Yesterday’s sit-at-home order issued by Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), to mark the alleged invasion of the home of IPOB leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu during the Operation Python Dance II in Umuahia, Abia State and the continuous arrest and killing of IPOB members, recorded success in many parts of Igboland. The order fully paralysed economic and social activities for the greater part of the day Onitsha, Aba and Owerri and Nnewi where reports say the order fully paralysed, in other parts of South East zone, it was a different ball game.
While in places like Enugu there was a little lull in the morning before activities picked up midday, in other places like Abakiliki, Awka, Nsukka, people went about their normal businesses.
In Onitsha, all the markets, streets shops, banks and schools were shut down. Our correspondent who monitored the situation observed that Onitsha main market and others major markets in the city were deserted as young boys were seen playing football on the streets, roads and parks in the markets. The ever busy old motor spare parts market, Ugwuagba Obosi, Building Materials International Market, Ogidi, Old and New Motor Spare Markets, Nkpor, and Nkpor Main market all remained shut.
Though roadside and street traders selling food items opened for business, schools within these areas remained deserted as some teachers that went to school didn’t see any pupil or students to teach and they had to hurriedly return home. The popular Upper Iweka and Lagos park were also deserted while banks remained closed.
People who have important appointments to keep took to trekking as commercial buses refused to ply the roads. Most traders who stayed at home engaged in drinking spree. Security agents in trucks were seen patrolling major roads while unconfirmed reports indicated that some sympathizers of the pro-Biafra group who wanted to use bonfires to block the road, early in the morning, were dispersed by security agents.
A market security man who gave his name as Ejike said that the market was open for business based on the government directive that every market, schools should be opened but regretted that traders shunned business activities. A trader Mr. Obiora Nwede said he obeyed the sit-at- home order on his own volition, not because he is an IPOB member, but because people of South East have been turned into slaves, due to high level of marginalization and intimidation by the government in power.
A leader of the joint security patrol team who declined to give his name said they arrested two hoodlums robbing passersby at Marine area of Onitsha while reporting a robbery incident by another set of hoodlums at Ochanja market. He added that they also foiled attempt by some hoodlums to use the opportunity to rob and dispossess people of their money, valuables and possessions. The security outfit mounted a checkpoint at Onitsha bridgehead to forestall any breakdown of law and order by the IPOB members.
In Nnewi, Nkwo Nnewi market entrance gates were open, although stalls were closed. Some of the traders were seen sitting in groups around their stalls discussing Nigerian politics and other issues of their choice. In the early hours, some banks and other offices including schools were open but some were closed. Some students who went to school in the morning later returned before noon while a combined team of the police, army, Director of State Services (DSS), Civil Defence and local vigilance groups were busy patrolling the length and breath of Nnewi community.
Asked why the traders came to their business areas despite the IPOB’s sit-at-home order, Chairman of Fairly Used and New Motorcycle Dealers Association (FUNMDA), Nwagbara, Nkwo Nnewi, Mr. Chukwueloka Ubajekwe said the traders were not members of the IPOB. He explained that they came to market to look for their daily bread and to get money to be able to pay their children’s school fees as schools have reopened.
“Biafra cannot be achieved through sit-at-home, violence or touting. There are prominent Igbo who can be at the forefront like the former Secretary General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku but I believe these people don’t like the current approach towards achieving Biafra. There is need for a change of tactics and modus operandi. We have people who can take our case to the United Nations, African Union and other relevant world bodies. But these people will not be part of a chaotic situation,” Mr Ubajekwe said.
In Awka, while transporters operated unhindered throughout the day and many shops at the Eke Awka main market, banks and schools in the capital city were shut for fear of what might happen.
Some parents who took their wards to school were reportedly sent back. “I got angry when I drove into the school premises with my kids and was sent home by the teachers who simply told me, ‘we just came to register our presence and go home,’ reported one angry who did not want his name in print. “Why waste my precious time and fuel when they could have simply informed the pupils the previous day that they were not ready to teach them?,” he queried.
Bank customers resorted to using Automated Teller Machine (ATM) services in the absence of alternate banking services. The Anambra State secretariat provided skeletal services as many of its workers stayed away from work for fear of the unknown. Those of them who went to work did so at about 9am after they had monitored the situation and were sure of their safety.
In Enugu, Ogbete Main Market Garriki and New Market were opened for business despite the sit-at-home order. The police had, earlier, urged Enugu residents to disregard the order and go about their normal businesses because they were ready to protect them should there be any molestation.
Subsequently, a combined team of security agencies, on Wednesday embarked on patrol of some major streets in Enugu as part of efforts to forestall a possible break down of law and order. Traders at Mayo and Kenyatta Markets did not open for business as many shops remained closed for the greater part of the day and there was light traffic around the area. Civil servants went about their duties as if nothing happened.
In Abakiliki a visit to Abakpa Market indicated that business activities were ongoing. At the popular Mechanic Village, many shops were opened for business even as some other commercial areas were on. The story is the same at Kpirikpiri Market. Schools, banks, and other public facilities were open for business activities.
In Nsukka, residents ignored the order as they were seen as early as 6:00 a.m. going about their normal lawful businesses while banks, schools, market, shops and government offices opened for business. Also commercial motorcycles, bus drivers and tricycles were busy picking and dropping passengers at their destinations. A commercial bus driver who identified himself as Emmanuel Ugwuoke said his concern now is how to make money and pay the school fees of his two children who are resuming school on Monday.
A civil servant, Mrs. Ndidiamaka Ozioko, said IPOB should know that tribal agitations for separation would not solve the problem of the country. “I think IPOB should join hands with others in the calls for restructuring of this country and preach to their members on how to live in peace with one another irrespective of tribe, religion or political affiliation. What we need in this country now is restructuring so as to achieve stronger economy and not tribal agitations to divide the country.
A senior police officer in Nsukka Police Area Command, who doesn’t want his name in print, commended the residents of the area for obeying police directive to ignore the IPOB sit-at-home order and go about their normal businesses.
Reacting on the level of compliance, the Media and Publicity Secretary of IPOB, Emma Powerful, said that the sit-at-home order recorded 85 percent success in “Biafra land of South-East and South-South states” and commended the people for obeying the order.
“Abia, Imo, Anambra, Rivers recorded total compliance Delta, Bayelsa, Enugu and Ebonyi recorded 85% compliance with Enugu capital city and Abakaliki witnessing skeletal human presence, most of which are government staff,” he said. “In all the states, all markets were closed for the day. Saboteurs who asked the people to ignore IPOB must hide their face in shame. IPOB is the people and the people is IPOB.”
But the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Anambra State Police Command, Haruna Mohammed, a Superintendent of Police rated the level of compliance as poor “as people went about their lawful businesses without any disturbance.” He added that the Command had deployed adequate security measures in all nooks and crannies of the state, including critical government installations. Undercover operatives, he said, were also deployed to gather intelligence.
In addition, there were enhanced joint security patrols within the neighbourhood and on highways. “All major entries and exit routes in the state were well secured. The Commissioner of Police, Garba Baba Umar, went out to assess levels of security deployment in the state,” he said.