South East residents defy governors, observe sit-at-home
• Sit-at-home continues today to commemorate Nnamdi Kanu’s home invasion
• Gunmen invade Imo school, chase away students writing WAEC exams
• Obiano leads protest against IPOB, visits markets, banks
Four days after President Muhammadu Buhari visited Imo State, in what many believe to be the Presidency’s outreach to the Southeast; and despite directives by Anambra and Imo governors for residents to shun the customary Monday’s sit-at-home protest in the region, many parts of the Southeast states were, yesterday, grounded in observance of the sixth version of the protest since it began on August 9.
The protest had been in solidarity with the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, who has been in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) since July 2. Economic and social activities were again paralysed as residents continued to observe the ‘suspended’ weekly sit-at-home.
Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano, had at the weekend, given directive to market leaders, banks and other business outfits to open or face sanctions, but despite this warning, traders, banks and residents refused to open for business by observing the IPOB’s suspended Monday sit-at-home.
IPOB had reiterated the suspension of the order following intervention by elders and prominent Igbo leaders, who expressed concern over its negative effects on Southeast economy. Surprisingly, however, after the August 9 first Monday sit-at-home, Southeasterners have continued to follow the order.
Business activities in Onitsha, the commercial city and the industrial town of Nnewi were, as usual, totally locked down, with markets, banks, transport companies, and motor parks in the two Anambra business locations failing to open for business.
Road and street shops, as well as artisans, also stayed away from the day’s businesses as roads in the cities were deserted. Governor Obiano and some of his commissioners visited banks around Ukwu Orji in Awka to ensure they were open for business, as well as Eke Awka market. He commended the few traders and customers who came to the market, noting that hoodlums must not be allowed to take over the state.
Some of the banks visited were offering skeletal services and had few customers inside. Only few vehicles could be seen on the road, as the inter-state transporter operators did not operate.
The Commissioner of Police, CP Tony Olofu, in company of officers and men, visited the UNIZIK junction, the state Secretariat and Eke Awka market to enforce government’s order.
In reaction, the traditional ruler of Oraukwu community in Idemili North Council of Anambra, Igwe Emeka Onuora, described the frequent sit-at-home exercise as worrisome, lamenting that it is gradually crippling business activities in the Southeast.
“If the exercise continues, customers who usually come from the north to patronise Onitsha traders might look for elsewhere to buy their goods in time to come, a situation which could lead to backward trend in business activities in Igbo land.”
Also speaking, a legal practitioner in Onitsha, Humphrey Udechukwu, advised President Buhari to listen to the agitators and see if he could accede to some of their demands, so as to curtail the frequent sit-at-home exercise in the region.
IN Imo State, unknown gunmen invaded Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume in Njaba Council and chased away students participating in the ongoing West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE).
Enforcers of the sit-at-home order forced the students and teachers to stop the English examination for WASCE. The enforcers, fully armed, had stormed the school premises in the early hours of the day.
According to an eyewitness, they came in a convoy of motorcycles and vehicles, and started shooting in the air. He said the enforcers set ablaze about eight motorcycles belonging to teachers and chased them away from the school.
“In the process, students were afraid and started running and the teachers, including the exam monitors, also ran for their lives. These boys were well armed with sophisticated guns mounted in the entrance to the school shooting in the air.
“Others entered into the classrooms and first of all asked everybody to lie down and then asked them to pack all their belongings and vacate the school premises. They warned them not to come back to the school to conduct any exams again. We are afraid that our children will not sit for the exams. Other schools not visited have also been deserted,” the eyewitness said.
Although there were no reports of casualties, a viral video of the incident showed the students and staff shouting and running for their lives.
But in other parts of the state, it was a partial compliance as some Imo residents carried out their usual daily business activities. Although businesses at the major markets were not at their peak, a reasonable percentage of buying and selling still went on.
In Owerri, the state capital, Wetheral, Douglas, Tetlow, Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Okigwe, Mbaise, Aba and Orlu roads were saturated with vehicles, even as intra-city bus services by the Bus Imo Drivers were available for commuters.
However, some fear-stricken institutions such as banks, public and private schools, apprehensive of a possible invasion by hoodlums refused to throw their doors open for customers and pupils.
IN Enugu State, banks, markets, government offices, major roads and streets, including fuel stations, remained under lock and key. The few operators who braved the situation could not continue, as they did not find customers.
Others had hinged their reason for not coming out on the fuel scarcity that is now threatening the economy of the zone. One of the commercial bus operators in Enugu, Mr James Ikegwu, told The Guardian: “I am tired of this sit-at-home and I have decided that I won’t observe it any longer. But coming out today (yesterday), I cannot find fuel to buy for my vehicle. There are few passengers on the road. I want to continue if I can find fuel.”
IN Abia, no trader was in sight despite that the gates of the various markets in the state were open for business. The state government had urged market and motor union leaders to open for their various activities and threatened to shut market and motor unions who fail to comply with the directive.
The government also directed security agents to provide security at suspected flashpoints and patrol the roads, but The Guardian gathered that the gates of the major markets in the state such as the Ariaria International, Ekeoha, Cemetery, among others were open but there were no traders and customers.
Banks, filling stations, and other business centres remained shut while government offices were open following warning by the state government to civil servants to be at their duty posts.
Motor parks were also deserted, including the ever-busy motor parks at Isi gate, Osisioma, Cooperative, and Aba main. Only a few keke operators were sighted along some road doing brisk business, as the roads were empty.
Contrary to the directive of the state government, there were no police patrols as the policemen were only seen around the location of their stations.
Most residents lament that the sit-at-home order has been biting hard on them after they had exhausted their savings at the weekend.
According to a keke operator, “The sit-at-home is biting hard on us. I pay for my weekly returns every Monday. How do I get such money when people don’t come out on Mondays? I feed my family and maintain my tricycle. Now, we hear there is another sit-at-home tomorrow and Friday. Those who gave the order should devise another strategy because this one is biting hard on the people.”
MAJOR streets in the Southeast will again be shut down today as IPOB has announced a continuation of its sit-at-home. IPOB said the order for ‘Biafrans’ to sit at home today was for a peaceful protest in remembrance of victims of the genocidal invasion of the compound of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, at Afaraukwu Ibeku, Umuahia, Abia State, on September 14, 2017.
The incident led to his fleeing the country before he was abducted from Kenya, in an extraordinary rendition to Nigeria, where he is kept in the custody of the DSS.
In a statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, he stated that “no fewer than 28 innocent Biafrans were killed that day by the Nigeria Army during the raid.”
Powerful said: “We advise all Biafrans, both men and women, to stay indoors tomorrow (today) as a mark of honour to these fallen heroes and heroines. We must not fail to remember the supreme sacrifices of these great freedom seekers. Nothing done to honour them should be considered too much for they have watered the tree of Biafra freedom with their blood.
“We won’t be deterred by the killings of Biafra agitators by compromised security agencies who cannot confront Fulani bandits and herdsmen rampaging the country. They derive pleasure in killing and torturing innocent people agitating for their freedom, while fleeing from real terrorists.”
The IPOB spokesman, however, insisted the group has stopped the Monday sit-at-home. “Anybody trying to enforce it is doing that to his peril.”
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