Partial compliance recorded in Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa States, Igbo traders in Lagos open for business
The sit-at-home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the independence of the ill-fated Republic of Biafra, recorded full compliance in all states of the South-east, except in Ebonyi where partial compliance was recorded.
Similarly, partial compliance was recorded in Port Harcourt and Asaba in Rivers and Delta States, respectively, even as shops belonging to Igbo traders at Alaba market, the Trade Fair complex, and in Ikeja, Lagos, remained open for business yesterday.
In Enugu, the pro-Biafra groups had in a statement by the MASSOB Director of Information, Edeson Samuel, said the order to all the states of the South east zone as well as Delta and River States was in honour of the late Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu, who had led the Biafra secessionist bid in 1967, and all the Biafran soldiers who died during Nigerian Civil War.
The Nigerian Civil War was fought between the Nigerian government and secessionist State of Biafra between 1967 and 1970.
Biafra represented nationalist aspirations of the Igbo people, whose leadership felt they could no longer coexist with the Northern-dominated federal government.
The conflict resulted from political, economic, ethnic, cultural and religious tensions, which preceded Britainâ€™s formal decolonisation of Nigeria from 1960 to 1963.
Immediate causes of the war in 1966 included a military coup, a counter-coup, and persecution of Igbo living in Northern Nigeria. Control over oil production in the Niger Delta also played a vital strategic role.
In commemoration of the declaration of the republic, Enugu residents stayed indoors in compliance with the order yesterday. Between 6 a.m. and 11 a.m., the town was like a ghost town, as all major roads were deserted. However, a handful of vehicles started trickling on to the roads by midday.
The ever-busy Agbani road, Ogui road, Bisala road, Lagos street, presidential road and old park in Enugu, the state capital, were totally deserted as commuters kept off the roads.
Apart from transporters, major markets, especially Ogbete, Kenyata, Artisan and New market, all within the metropolis were also deserted. While the gate of Ogbete market was open, all the shops were under lock and key.
Major shopping malls, including Roban Store, were equally closed. Similarly, bank branches were shutdown earlier in the day, but owing to the conspicuous presence of security operatives, most of them commenced operations, albeit skeletally.
Public schools within the city were opened but students were nowhere to be found, while most filling stations did not open for business.
At the state secretariat, beside the state police command, a handful of workers were seen at their duty posts, however, most stayed at home.
A director in one of the ministries, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said most workers failed to make it to work because of their inability to get public transportation.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer in Enugu State, Superintendent of Police Ebere Amaraizu, said there was no compliance in the state with sit-at-home order, adding that there was vehicular movement and the banks had opened for business.
â€œYou can see there was no compliance in the state. Everything is moving on well. If some people decide to shut down their business and stay at home, it is there business. We are not going to force them to come out.
â€œWhat is important is that we have assured people of their security and we are up to the task. We are very much okay here,â€ he said.
In Abia State, residents of its two major cities Umuahia and Aba complied in different degrees to the directive.
Umuahia was partially shut down as most shops and commercial outfits were closed while a handful of commercial vehicles, especially tricycles were seen plying the streets. At the popular Enugu and Aba roads very few shop owners opened for business, while commercial banks offered skeletal services as customers who braved the tenses atmosphere to visit the banks were admitted through the back door.
It was apparent that there was palpable fear among the banks of possible outbreaks of violence, hence, some of them chose not to open for business at all.
Schools were also open but the number of students and pupils that went to school was a far cry from what obtained on a normal school day.
Teachers who turned up for classes found out that most of the pupils did not turn up for school.
â€œI think it is the fault of parents who chose to keep their children at home for fear of the unknown,â€ said Mrs. Theresa Ezechi a school teacher in one of the public schools in the city.
She told THISDSAY that due to past, when violence erupted between police and Biafra agitators, no parent was willing to take chances by assuming that yesterday was going to be peaceful.
At the state secretariat, civil servants were seen at their offices having turned up for work in order not to offend their employer, the state government, which did not support the IPOB directive.
Unlike Umuahia, where there was partial observance of the sit-at-home directive, there was total compliance in Aba, as the commercial nerve centre of Abia State was completely shut down.
All the markets, shops, banks, motor parks and schools were closed, rendering the city a complete ghost town.
The state Commissioner of Police, Mr. Leye Oyebade who used a chopper to monitor the situation found to his consternation that IPOB had scored very high marks in getting the people to obey its directive and ignore the police.
Oyebade had in an announcement urged Abia residents to ignore IPOB and go about their normal business assuring them that the police would be there to protect them if harassed by the Biafra activists.
Residents of major towns and villages in Anambra States also refused to heed police assurances for them to go about their daily business, as they locked shops and markets to observe the sit-at-home protest order.
Markets in all the major towns of Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha were under lock and key, while commercial banks failed to open for business, resulting in long queues at ATMs in bank premises.
Schools were not also left out as kids whose parents had dropped them off were asked to return and pick them. Transporters also refused to load buses to various destinations, leaving passengers stranded.
The state secretariat in Awka, the Anambra capital, was also deserted when THISDAY visited.
In Onitsha, the popular Upper Iweka bus park, which is normally busy round the clock, was a ghost of its former self, as no person or vehicle was seen at the bus park.
A resident of the town, Mr, Toochukwu Adaenu, a vulcanizer told THISDAY that the sit-at-home protest was more of a celebration than the mourning of Biafra fallen heroes.
â€œWe need to do this for the government to see how ready we are to leave Nigeria. We support this sit-at-home order and will be ready to do so again if we are called upon,â€ he said.
In major cities in Imo State and its hinterland, activities were equally paralysed in compliance with the sit-at-home order.
There was total paralysis in Owerri, the Imo State capital, Okigwe, Orlu and Mbaise, as major markets, schools, commercial banks and shopping malls shut their doors to customers.
Similarly, there was no vehicular movement on the major roads of Owerri like Bank road, Tetlow road, MCC, Okigwe and Douglas roads, rendering the few commuters who needed public transportation, stranded.
One commuter, Mrs. Oluchi Uchenwa said she arrive Owerri as early as 7 a.m. yesterday to travel to Port Harcourt, but could not get a vehicle due to the sit-at-home order by IPOB.
At the state secretariat, some civil servants who reported at work said that they did so because of the threat of sack by the state government.
According to a staff of the Ministry of Finance who did not want to be named, â€œI have to report to work because the Head of Service, through a circular, had threatened to sack any civil servant who refuses to report to work and so we had to come to work. But as you can see, nothing is happening here. We are just idle.â€
Similarly, at Comprehensive Secondary School Amakohia Uratta, and Girls Secondary School Akwakuma, St Markâ€™s Anglican School Amakohia among others, there were no students sighted within the school premises, except a few teachers.
The Leader of Biafra Independence Movement (BIM), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike commended the people of the state for observing the order, adding that the BIM had earlier issued a directive that from May 26 to 30 Igbos all over the world would observe the sit-at-home.
According to Uwazuruike, it was a successful outing for his group.
In Asaba, the Delta State capital, partial compliance to the stay at home order was achieved, as many businesses closed shop yesterday.
Although the Delta State Government had repeatedly stated that the state was not part of the agitation for an independent or sovereign state of Biafra, the fact that Asaba is contiguous with the South-east, particularly Onitsha in Anambra State, has often seen pro-Biafra activities spilling into the city and a few other paces in Delta North.
As a result, practically all primary and secondary schools in Asaba did not open.
THISDAY checks revealed that most parents and guardians prevented their children and wards from going to school for fear of the unknown while some school pupils, who were apparently not been aware of the sit-at-home order, returned home.
A few private schools that opened were cautious and made sure that their gates were closed and visitors partially restricted.
Only a few commercial vehicles, mainly tricycles were seen yeserday morning plying the major routes in the city. However, the blue and white painted commercial buses stayed off the streets until later in the afternoon.
Also, the popular Ogbeogono market situated in the heart of Asaba was deserted for most part of the morning until about noon when scanty business activities were noticed in and around the usually busy market.
Most shops and business outlets, including filling stations, were also shut in Asaba metropolis.
The Delta State Police Command spokesman, Mr Andrew Chiamaka, a deputy superintendent of police (DSP), dismissed the notion that people complied with the IPOB directive.
â€œAll I can say is that the entire area is calm,â€ Chiamaka told THISDAY on the phone.
Another contiguous state to the South-east zone, Rivers State, recorded partial compliance. However, most residents in the Port Harcourt metropolis went about their business, ignoring the calls for sit-at-home order by the pro-Biafra groups.
The areas where there seemed to be a partial compliance of the order were the Igbo traders-dominated areas like the Ikoku spare parts market, building materials market at Mile 3, the electrical materials market at Okija, and the Mile 1 areas of Diobu where many shops remained closed.
However, even in these areas, petty traders sampled their wares while people moved about unmolested. Rumuwoji (Mile 1) market was also open and people carried out their transactions.
Elsewhere, shops were open and people engaged in their daily business and transactions, while corporate institutions were open and the civil service fully operational.
In Yenogoa, the Bayelsa capital, partial compliance was also recorded, as many shops and roadside restaurants operated by Igbo people in the state capital were closed.
Those who operate commercial taxis and tricycles also stayed away from their routes, while the busy Mbiama-Yenagoa road and the Isaac Boro expressway were largely empty with very few vehicles and tricycles moved around.
The popular mechanic village in Etegwe suburb of Yenagoa dominated by Igbo traders was under lock and key, while all major supermarkets as well as stalls owned by Igbo were completely shut in compliance with the order.
On Monday, it was learnt that IPOB loyalists had distributed flyers around the capital, demanding full compliance with the order.
Many Igbo people in some neighbourhoods were also said to have held meetings before yesterday to sensitise themselves on the importance of the sit-at-home protest.
Security patrol vans manned by riot policemen were seen at strategic junctions ostensibly to forestall any breakdown of law and order, while quite a handful of Igbo traders carried out businesses in partial compliance.
When contacted, Asinim Butswat, the Police Public Relations Officer, Bayelsa State Command, confirmed the deployment of anti-riot policemen in flash points within Yenagoa to prevent the break down of law and order.
Aside the partial compliance, the action did not fully ground commercial activities in Yenagoa, because many shops in city are owned by people who are not of Igbo origin.
In Lagos, traders at Alaba International market in Ojo Local Government Area, the Trade Fair market, along Lagos-Badagary expressway and places in Ikeja dominated by the ethnic group, went about their different businesses as they would on a normal day.
A businessman who pleaded anonymity said that if he were in his hometown in the east, he would have remained indoors today, reported online new site, The Cable.
He added that some of his business associates in Lagos remained at home in the spirit of the commemoration of the day.
â€œWe are foreigners in this land and we are under the federal government, so we can come out,â€ he said. â€œThere are some of my friends who stayed at home because we understand what they are going through.
â€œWe feel for those over there because they are suffering. There is no movement in the east. If I cross the River Niger to my village, I will not come out today.
â€œI can remember, May 30, 50 years ago, when the Biafran declaration was made.â€
Omife Sunday, a dealer in phone accessories at Trade Fair, said that they commemorated the day in their own way.
â€œWe are here celebrating it here, in our own way,â€ Sunday said.
â€œThere are people that came out while there are those who stayed at home.â€
Another businessman said though he did not follow the sit-at-home directive, he believes in the Biafran ideology, adding that if the opportunity came, he would secede with the Biafrans.
â€œIf everyone is asked to leave, Iâ€™ll leave too. The directive is for only those in the village, not for Lagos. That is where Igbo people are based,â€ he said.
â€œThis is a general place. We have other tribes here.â€