By Our Reporters
ENUGU—For three weeks running, attempts to observe sit-at-home in the South East did not record much success as the residents were beginning to stand up and take control of their lives.
But yesterday, allegedly due to President Buhari’s statement in a Channel’s TV interview that he would not release Nnamdi Kanu as promised to Igbo elders who met with him, enforcers of the sit-at-home returned to the streets in parts of the region.
In Enugu, business activities were disrupted in the metropolis yesterday morning when hoodlums invaded the streets of the city to enforce the sit-at-home.
IPOB which ordered the sit-at-home last year has suspended it and urged residents of the region to go about their normal businesses but the order was hijacked by hoodlums who however in the last three weeks did not disturb the residents of the region.
But business operators who had opened yesterday hurriedly closed their shops while those who were still on their way, including school children turned back for fear of being attacked.
It was learnt that some traders at the Ogbete Main market who went to market earlier were trapped inside as market masters shut down the market for safety while some of them were forced to close and go home by the hoodlums.
Filling stations and motor parks were also forced to close.Vanguard learned that the hoodlums were shooting and burning properties in Gariki and Agbani areas as well as Okpara Avenue axis.
An unconfirmed report said that one person was shot dead and a car burnt down at Agbani road.
“As I am speaking to you, I am trapped inside the market. We came to do business but shortly after ,we started hearing gunshots and our leaders shut down the market. We are here waiting for the situation to calm down to find our way home” a trader, Mr Ifeanyi Odo said.It was also learnt that they stormed the busy NOWAS junction and highly populated Abakpa Nike areas, forcing people to run for safety.
Sources said that many motorists and traders at the Ogbete Main Market were feared to have been seriously injured following the stampede that erupted at Old Park when the hoodlums invaded the area.
Security was however later beefed in the city as some armoured personnel carriers and police vans were seen at strategic business areas, including the correctional centre.
Reacting to the situation, Enugu State police command in a statement entitled, “Security situation in Enugu under control”, said: “The Enugu State Command of the Nigeria Police Force has assured residents of the state that the security agencies have brought the situation in Enugu under control following the alleged cases of sporadic shootings at Topland, Amechi-Awkunanaw. There was snatching and burning of a Toyota Sienna vehicle and a tricycle at Umueze and Agbani axis of Nkanu West LGA of the state by miscreants alleged to be enforcing sit-at-home order, which caused panic within Enugu metropolis in the morning hours of today.”
Signed by the command’s Police Public Relations Officer, ASP Daniel Ndukwe, the Command enjoined law-abiding citizens of the state to “go about their lawful businesses without fear of intimidation or harassment as Police and other Security Operatives, have been duly deployed to further thwart the untoward activities of the miscreants in the state”.
Vehicular, human movements in Onitsha
In Onitsha, the commercial city and Nnewi, the industrial town of Anambra State, there were vehicular movements but the markets were not opened.
While there were near heavy vehicular movements in Onitsha and Nnewi, all the markets, banks, schools, filling stations and government establishments in Onitsha and Nnewi were closed, apparently for fear of being attacked by the hoodlums who are forcing people to observe the sit-at-home.
Apart from vehicular movement, people moved freely round Onitsha in commercial buses, tricycles and private vehicles while others walked their ways freely to their different destinations without harassment and intimidation by anybody.Some mechanic workshops, artisans shops and street traders, especially those dealing on edibles were seen freely attending to their customers.
Markets in Onitsha, including Main market, Ochanja Central market and the over 28 markets under the Bridge Head markets as well as the popular Onitsha Medicine market were all closed for business.
There was entry and exit of people traveling in and out of Onitsha in mini buses, but the major transport companies, including the luxury bus operators in Onitsha and Nnewi were not open.
Passengers took shuttle vehicles into Asaba from where they found their ways to Agbor, Benin, Lagos, Abuja and other Northern states.Residents of Onitsha who spoke with Vanguard on the renewed enforcement of long suspended sit-at-home blamed it on President Buhari’s comment last week in an interview with Channels Television where he declared that he would not release Nnamdi Kanu from detention, dashing the hope of his followers and sympathizers.
According to a returnee who spoke in Onitsha, Nnaemeka Ofili, “it seems that the South East Governors and President Muhammadu Buhari-led Federal Government of Nigeria do not want the sit-at-home in South East to stop. I came into the state two weeks to celebrate Christmas and New Year, and what I saw about vehicular and human movements impressed me and it made me to believe that Monday weekly sit-home was coming to an end.
“However, to my greatest surprise today, markets, banks, schools and filling stations are all under lock and key and when I spoke with some people around, they said that President Buhari’s statement against Kanu’s release was careless and not timely, and calculated to cause trouble.
“Some said that the President should not have made any statement concerning the release of Kanu in the Channels TV interview, knowing the tensed security situation in South East and also aware that the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu commands big followership in region. He said that he should have kept quiet on the matter or be a little diplomatic about it since he believes it is only court that can release him.
“For me and other like minds, that statement from Mr President itself amounts to contempt of court, because he commented on a matter before the court, and gave a wrong impression that the delay being seen in the court and adjournments the case has witnessed is caused by the federal government.
“That statement that he cannot release Nnamdi Kanu was a calculated statement to escalate the crisis in South East. Mr. President knows that such statement will make the people enforcing the suspended sit-at-home to continue. They stopped earlier after the visit of Igbo elders led by Mbazuluike Amechi, where the President gave the impression that he would release Kanu.
“But because he enjoys the security crisis in the South East, he wants South East to be like the North in terms of insecurity, which can never be. He decided to make that careless and costly statement.
“I also blame South East governors who are behaving like weaklings in this matter; they have neither taken a pragmatic position on the Monday weekly sit-at-home, neither have they taken any position on the continued detention of Nnamdi Kanu and the unnecessary adjournments on his case.
“They are aloof on these two issues and they will suffer the consequences, just as federal government will suffer it thinking that only southeast will suffer it. Honesty it is affecting the whole Nigeria.”
Busy streets in Abia
In Aba, markets, schools, banks and business centres were shut over the renewed enforcement of sit-at-home order.
Few motorists, mostly private vehicles were seen on the roads. Motor parks in Aba were also empty as there were no passengers on sight. A motor park official who gave his name as Godson Adiele attributed the empty parks to the Monday sit-at-home. However, bank customers were stranded as most of the Automatic Teller Machines, ATM, failed to dispense cash.
Schools which were billed to resume yesterday after the Christmas and New Year holidays failed to open for academic activities as students were seen returning to their homes.Major markets like Ariaria International, Ngwa road; Cemetery and Ekeoha were all shut.
It was rumoured that all markets in the state have been shut by the state government. But in a reaction, Commissioner for Trade and Investment, John Okiyi Kalu said the state government did not close any market in the state.
“We did not shut down any market. Market leaders decide when to close and when to open markets. It has nothing to do with the government”, the Commissioner said.In Umuahia, economic and commercial activities were at their full swing as residents ignored the phobia associated with the Monday sit-at-home order.
The roads were also very busy with human and vehicular traffic as people went about their businesses without molestations. Schools also opened just as the banks fully operated.
All the markets in town as well as street shops opened for business. The motor parks were fully opened as travelers especially those returning from Christmas and New Year holidays were being conveyed without hitches.
Panic spreads in Orlu, Okigwe in Imo
In Imo State, businesses and other social activities were paralysed as residents of the major cities of the state: Owerri, Okigwe and Orlu observed sit-at-home.A resident of Orlu who spoke to Vanguard said: “I now see Mondays as a public holiday. We don’t go out; we stay at home from morning to night. This started since the killings in Orlu became very serious.“You come out, before you know it, somebody will come and beat you up or destroy your properties. If you eventually come out, just prepare to run in case you hear a gunshot.
“Orlu is now a terrible place to live. One day, one trouble. If you come out anything can happen. I can run but what of my wife and kids? Orlu is hot.”A bus driver who gave his name as Nmaduabuchi, spoke to Vanguard on the situation in Okigwe axis and said: “I don’t know how Okigwe is becoming hot now. On Mondays, you see people running home for fear of of the unknown gunmen.
“For us, driving from Owerri to Okigwe is possible but consider it that you are taking a very big risk. It can result in your death or your vehicle being burnt. Except if you have enough security to protect yourself”.
Owerri records economic activities
However, the story is different in the Owerri metropolis as the movement of goods and services continued unhindered.But residents still live in fear as some were of the view that “the insecurity is not completely over. These boys can strike at any time. We just have to open our eyes and be careful to avoid being caught unawares.”
Normal activities persist in Ebonyi
In Ebonyi State, normal activities persisted not minding the sit-at-home order.Residents of the state were seen in their numbers freely moving from one place to the other without any report of molestation and victimization by IPOB members.Banks, filling stations, eateries, shopping malls, government offices, transportation companies, private establishments, universities, both public and private schools, among others were all opened for work in the state.Other businesses along major streets in Abakaliki also opened for business transactions.
So far, Ebonyi State has not been complying with the sit-at-home order of IPOB.
Chaos as those trying to beat sit–at –home got trapped at Onitsha bridgehead
Meantime, hundreds of people who tried to beat the Monday sit-at- home and decided to pass the Anambra end of the Niger Bridge on Sunday became trapped and ended up spending the night between Onitsha and Asaba in Delta State.
Although the cause of what was considered the worst traffic gridlock on the Bridge head was attributed to the multiple checkpoints by security operatives on the foot of the bridge, yesterday’s chaos was due to the decision of most people who were billed to be in their offices by Monday morning to leave for their destinations on Sunday.
For instance, many vehicles that left with their passengers from Enugu, Aba, Owerri, Abakaliki, Onitsha and other parts of the South East spent several hours on the bridge as commuters stood still on both sides of Onitsha and Asaba.A staff in one of the federal establishments in Lagos, Mr. Kene Obi , who boarded God Is Good Motors at Awka and was hoping to be in Lagos later in the day to get ready for work on Monday said he arrived Lagos in the early hours of Monday.
He told Vanguard: “It appeared that everybody who came home for Christmas and New Year celebrations chose to leave the South East at the same time to beat the Monday sit–at–home and that was the reason for the gridlock at Onitsha.
“We left the motor park at Awka at 7.00am and by 8.00am, we were already at the head bridge only to remain there till 8.00 pm. I have never experienced such traffic in my life. The fear of Monday sit-at-home was the cause of the problem because most people were on the road at the same time so as to be away from Anambra State before Monday.”
Yesterday in Anambra State however, normal commercial activities took place as most markets and shopping malls were open. Transporters were on the roads although transport fares were yet to come down.
At the state secretariat, many workers reported for duty and the banks were also open. Schools reopened and some of them even conducted tests for the pupils despite the fact that it was the first day of school in 2022.