South South At a Stand Still
The sit-at-home directive issued by agitators in honour of their colleagues killed in the struggle for the realisation of Biafra Republic recorded a huge success in the South East and parts of South South regions yesterday.
In Enugu, human, vehicular and economic activities were at a standstill with many residents remaining indoors.
The massive compliance with the sit-at-home directive shows the increasing popularity of the quest for Biafra that began 50 years ago. What is needed to stop the agitation is not force that would lead to the loss of more lives and property but the tackling of the injustice and inequality that gave birth to it.
Apart from banks and government offices that opened for business, several other institutions including schools, markets and shops were closed. Workers of the various ministries were seen in their offices offering skeletal services while public schools sent their students and teachers back home.
At higher institutions of learning, including the University of Nigeria, Enugu campus; Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT); and the Institute of Management and Technology (IMT), although some academic staff were sighted on duty, lectures were not held yesterday as the students did not turn up for classes.
The entrances to major markets in the state, including the Main Market, New Market and Kenyetta Market were opened but all the shops in them were under lock and key.
Several vans loaded with armed policemen were sighted around the entrances of the markets. The police helicopters conducted aerial surveillance throughout the state yesterday. On ground was a security convoy made up of soldiers, members of Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC), officers of Department of State Services (DSS) and the Navy.
The popular Shoprite Centre, Roban Stores and some popular eateries in the state were closed.
Major roads, including Agbani, Zik Avenue, New Haven, Ogui, Bissalla, Coal camp and Edinburgh were deserted as just a few private and commercial cars plied them. Some youths turned some of the deserted roads into football fields. Other residents used the opportunity to engage in sporting activities at the Michael Okpara Square.
A resident, Daniel Dike, described the action as the “most successful in Enugu State so far.” “I have lived in this state for a long time; I have never witnessed this level of compliance by residents. Enugu had always shown indifference to the cause of Biafra, but this one is outstanding and I am happy about it.”
The Secretary General of Igbo Leaders of Thought (ILT), Prof. Elo Amucheazi said he was happy with the level of compliance and organisation, noting that it did not give anybody room to intimidate or harass anybody.
Pro-Biafra groups, including the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had ordered the sit-at- home in honour of Igbo who were killed in the cause of Biafra as well as to mark the 50th anniversary of the struggle.
An elated leader of MASSOB, Uchenna Madu, in a statement made available to The Guardian in Enugu yesterday, stated: “ The huge success achieved on today’s (yesterday) sit-at-home exercise is marvelous and glorious because the Almighty God, divinely approved our programme of commemorating the golden jubilee celebration of the declaration of Biafra by 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 of the people of Biafra, it is an honour of the gallant and eloquent soldiers of Biafra and civilians that bravely laid down their lives for the establishment of Republic of Biafra.
“MASSOB is not against Nigeria’s existence. The Biafra nation can as well exist as a sister nation with Nigeria like any other African country. As this exercise is the greatest of all civil steps taken in the struggle for Biafra actualisation and restoration, the success has opened a new dimension to the Biafran struggle, a new dimension anchored on nonviolence that will continuously paralyse the inconsequential remains of Nigeria,” he explained.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu, said the men of the command were “everywhere monitoring the situation and watching for the breakdown of law and order. But I can tell you that there is no adverse situation that should warrant arrest of anybody.”
In Anambra, there was almost total compliance in the major towns as commercial, business and transport activities were paralysed. Markets, banks, schools and government departments were closed as people stayed in their homes while many civil servants did not report for duty.
In Awka, some people were seen gathered in groups discussing the directive, even as children and youths turned every open space into a football pitch. There were a few vehicles, especially private cars and buses, on the major roads and streets.
At the state secretariat and Government House, the few civil servants who reported for work left as soon as they arrived. It was the same situation in Ekwulobia, Nnewi and other towns in the state.
In Onitsha, all major markets were shut, and residents who ventured to move out were stranded as vehicles were scarcely available. The popular Upper Iweka motor park and Owerri road were all deserted, with few pedestrians in transit.
Security agents were seen patrolling various towns across the state, while some were stationed at strategic points in Awka.
Mazi Ferdinand Rapuozi, a resident of Awka, hailed IPOB, saying they had created more awareness. He urged the government to listen more to the agitators.
IPOB congratulated the Biafrans, home and abroad, for their compliance with the sit-at-home order.
The Media and Publicity Secretary of IPOB, Emma Powerful, in a statement yesterday said that Biafrans had shown to the entire world that they needed freedom and must not go back in the quest for the independence of Biafra.
“There was also total compliance by those in diaspora who marched on the streets of Switzerland, United Kingdom, USA, Russia, Ukraine, Angola, Congo among others in solidarity,” he said.
The situation was the same in Imo State, comprising 27 local councils and 644 autonomous communities.
Attempts by some persons to open their shops at the ever-busy Ekeukwu ancient market, located along Douglas Road in Owerri met with stiff opposition by loyalists of the agitators.
Police, military personnel were in major areas ensuring there was no breakdown of law and order. They also patrolled the cities of Owerri, Orlu and Okigwe.
The Commissioner of Police, Mr. Chris Okey Ezeike, said he gave a directive to his men to respect the human rights of individuals, urging parents to warn their children and wards against playing into the hands of the Biafra agitators. At press time, the Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Andrew Enwerem, told The Guardian that there was no arrest, adding that officers were ensuring peace.
The directive was also complied with in Ebonyi and parts of Abia and Rivers states. It scared residents of Asaba, Ibusa, Ughelli and its environs in Delta State. As early as 6:30 a.m., virtually all the roads in Asaba were deserted apart from armed policemen seen at strategic locations.
The Anglican Bishop of Okigwe Diocese in Imo State, David Onuoha, urged the Federal Government to immediately commence dialogue with the pro-Biafra agitators to preserve peace in the land.
The advice was contained in his charge delivered to the Third Session of the Eighth Synod of the diocese held at St. Stephens Church, Umuduruegwelle, Ehime Mbano Local Council, Imo State.
According to the cleric, such wisdom in commencing talks with them would enable the Federal Government to understand the reasons the agitators were still calling for the realisation of Biafra, 47 years after the end of the civil war.
Members of the House of Representatives yesterday cautioned the military and other security agencies against the use of force in the handling of the sit-at-home directive.
In a motion by the Chairman of the House Committee on Environment and Habitat, Obinna Chidoka, the lawmakers urged the security agencies to exercise restraint in the circumstance, despite the rate of provocation, to avoid a repeat of bloodshed that followed the observation of Biafra Day by the people last year.
According to Chidoka, who represents Idemili North /Idemili South federal constituency of Anambra State, “wanton loss of lives was not necessary, in view of the government’s resolve to protect all citizens, irrespective of beliefs, language and cultures.”