May 31, 2017

Biafra sit-at-home: Total shutdown in S-East

Biafra sit-at-home: Total shutdown in S-East

•Partial shutdown in Port Harcourt, Asaba, Umuahia; armed security agencies force out people in Ebonyi
•Okorocha goes around, begs traders to open shops; It’s a huge success—IPOB, MASSOB; Uwazuruike hails Ndigbo

By Chioma Gabriel, Emeka Mamah, Clifford Ndujihe,Vincent Ujumadu, Anayo Okoli, Chidi Nkwopara, Festus Ahon, Samuel Oyadongha, Davies Iheamnachor, Dennis Agbo, Peter Okutu, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinonso Alozie,  Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Emem Idio & Emmanuel Ayungbe

ENUGU—THE sit-at-home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, to mark the 50th  anniversary of the declaration of the defunct Republic of Biafra and honour heroes and heroines of the struggle, was complied with in the five states of the South East, yesterday.

Outside the S-East, the directive was partly complied with in Port Harcourt, Asaba and Bayelsa but ignored in Uyo.

Most markets, banks and schools in Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states, including those in the rural areas, were closed and the roads were totally deserted in the early hours of the morning.

The order was also, largely complied with in Enugu, as schools, banks, markets and other commercial activities were paralysed, with police helicopters hovering around Enugu metropolis.

The shutdown of the states was in spite of the plea by South-East governors and massive police and security presence, who patrolled streets and carried out air surveillance with helicopters to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order.

It’s a huge success—IPOB, MASSOB

Meanwhile, IPOB and MASSOB have congratulated Ndigbo worldwide for showing total compliance with the sit-at-home order.

IPOB, in a statement by its Media and Publicity Secretary, Mr Emma Powerful, said the compliance with the sit-at-home directive was an indication that Ndigbo all over the world were tired of the Nigerian federation and ready to leave the country.

His words: “Our Supreme Leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu issued this order of sit-at-home when he was still in Kuje Prisons, Abuja and it has come to pass. All the people of Biafra both at home and abroad complied in totality without any compulsion, which has not happened in the history of the Biafran struggle.

Biafra is here

“We are also telling those saboteurs who were paid by the government of Nigeria to sabotage the restoration project that this is the beginning of what will happen to them and their paymasters. When we finally leave Nigeria, they will be left behind. Biafrans and IPOB members worldwide have obeyed Mazi Kanu. We, IPOB, must be strong and we promise everybody that Biafra is here.

“However, Biafrans have proven to the entire world that they need freedom and the world must know that we are not going back in the quest for independence of Biafra.

“The sit-at-home-order was a success and all the markets, schools, banks, companies/industries, transport companies, businesses in Biafraland closed in total compliance and we are saying that God Almighty (Chukwu Okike Abiama) bless all of you.

“We also thank all our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora for their total compliance and on the march in the streets of Taiwan, Chad, Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA, Russia, Ukraine, Angola, Congo DRC, Mozambique, Luxembourg, Brazil, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, St. Kitts, Canada, Italy, Norway, Denmark, Spain, Sweden and France.

“We also thank those in Germany, Austria, Finland, South Africa, Togo, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Liberia, Benin Republic, Gabon, Cape Verde, Madagascar, Mexico, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Portugal, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Namibia, Equatorial Guinea, UAE, Kuwait and Qatar,

“Those in Scotland, Holland, Belgium, Uzbekistan, Turkey, Greece, Pakistan, India, Canada Trinidad and Tobago, Isreal, Argentina, Bokinafaso, Tanzania, Sao tome and Principe, Australia, Japan, North and South Korea, Niger Republic, Tunisia- Algeria, Cape Verde and many more where Biafrans observed the order are not left out in our show of gratitude and prayers.

“We also thank all the markets and business outfits in Biafra land for obeying the order and congratulate them for identifying with us in the Biafra restoration struggle; we equally thank all the foreign media that covered the event.”

Also, Leader of MASSOB, Comrade Uchenna Madu, in a statement at midday congratulated those who complied with the order which he described as a huge success.

Madu said: “The huge success achieved on today’s sit-at-home exercise is marvellous and glorious because Almighty God, Chukwu Okike Abiama divinely approved our programme of commemorating the golden jubilee celebration of declaration of Biafra by late General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu.

“The honour and pride go to the people of Biafra. The success achieved today is not a selfish pride for Mazi Nnamdi Kanu-led IPOB or Comrade Uchenna Madu-led MASSOB or any other group. It is an honour to the people of Biafra, it is an honour to the gallant and eloquent soldiers of Biafra and civilians that bravely laid down their lives for establishment of Republic of Biafra. It is an honour for Biafran school children, an honour to commercial cyclists, tricycles, buses and other vehicle operators.

“It is an honour to the firms/establishments that complied with the sit-at-home order.

“The huge success is an express evidence that the coming Biafra referendum shall be a walk over against Nigeria. The success is also a direct confirmation that light and darkness can never walk together.”

Uwazuruike hails Ndigbo

The leader of Biafra Independence Movement, BIM, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, also hailed Ndigbo and their friends from other parts of Nigeria, for complying fully with the order.

Chief Uwazuruike, who spoke exclusively to Vanguard on phone, yesterday, said: “The world can now see that we are not joking about our love and quest for a free Biafra.”

While saying that BIM, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, and IPOB, were working towards the same goal, Chief Uwazuruike reiterated their resolve to remain non-violent while continuing the agitation.

Uwazuruike insisted that the quest for Biafra remained non-negotiable.

Our quest for Biafra is non-negotiable. With what happened today (yesterday), the world has obviously come to realize that we are serious about our freedom,” he said.

Imo stands still

In Imo State, all markets in Owerri, filling stations, fast food outlets, schools and commercial banks remained under lock and key in compliance with the sit-at-home directive. Food vendors, sachet water hawkers, shoe shiners and even barrow pushers were equally off the streets.

As a way of consolidating the order, IPOB loyalists mounted the Biafran flag and other insignia at strategic locations across the state and warned well-established transport companies and school proprietors to respect the order.

Armed security personnel were either seen patrolling or permanently stationed at strategic locations within and outside Owerri municipality.

Imo State Governor, Owelle Rochas Okorocha, also, moved round the city to appeal to businessmen in Owerri to defy the order and open their shops in the largely deserted streets of the metropolis.

As at 11.51am, the governor was heading towards Amakohia in Owerri North local government area, possibly to see things for himself.

This was even as the Anglican Bishop of Okigwe South, Rt. Rev. David Onuoha, condemned the brutality meted out to Biafra agitators.

Delivering a 92-page presidential address at the third session of the 8th Synod, held at St. Stephen’s Church, Umuduru Egwelle in Ehime Mbano Local Council Area of the state, Bishop Onuoha said: “We strongly condemn the brutality with which the law enforcement agencies follow any demonstration or activity of this group.”

While insisting that “violence has no place at all, in finding solution to any problem,” the Bishop, however, advised the Federal Government to commission a dialogue with the various groups associated with the Biafra project, “with a view to understanding why this idea seems to be getting fresh and strong by the day, 47 years after the end of the civil war.”

He also, asked the government to immediately address what he termed “the obvious injustice, marginalization, sufferings and hardship which the South East geopolitical zone has been subjected to since after the war,” pointing out that force had no place in winning ideological wars.

Aba deserted, Air Force jets hover in Umuahia 

In Umuahia, the Abia State Capital and country home of IPOB Leader, Nnamdi Kanu, a Nigeria Air Force, NAF, Jet  hovered in the air throughout Monday and yesterday to deter the residents from obeying the sit-at-home directive, as soldiers, armed policemen and other security agencies patrolled the city.

In Aba,  the commercial nerve centre of the state, there was 100 percent compliance as no market, school or bank and other commercial outfits opened for business.

Total compliance in Anambra

Residents of Awka, the Anambra State Capital complied with the order.

All markets, banks and schools, including those in the rural areas were closed and the roads were totally deserted. However, some commercial vehicles and motorcycles began to ply the roads at about 10am and few private shops opened. Some banks also began to attend to customers at about 12noon, while few civil servants who made it to their places of work started leaving after few hours. Many Anambra State civil servants residing in Enugu could not make it to Awka as there were no vehicles to convey them.

There were no security operatives in sight in Awka and some people who came out later in the day discussed the IPOB order in clusters. To many of them, the objective of the order had been achieved. They commended what they described as the doggedness of the IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu for being able to mobilise people for the event.

Nnewi, Onitsha paralysed

At Nnewi and Onitsha, the industrial and commercial capitals of the Anambra State, respectively, no vehicles, tricycles or Okada (commercial motorcycles) plied the roads

At about 7.30 am, when Vanguard drove from Onitsha to Nnewi, no vehicles, tricycles and motorcycles were seen on the roads. The roads deserted included the Oba New and Old roads, the Onitsha-Owerri road and Obosi-Nkpor roads. Shops, filling stations, schools and banks were closed as people gathered  in clusters discussing the development.

In Onitsha, all the markets, schools, shops and other business outfits were all locked. Federal and state government establishments, banks and other financial institutions, including those in remote areas were closed.

The Onitsha- Owerri expressway, the Asaba-Onitsha and the Onitsha-Enugu expressways were all ghosts of themselves as vehicular and human traffic was scanty.

Security agents in their patrol vehicles, particularly, the Nigerian Police Force, Nigerian Army, Nigerian Navy, Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, Federal Road Safety Corps, were seen patrolling the streets of Onitsha and Nnewi, while many policemen were seen with their vehicles at some strategic junctions in Onitsha.

Armed soldiers were seen at both the entry points of the Niger Bridge Head at Onitsha and Asaba respectively while Police from Fegge Division were drafted to the Bridge Head by the Divisional Police Officer, Mr. Rabiu Garba, to give helping hand to the Army to ensure peace. Naval officers were equally stationed at their usual check point at Atani road Junction, Onitsha.

Other areas where policemen were stationed included the Upper Iweka axis of Onitsha, Okpoko Junction, Zik’s Roundabout, New Parts Fly Over Nkpor, Metallurgical Training Institute along Onitsha -Owerri road, Oba New road junction along the Onitsha-Owerri road and Oba /Oraifite road on the Onitsha -Owerri expressway.

Onitsha In-land town,  Awka road, Upper New Market road, Old Market and New Market roads, Oguta road, Old Enugu road, Kirk road, Modebe road, Onitsha -Nsugbe and Onitsha – Nkwelle Ezunaka roads were all deserted.

Coordinator of MASSOB in Anambra State, Mr. Augustine Egbeh, who spoke in an interview with Vanguard on phone, and the Secretary of MASSOB in Anambra, Mr. Joseph Nnaji thanked the people of the state for complying with the sit-at home directive, saying that they were elated especially as there had not been any casualty.

On whether they are being harassed by the security agents in the state, Mr. Egbeh said: “Security men did not see anybody on the streets, so who will they harass? We are not protesting on the streets. Everybody is sitting at home so there is nobody to harass, intimidate or kill.”

Egbeh and Nnaji however commended the Army who they said conducted themselves professionally, thereby giving hope that the policy of civil -military relationship was being imbibed by the officers.

However, at the Old Market Road, Onitsha, it was jubilation galore when some elders and youths who gathered, discussing Biafra struggle activities, sited four reporters from AFP from Abuja who were on ground to monitor the celebration as they took photographs of the empty roads and streets that were deserted.

The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Sam Okaula, who moved round the state, directed his men not to disturb anybody, advising people to either stay at home or go about their normal businesses as nobody would molest them.

Enugu state paralysed

Most schools, markets, banks among other commercial houses were deserted in Enugu State yesterday. Some banks that opened their branches did so discreetly, particularly in the morning hours.

Few buses and tricycle operates plied the roads but most people on essential duties had hiccups boarding vehicles which made fares to rise to about 100 per cent. The civil service was also affected  as few workers were able to go to work due to transportation problem.

Enugu State Chairman of Nigeria Labour Congress, NLC, Comrade Virgilus  Nwobodo, however, said no worker was given directive to stay at home.

The state government did not declare any public holiday but most parents stopped their children from leaving their homes even as the few that managed to go had to return as their institutions of learning were under lock and key.

Government primary and secondary schools in remote parts of the state functioned as few children and their teachers were available for classes.

Most of the roads were empty as commercial and private vehicles kept off the roads. Few filling stations sold petrol to few private vehicles, especially those used by security agencies to patrol the streets.

The popular Ogbete Market was more or less like a cemetery even though the gates were open with very few people that hung around with their shops locked up.

Other markets which remained open but deserted included those at Abakpa Nike, Ogige- Nsukka, Eke Ozzi and Eke Umuitodo in Amufie- all in Igboeze North Local Government Area; 9th Mile Daily Market in Udi Local Government; the Four Corner in Nkanu West and Orba International Market, in Udenu Local Government Areas among others.

At Nsukka, all the major parks were deserted except the Peace Mass Transport Ltd and the only bus which was loaded as of the time Vanguard visited could not move out as the driver developed cold feet, sparking agitations by the passengers for refund of their fares.

The state was, however, calm as few people moved about their businesses without molestation from anybody.

Total compliance in Aba, other places in Abia, partial compliance in Umuahia metropolis

In Umuahia, capital of Abia State and environs, residents did not completely obey the sit-at-home order by IPOB as they moved about freely, for their businesses.

Vehicular movement was normal, as some workers went to work and banks opened but were cautious as they attended to their various customers from their side doors even as their main gates were thrown open.

Some shops on the streets were open but in some cases the owners did not display their wares until later in the afternoon when they were sure of the calm situation.

Schools were, however, not open as parents were afraid to send their children to schools, as police helicopters hovered intermittently round the capital city while police vehicles also patrolled the roads to ensure that no breach of peace was committed.

However, only few tricycles carried the few passengers on the roads compared to the riotous numbers that used to be on Umuahia roads daily.

Security agencies force out people in Ebonyi

In Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, there was partial compliance as economic activities, movement of vehicles and individuals were recorded following alleged use of force by security agencies.

The activities in the state gradually gathered momentum when armed security men moved around the state capital with patrol vehicles warning people to go about their normal activities as police helicopters hovered in the air.

As the security agencies moved about, Ebonyi people trooped out from their houses and opened their shops and the two popular markets within the capital, Abakpa and Kpirikpiri were opened for commercial activities.

Vanguard learned that the tempo of activities increased within the capital as the people started developing confidence that they were safe to go about their normal businesses.

A team of security operatives comprising the police and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, stormed Diamond Bank, and compelled the bank officials to open for services as the crowd at the gate was overwhelming, posing threat to the people of the area.

Also, only few schools were reported to have opened for academic activities in the state.

Partial compliance in PH, Asaba 

The garden city of Port Harcourt witnessed partial compliance as some Biafra supporters observed the directive, while many others defied it and went about their businesses.

At Ikoku motor park market in Port Harcourt, that is considered IPOB stronghold,  traders were seen around their closed shops.

Some police vans were sighted around Ikoku junction, while some policemen were seen carrying out stop and search operation in the area. Police on patrol vans were also stationed at other strategic junctions in the state.

Businesses around Ikwerre road, Diobu and other parts of the city thrived in a calm atmosphere.

Some of the IPOB members, who spoke to Vanguard, noted that the essence of the sit-at-home was to keep their Biafran dream alive.

In Asaba, the directive was partially observed in Omeligboma, Abraka, Okwe, Osadennis way in the metropolis as shops in the areas were closed for fear of being attacked by the agitators.

As of 1pm, armed policemen and amoured car were stationed at strategic locations around the Onitsha head bridge to forestall possible breakdown of law and order.

However, a member IPOB, Pastor Jonathan Azubuike, said the observance of the sit-at-home order in Asaba by Biafra sympathisers was total, adding that this method of celebration was adopted to avoid violent engagement with security agents.

On the action of other sister organisations including MASSOB and BIM which backed out of the sit-at-home protest, he said that “their programme is different from that of IPOB, so I dont know what their programme is for the day.

Igbo shut shops in Bayelsa

Shops and businesses owned by Igbo in Bayelsa State were closed in compliance with the IPOB/MASSOB directive.

The popular Swali Market located in the heart of the city was devoid of the usual bubbling and hustling as Igbo who owned a chunk of the shops stayed away from their businesses.

Also, shops owned by Igbo traders stretching from the Igbogene gateway to  down town Yenagoa were closed.

The situation was not different at the the Tombia Phone plaza and the mechanic village as spare parts and phone dealers of Igbo extraction also observed the order.

Checks around Yenagoa metropolis reveal that eateries, malls, pub owned by Igbo were also closed to businesses.

At the Amarata axis mainly populated by Igbo businesses, all the shops were locked while their owners were seen in small groups discussing and drinking.

Igbo in A/Ibom shun directive

However, Igbo in Akwa Ibom state shunned the stay-at-home directive.

When Vanguard visited Mechanic Village, Abak Road, Uyo, in the state capital, Igbo who form the bulk of the shop owners and other business concerns were seen carrying out their daily business activities.

Eze Ndigbo of Akwa Ibom State, Eze Barth Okpala, said “the directive by the leadership of IPOB to all sons and daughter of Ndigbo to stay at home today(yesterday ) is in order, but we cannot implement the directive in Akwa Ibom state.”

According to Eze Okpala, “ we are part of the struggle but the Igbo in the state (Akwa Ibom) will not stay at home as directed by IPOB. I only appeal to Ndigbo in the state to be law abiding and not to do any thing that will threaten the peace of our host communities.”