Major streets, motor parks, schools and markets in many parts of the Southeast were yesterday deserted as residents observed the sit-at-home order handed them by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
From Enugu to Anambra and Abia, many residents said the fear of being attacked forced them to stay at home, while others said they had come to terms with the issues that were fuelling the demand for self-determination.
IPOB had in a statement through its Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, declared every Monday ‘a ghost Monday effective from Monday, August 9 to prevail on the federal government to release Kanu, who is currently being detained for treasonable felony.
The group said all institutions (public and private), transport companies, schools, banks, markets, airports and seaports in Biafra land must shut down every Monday beginning from August 9, even as people were to remain indoors to register their concern over the fate of Kanu and the rest of all agitators languishing in various security detentions.
In Enugu, the state police command, through a statement, asked residents in the state to disregard the order and go about their normal activities.
The statement by Police Public Relations Officer, Daniel Ndukwe, reiterated the resolve of the force to adequately ensure public safety, enforce and maintain law and order in the state, even as it warned troublemakers and enemies of public peace to steer clear of the state or face the full wrath of the law.
“Residents should disregard sit-at-home orders not issued or approved by any statutorily recognised organ or authorised Ministry, Department or Agency (MDA) of government. This includes one purportedly restricting public movements and businesses on Monday, August 9 by pro-Biafran groups”
The Enugu State Government had also warned members of the IPOB that it would not spare anyone, who breached peace in the state in the name of obeying IPOB’s sit-at-home order.
In a statement by the chairman, Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, Denge Onoh, the state urged residents of the state to go about their businesses on Monday as their security would be guaranteed.
However, when THISDAY visited some markets, they were all closed. In Abakpa, one of the major markets in the state, shops were under lock and keys as marketers stayed indoors in strict adherence to the order.
It was also observed that streets around Independence Layout and other parts of the Enugu metropolis were deserted, with no vehicular movements. Schools were also closed.
But Younger brother to the IPOB leader, Kanunta Kanu, had come out to say he had suspended the sit-at-home protest of the group in the Southeast.
Kanunta, in a statement on Sunday, said the planned sit-at-home directive was suspended to allow the students in the geopolitical zone participate in the National Examination Council, and that a new date would be announced later.
In Nnewi, Anambra State, two persons were yesterday reportedly killed over the sit-at-home exercise.
Police authorities confirmed that there was an incident in the industrial city on Monday morning, which led to fatalities, but denied knowledge of those responsible.
THISDAY gathered that two persons died during a bloody confrontation that happened at Izuchukwu junction area in Nnewi.
An eyewitness said the victims were a member of Eastern Security Network (ESN) and a commercial motorcyclist.
The source claimed that problem started at about 7.00am in the morning when some IPOB members came out to enforce the sit-at-home order and in the process blocked the major roads in the industrial town.
“Some unidentified soldiers came in to clear the items used to block the roads leading to an altercation between them and the IPOB members.
“That was how the two victims were actually killed by gun shots by the unknown soldiers.The industrial town of Nnewi has been reduced to a ghost town as the people, who initially came out for their daily business had to rush back home.
“Some vehicles were also smashed by aggrieved persons over the attack on the civilians by armed soldiers,” he said.
Spokesperson of the Anambra State Police command, DSP Toochukwu Ikenga, said, “Yes, I’m aware of the incident in Nnewi today, but I do not have the details. We are still collating details, and I will inform you later.”
Ikenga was also unable to tell if the security operatives were soldiers or police officers. “We are still investigating,” he said.
Meanwhile, major and minor cities in Anambra State, including Awka, Onitsha, Nnewi, Ekwulobia and others were yesterday totally shutdown, in compliance with the directive of IPOB.
Yesterday’s sit-at-home registered heavy compliance in Anambra, with banks, schools, markets, shops, eateries and other businesses deserted.
THISDAY correspondent who moved round to monitor the level of compliance found that even though markets were opened, traders refused to resume for business.
Anambra State government had earlier threatened to withhold August salaries of workers who failed to resume for duties on Monday.
At the state secretariat complex, it was also observed that most workers came to work,because of the order, but they left almost immediately, after signing the attendance register.
Motorparks were also deserted as motorists and passengers alike stayed away from them, leaving streets deserted.
Police patrol vehicles were on every major street, civil in their vehicles, and providing protection for the few people that were courageous enough to come out.
A market leader at Eke Awka market, who did not disclose his name said: “The leadership of the market did its best by opening the market, but traders refused to come.
“You can see that some of the traders opened, but there are no customers. I think it is rather out of fear that people did not come to the market, and not because they want to comply with IPOB’s directive,” he said.
In Aba, Abia State, compliance was not total. It was contrasting scenarios in the two major cities of Abia as the commercial city of Aba was totally shut down while Umuahia the capital city witnessed full scale activities as residents went about their normal businesses
By Sunday night, there were doubts over compliance as the family of Kanu and IPOB appeared to be in disagreement on whether or not it should go ahead as planned.
While Kanu’ds younger brother had said the directive had been put on hold to enable candidates write their examinations, the media and publicity secretary of IPOB, Emma Powerful, countered that the separatist movement had not withdrawn the directive to proceed with the sit-at- home protest.
By Monday morning, all the main roads in Aba, including the Aba – Owerri road, which is the main entry route into the commercial nerve centre were deserted. Though markets were thrown open in obedience to government directive, traders chose to stay away thereby crippling commercial activities.
But in Umuahia, the city centre popularly known as Isigate was bubbling with commercial activities. Commercial vehicles were seen plying their various routes ensuring steady movement of people and goods.
Both the state government and the state police command had made frantic efforts to dissuade Abia residents from obeying the directive of the separatist movement.
Governor Okezie Ikpeazu issued a directive late Sunday night warning civil servants against absenting from their duty posts in the name of observing the sit-at- home order.
In a special announcement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Mr. Chris Ezem, the governor was said to have directed the Head of Service to ensure full complianceand was also authorised to sanction any civil servant that contravened the directive with the exception of those exempted from work based on Covid-19 guidelines.
The police commissioner, Janet Agbede, had in a statement described the IPOB directive for people to stay at home on Monday as “rumour” and assured residents that the police and other security agencies were at alert to protect people and guarantee their fundamental human rights.
Owerri, Imo State recorded partial success as scanty people came out, while some parts of the rural areas were empty.
The reason for the compliance of the IPOB order as THISDAY confirmed from some residents were because of the fear of the unknown.
According to them, during the reign of the unknown gunmen, there were no security on hand to protect them and even after their operations, the security personnel would come and shoot indiscriminately, thereby killing innocent people from their stray bullets.
The state police command had in a statement, advised members of the public to ignore the IPOB order and go about their legitimate businesses with an assurance that adequate measures had been put in place to protect lives and properties.
As early as 6.30 am a few people were on the road possibly to test the situation, but soon after, the usual daily boisterous activities in the town slowed as markets, shops, banks, fast food centres, popular eatery joints/relaxation, mobile food vendors and artisans were curious to display their wares.
While the Owerri/Orlu road, Wetheral, Tetlow, Okigwe, Port-Harcourt and Onitsha roads were scanty, other areas of the popular Owerri main market also known as Eke Ukwu Owerre, relief market, New market and World Bank markets also recorded some partial movement of people.
Information reaching THISDAY indicated that most of the outskirts of Owerri capital city were hard hit even as about three vehicles coming from Umuahia axis were set ablaze burning one person alive and shooting one of the drivers while other passenger were lucky to escape.
It was also leant that the drivers of the burnt vehicles ran into the group suspected to be members of IPOB who subsequently opened fire on the tyres of the affected vehicles.
The non-availability of commercial vehicles on the roads for Umuahia, Enugu, Port-Harcourt and Onitsha bound passengers opened the gate for some drivers to make quick money by secretly loading and ferrying desperate passengers through the bush paths before linking with the main roads leading to their destinations.
Police Public Relations Officer in the state, CSP Mike Abattim, said they were still studying the situation in the state, especially as he could not immediately confirm any casualty. He however, stated that there were free movement of residents in the state, describing the IPOB order as coming from hooligans, who do not mean well for the people of the state.