Biafra: IPOB sit-at-home order disrupts commercial activities in Onitsha

The sit-at-home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on Friday disrupted commercial and academic activities in Onitsha, Anambra as markets, banks and schools were closed in compliance.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the order was, however, a failure in most parts of the South East as the people went about their businesses unmolested.

The pro-Biafra group had made the order to protest the continued detention of its leader, Mr Nnamdi Kanu, and other agitators detained in various prisons.

A visit to some of the major markets in Onitsha showed that only a hand full of traders opened shops but customers were not forthcoming.

Mr Emmanuel Obiagu, the chairman of Uguagba Old Motor Parts in Obosi near Onitsha, said the market was open.

A trader at the Onitsha Main Market who deals in shoes, Mr Frank Egbunam, expressed displeasure at the sit-at-home call at a time the country was going through economic recession.

Egbunam urged the agitators to device other peaceful means, including negotiations by the elites rather than crumbling the economic activities of the people.

He said that the protest was due to the perceived marginalisation of the Igbo in the country’s socio-political settings.

The businessman also called for the restructuring of the country to ensure equitable distribution of its resources.

Another businessman, Mr Okpala Eze, who did not open for business, expressed support for the agitators but warned against violence in their approach.

“The sit-at-home order is good because we want the Federal Government to release Nnamdi Kanu and other people languishing in prisons,” Eze said.

A civil servant, Mr Anthony Oguguo, said the IPOB directive affected the price of transportation because people stayed indoors for fear of the unknown.

“I waited for more than two hours before getting a bus coming from Awka to Onitsha; the ones I saw collected N500 as against the usual N200,” Oguguo said.

Security agents were positioned at the Onitsha Bridgehead, Nkpor Junction and Uga Junction while some others patrolled the city.

The Assistant Commissioner of Police in-charge of the Onitsha Area Command, Mr Abubaakar Yahaya, said no case of violence had been reported.

“The whole place is quiet and peaceful; people are going about their businesses.

“Nobody has come out to breach the peace to justify any arrest,” Yahaya said.

In Awka, the order had poor compliance in as businesses, human and vehicular traffic were normal in the capital city.

Commercial banks which were closed early in the day later opened to customers while the popular Eke-Awka Market was open but scanty.

However, most schools in the state capital were closed due to fear as their authorities had instructed parents to keep their children at home for safety.

Vehicular movement on the Enugu- Onitsha road was normal but there was a sudden jerk in transportation fare due to reduced number of commuter busses heading toward Onitsha.

In Nnewi, some shops and banks were open but businesses were at low ebb as people were cautious.

In a statement, a leader of MASSOB, Mr Uchenna Madu, said the protest was a success.

“We gladly salute the people for their love, confidence and trust bestowed on IPOB, MASSOB and other Biafra agitating groups.

“MASSOB demands for the immediate and unconditional release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, Benjamin Onwuka, Chidiebere Onwudiwe and other detained pro-Biafra agitators in prisons mostly in Onitsha and Awka,” it stated.

Meanwhile, the coordinator of IPOB/MASSOB Coalition, Mr Okanu Muoneme, applauded Nigerians for heeding their call against compliance with the sit-at-home order.

Muoneme, however, berated those who did not go out for business because of fear.

“We earlier called on the people to ignore the call to sit at home; we want to thank Nigerians for heeding our call.

“However, some people did not go out because they were afraid; meanwhile we reiterate our demand that our leader, Mr Nnamdi Kanu, be freed from prison as the courts have ordered,” he said.

The Commissioner of Police in Anambra, Mr Sam Okaula, described the streets of Anambra as calm.

“Anambra is calm, markets are open and people are going about their normal activities without hindrances,” he said.

From Umuahia is a report that apathy and noncompliance marred the order for a sit-at-home to protest the continued detention of Kanu.

Civil servants, students, shop owners, market men and women, artisans and commuter-vehicle operators went about their duties unmolested.

Reports from Aba, the commercial hub of Abia, also showed that the city recorded no restriction in vehicular and people’s movement as well as commercial activities.

The city was calm with shops, markets and schools open for normal activities.

Some residents of Aba and Umuahia who spoke on conditions of anonymity said that they did not want to comply with the order.

“The order is a huge failure in Aba and people are going about their normal daily activities, in spite of the initial fear.

“People are aware of the IPOB order but because there was no enforcement, people went about their businesses,” it said.

There was heavy presence of anti-riot policemen and military personnel at strategic locations in the cities while some patrol vehicles monitored the areas.

It was a similar story in Enugu as people of the state did not comply with the order.

Some of the residents who spoke with NAN said they ignored the order because it did not come from the state or federal government.

Mr Chinedu Nnaji, a civil servant, said he did not obey the order because it was not officially announced by the state and the federal governments.

A trader at Ogbete Market who preferred anonymity said that the order was effective in the morning as a few people trickled in but later boomed, the moment they realised that it would not hold.

The source expressed dismay with the alleged sabotage by a leader of the Ogbete Main Market Trades Association who he said invited the police to arrest 12 members of IPOB in the market.

It said that it was a shame that the police failed to arrest violent herdsmen who destroyed farmlands in the state but were on hand to arrest people who discussed innocently in support of IPOB.

He regretted that the order affected the buying and selling in the market as people were afraid to come out due to the presence of soldiers, civil defence and police in and around the market.

The group had ordered residents to sit at home to observe one year of incarceration of its leader, Kanu.

The IPOB leader is facing prosecution by the Federal Government for alleged treasonable felony.