2016, became the first and only administration in history to honour the memory of those who died in the fight for freedom.
“Among the people who attended the solemn ceremony at Ekwueme Square was Alex Ekwueme, Nigeria’s first vice president. So, tomorrow (today) is not a public holiday.”
Asked if the civil service and schools would open today, he responded with a question: “Did you hear that the government is closing down any school or declaring a public holiday or work free day? Tomorrow is just another day.”
As at late yesterday evening, Imo residents appeared set to comply with the order IPOB order.
Roads were getting completely deserted while most shops which normally opened on Sundays remained locked.
Also, many churches in the urban areas witnessed low turnout of worshipers while those that managed to hold services hurriedly closed.
However, the police had assured residents of their safety, noting they had activated every tactical means to make sure no lives or property would be lost in the state today.
Similarly, a wave of uncertainty enveloped Enugu State, yesterday, ostensibly because of recent security threats.
So, many residents said they would like to stay indoors today to avoid unpleasant incidents.
Some who are Federal Government workers said they would watch out first before taking any action, “now that the Federal Government facilities are targets.”
Enugu State Commissioner of Police, Mohammed Aliyu, warned anybody or group harbouring any sinister intentions to disrupt the relative peace and security enjoyed in the state, to desist forthwith, as such attempt would be vehemently resisted.
However, residents of Abia State have braced up for the exercise even as police called on the people to ignore the order.
Most residents of the state already see today as a public holiday as they bought most of what they would use on Monday, on Friday and Saturday.
In some churches across the state, yesterday, adherents were asked to remain at home as not to be victims of any clash between security agents and Biafra agitators.
Commercial vehicle and tricycle operators spoken to said they would be off the streets in compliance with the order.
Although, the state government did not issue order for closure of markets, some traders, who spoke to Daily Sun, said they would stay at home to avoid any trouble.
Deal with troublemakers –Delta CP
Commissioner of Police in Delta, Ari Muhammed Ali, yesterday, urged his officers to deal decisively with troublemakers in any part of the state.
Ali warned that on no account should anybody be seen carrying or hoisting Biafra flag in whatever guise in the state.
His warning is coming on the heels of the sit-at-home order for today by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Ali, in a statement, yesterday, by the acting Public Relations Officer of the command, Bright Edafe, said undercover police detectives have been deployed across the state to arrest anyone caught carrying Biafra flag, and ensure they are dealt with accordance with the law of the land.