By Chioma Gabriel, Emeka Mamah, Emma Amaize, Vincent Ujumadu, Festus Ahon, Dennis Agbo, Peter Okutu, Chimaobi Nwaiwu & Ugochukwu Alaribe
There was a near-complete lockdown of the entire South-East geo-political zone yesterday, following the sit-at-home order at the instance of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, which has described the success as a sign that it was in total control of the zone.
Across the South-East and South-South, the group recorded total compliance in some major cities and its environs; partial but substantial compliance in some and failure in parts of Enugu,Imo and Ebonyi states.
IPOB recorded total compliance in Onitsha and Nnewi in the early hours of yesterday, as business activities were shut.
The situation was, however, different in the Anambra State capital as people moved about their businesses and the offices and commercial houses were open without molestation.
Apart from police patrol vans that were stationed in strategic positions in and around Awka, there was nothing to show that there was any order directing people to sit at home.
In Onitsha, all the markets, financial institutions, transport companies, schools and government institutions were closed. There was partial compliance in Oba, Nnewi, Obosi, Nkpor, Ogidi, Ihiala and other surrounding towns and villages.
Also, the fact that yesterday was Feast of Ascension which Catholics usually observe as a day of obligation, made many people to also abstain from work and businesses as all schools and offices run by Catholics were not open.
There was peaceful atmosphere in the state as security agencies, including the Army, Navy, Police Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps, NSCDC, were at different junctions to ensure there was no breakdown of law and order.
The usual gridlock in most parts of Onitsha was totally absent and there was no member of IPOB sited in any part of the state.
Federal Road Safety Corps, FRSC, officials that mount check points in various parts of the state were surprisingly absent.
The popular Onitsha Main Market, Marine Market, Ose Okwodu Market and other street markets, as well as Nkwo Nnewi Market were not opened for business.
Shops, including the popular Sir Emeka Ofor and other plazas known for selling and repairing telephones and its accessories were all closed for business.
In Fegge area of Onitsha, roads were deserted while shops in buildings were all under lock and key. The popular Bridgehead Market that had over 25 markets under it, including the Onitsha Patent Medicine Market, were all closed.
The Ochanja Central Market and all the markets also in Fegge area of Onitsha were closed for business as youths engaged in all kinds of games including football, draft and other games.
In Nnewi, the compliance level was 100 percent unlike in the past, as all the markets, financial institutions, road-side business activities and shops, including artisans markets, transport companies totally complied with the IPOB directive.
Basking in the euphoria of the apparent success of the order, IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, said: “There is no lingering doubt that IPOB is in complete charge of the entire Biafraland
“The total compliance we have witnessed in today’s celebration has dispelled the claims that Biafrans cannot forge a common front to pursue anything that is important to them.
“We are happy with the level of high compliance with the sit-at-home directive issued by the leadership of our great movement.
“The early morning broadcast from our leader in Atlanta, Georgia, USA, at 6a.m. local time in Biafra set the tone for the day.
“Indications from all quarters point to total compliance, including Yenagoa, Bayelsa State.
“We expected our people to comply, but never did we anticipate this near perfect compliance.
“The respect and humility Biafrans demonstrated today is an indication that Biafra restoration is the singular most important issue in the lives of our people.
“We encourage our people to remain peaceful, steadfast and not allow themselves to be intimidated into disrespecting our war heroes, heroines and faithful who lost their lives in the course of Biafra agitation.
“Today (yesterday) is a truly historic day, our dead soldiers, fathers and mothers; sisters and brothers; friends and well wishers who also died in the Biafra agitation, will be proud of us.”
In Aba, Abia State, business activities were, yesterday, grounded.
The gates of major markets in the city such as the Ariaria International, Ekeoha, Cemetery, Alaoji Spare Parts, Ehere, Ngwa Road, were open, but there were no traders or customers in sight.
Banks, schools, as well as Jubilee Road Spare Parts Market and St. Michael’s Road Phone and Computer Accessories Market and shops were placed under lock and key.
The roads in the city were deserted as people were seen trekking to their destinations with several teams of security agents patrolling the streets, while others were stationed at major junctions.
It was observed that traders still stayed away despite the assurance of the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Ene Okon, threatening to arrest anybody found harassing residents or traders at any market.
Police patrol vehicles were stationed at the major entrances to markets.
According to a trader at the Ariaria International Market, Mrs Chioma Ogbonna, “we decided to close shops in compliance with the IPOB order. We identify with IPOB in remembering our fallen heroes who died that we may live.
“What they are doing is in line with our desire to enjoy freedom from oppression.”
Residents of Umuahia, however, refused to obey the sit-at-home order, as they went about their activities.
Government offices, banks, public schools, shops and other business ventures in Umuahia opened for normal transactions.
Motorists and tricycle operators also engaged in their normal daily operations, while policemen continued to patrol the city and its environs.
Partial in Enugu, negative in Asaba
In Enugu, the sit-at-home order recorded substantial compliance as some complied with the directive, while others went on with their normal daily activities.
In the early hours of the day, some traders in most markets in Timber market Abakpa, Abakpa market, Ogbete Main Market at Ogui, New market in Enugu, among other markets did not open for business.
By afternoon, business activities began to creep in and some who had stayed away from their business premises opened. The civil servants went to work but the streets were not their normal bustle of activities.
There were no military or police patrols, just like there were no reports of molestation of any Biafran activist, even when a coalition of pro-Biafra groups marked the day with a lecture on the 52nd anniversary of Biafra.
In Imo and Ebonyi states, the sit-at-home was not obeyed, just as the leader of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu said that Owerri people celebrated it their own way.
Residents of Asaba, Delta State capital, yesterday defied the order and went about their normal business.
Being major gateway to the eastern of the country, Asaba is believed to be one of IPOB’s strongholds.
However, civil servants, traders, schools and corporate organisations ignored the order as people went about their daily routine.