IPOB stay-at-home order: Tension in Ebonyi, Imo, Abia, others

IPOB stay-at-home order: Tension in Ebonyi, Imo, Abia, others

It was all fears and tension in the Southeast states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo yesterday ahead of the commencement of the sit-at-home order issued by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

Many streets of Owerri, the Imo State capital, in particular, were deserted, disrupting economic and social activities.

The heavy presence of security personnel across the city was not enough to encourage the residents go about their normal businesses.

Residents of other states in the zone rushed to the markets to stock their homes with essential food items.

But Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State told the people of the state to ignore the IPOB directive and go about their normal activities.

Some residents berated IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, for putting the people under unnecessary stress.

Kanu had asked the Igbo across the world to stay indoors from 6pm yesterday till tomorrow for the annual Biafra Remembrance Day.

He said the day was set aside in remembrance of over five million Biafrans who died during the Nigerian civil war.

He said the order is compulsory and must be obeyed by all the people in the region.

He warned that anyone seen outside would be killed.

He said: “From 6pm on 29th, there will be no movement. This is not sit-at-home but no movement. If you are found outside from 6pm, you are dead.”

Owerri markets and streets were deserted for much of yesterday.

Owerri malls halted activities at about 12.30 pm am as against the normal 8.00 pm closing time.

Also, there was heavy security presence at the entrance to the Shoprite mall with the workers trapped in the building.

A member of the mall’s staff, who pleaded anonymity, told the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) that normal activities began in the mall yesterday morning but were suddenly brought to a halt following sounds of gunshots in the neighborhood.

He added that this led to palpable fear; a situation which prompted the management of the mall to shut the building, leaving all staff and customers grounded.

He said: “We all came to work in the morning. For hours, we have been hearing gunshots. There is fear all around and no customer had come in since that time.

“The management has directed that we close for today, though it’s barely half day. They said we cannot leave the premises, nobody goes out and nobody comes in for now until the situation improves.”

The heavy presence of security personnel, particularly on the Aba-Owerri Road, appeared to have kept people away from the popular Ekeukwu Owerri Market and the Timber Market in Naze.

Gunmen had operated around that area on Friday, which might have prompted the deployment of soldiers there yesterday.

Security agencies have mounted checkpoints in major streets of the state capital and beyond to forestall any breakdown of law and order in the state.
Commuters within and outside the state were stranded owing to the gridlock caused by the checkpoints.

A motorist, Mr Rafael Ubochioma, said: “I am confused because I just bought fuel from a nearby filling station with part of the fare I collected from passengers and right now, the road has been barricaded.

“My fate and theirs remain uncertain as we speak,” he said.

Mrs Stella Michael, a passenger, regretted embarking on the journey and urged security operatives not to make it appear that innocent road users are being punished for the activities of bandits.

A commercial motorist, Nwajiuba Nonso, said people were afraid to come out.

The fear was heightened by a social media publication on Friday purportedly issued by IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, warning people to stock their homes.

However, the IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, told The Nation that Kanu did not issue any statement apart from the sit-at-home order.

A commercial motorist, Mr Okechukwu Nnaji, said motorists started experiencing poor patronage from commuters from May 28.

“As I speak with you, I have not made N2,000 since three days now. I normally make N8,000 daily. I don’t know how to feed my family if things do not improve soon,” he said.

A food vendor, Mrs Angela Eze, popularly known as Mama Africa, expressed worries that the situation might affect the economy of the state drastically.

She appealed to government to use diplomacy and find lasting solution to the problem.

In Onitsha, Anambra State, some travellers en route Onitsha to Asaba and other parts of the country expressed dismay over the delays caused by security checks at the busy Niger Bridge, Onitsha in Anambra.

Travellers were made to spend hours at the Bridgehead before crossing. Those who managed to cross over to Asaba and vice versa did so by trekking or using commercial motorcycles.

A traveller who pleaded anonymity said he joined an early morning vehicle heading to Lagos but was delayed by the checkpoint mounted by the Police and the Nigeria Army.

“I have spent more than three hours here trying to drive across the bridgehead.

“They said some gunmen killed five soldiers yesterday at Ihiala.

“I believe that this is why they are delaying us here,” the source said.

In his reaction, the Police Public Relations Officer, Anambra Police Command, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, said the security check was a routine exercise.

Ikenga said the checkpoint was part of the strategies security agencies used to control and screen people coming in or leaving the state.

“The check has been there before now even before the sit-at-home order. The purpose of the check point is to screen road users, detect crime and maintain law and order.

“Inasmuch as we are still analysing the security situation, the checkpoint is like an ordinary day exercise for us,” he said.

The spokesman said the police was bent on delivering its mandate of protecting lives and property.
Panic buying in Abia

Residents of Aba, the commercial nerve centre of Abia State, yesterday rushed to the markets to make last minute purchases of perishable and non-perishable items ahead of the IPOB declared sit-at-home order.

Ariaria International Market, Power Line, Bakassi Shoe Plaza, Ahia Ohuru, Shopping Centre and Cemetery markets appeared to record huge sales.

Unlike other Saturdays in Aba, the roads were busy with passengers and vehicles coming in and leaving Aba in droves.

The Abia State Police Command enjoined residents and visitors to the state to disregard the IPOB, MASSOB or any other pro-Biafra group sit-at-home order.

Its spokesman, Geoffrey Ogbonna, urged Abians to go about their lawful duties and businesses without any fear of intimidation or molestation.

Ogbonna, who assured the residents of the safety of their lives and property during and after Monday, May 31 stated that the police in conjunction with other sister agencies were working round the clock to ensure that Abia is safe.
He enjoined parents to warn their children against involving in violence or any other anti-social activities, stressing that the police and other security agencies would ensure that Abia remains peaceful and conducive for business and economic activities to thrive.

Umahi: ‘Ignore IPOB, go about your duties’

Governor David Umahi of Eboyi State yesterday told the people of the state to ignore the sit-at-home order issued by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and go about their normal activities.

He banned all forms of procession or gathering in the state till further notice.

He branded the sit-at-home order as foolishness.

He said: “I have been getting voices from certain agitators that tomorrow there will be no movement. This is foolishness.

“If there is no movement in the Southeast, is there no movement in the whole country? What an Ebonyi man will never accept is to go into second slavery under any guise.
“We know the Biafra we need is to have enough money so that we cleanse up the toga of the slavery that our brothers and sisters subjected us to when we were under what they want us to be under.

“We need money. If you love Ebonyi State, bring money. Come up and put one construction. Let us see your houses and investments in Ebonyi State.

“So, I want to say that there will free movement throughout today, throughout tomorrow and ongoing.

“I challenge the youths, the local government chairmen and the politicians, the stakeholders, the security agencies to ensure that nobody is molested. And I have banned any form of procession or gathering in Ebonyi State till further notice.

“On Sunday, I will want people who are of Christian faith to go about their church services and pray for our nation, pray for the souls that have departed both during the war and now that people are being killed.

“On Monday, markets must be fully operational. Anybody whose store is not opened will forfeit the store. I have asked the security agencies to massively deploy security people to protect Ebonyians everywhere.”

The governor advised any group involved in any form of agitation in the region to do so peacefully.

“Let us stay in peace. Agitation does not mean violence. Agitation does not mean insulting the leaders of this country. Agitation does not mean killing security agencies.

“When Mandela fought for the liberation of South Africa, he was there. Let all the freedom fighters for the Southeast come down to the Southeast so that we can all be together. We should not stay outside the country and be vomiting rubbish and collecting hard currencies and be luring our people to be destroyed.”

Reacting to Nnamdi Kanu’s threat that anyone violating the sit-at-home order would be killed, a resident of Ebonyi State, Augustine Igboji, said that by threatening the lives of the people, IPOB was confirming the terrorist tag given to it by the federal government.

He said: “Nnamdi Kanu started as a freedom fighter. His agitation was termed peaceful agitation for actualization of Biafra. He is often lamenting that the federal government is denying Ndígbo their fundamental human rights. He claimed the ESN was formed to protect the people.

“But today, he is threatening death on anybody who flouts the sit-at-home order, telling them that it is no longer voluntary but compulsory. Telling people not to move around is a denial of their fundamental human right.

“Threatening them with death or attacks if they flout the order is close to terrorism. And if anybody is attacked on that day, well, let’s pray nothing like that happens.

“But let me just say that Kanu and IPOB is fast descending into an anarchist organisation. Something close to a terrorist group which the FG branded them some years back.

“At some point, the people will revolt against you too. Is this how he will lead Biafra if he gets it? By brute force? This is how despots start. I will rather remain in Nigeria than follow such a leader.”

For Mr Emmanuel Nnaemeka, Kanu and IPOB are slowly turning into a monster which may consume the region.

He said: “We are creating a monster that may consume us soon. I listened to Nnamdi Kanu’s threat online and I was shocked. I started wondering how the leadership of Biafra will look like.

“He threatened that his boys will kill anyone that dares step out of the house that day. Is that how they will rule Biafra? To use gunmen to threaten people into doing everything they say?

A legal practitioner, Mr Steve Nworie, described the ban on movement by Mr Kanu as unacceptable.

He said: “There is palpable fear across the Southeast because of the numerous messages of death by the leader of IPOB against anyone who dares to come out on Monday 31st May, 2021.

“While I will personally obey this stay-at-home order because I am convinced that it is the right thing to do, I am particularly concerned by the blanket coercion deployed by Nnamdi Kanu and his team.

“Certainly, there are so many Igbo sons and daughters who out of no choice of theirs may be forced to be on the road on Monday. How do we justify their deaths when the supreme leader has said that not even a rat will be spared alive if it is seen on the road across the Southeast?

“How about essential workers whose lines of duty are so essential for the well-being of Ndigbo? Do they deserve to die in their line of duties? How about those who are forced out on the road due to unexpected emergencies that are totally beyond them? Do they deserve the death penalty by the Biafran militias?”

He warned Mr Kanu to desist from such threats, saying it will not bode well for him in the long run.

Pro-Biafra group to IPOB: Yours no more freedom struggle

A pro-Biafra group, Biafra Regional Emancipation Movement, accused IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, of inflicting serious pains on the people of the Southeast it claims to protect.

In a statement issued by the coordinator of the group, Comrade Chile Nwoko, it described the tactics of IPOB as an early stage of terror.

“We state that no one nor group/groups should worsen the economic situation of Biafrans,” Biafra Regional Emancipation Movement said.

It added: “The aim for the liberation struggle is to free Biafrans from the sufferings in Nigeria and, therefore, we do not see the benefit of putting the people under undue fear and stress.”

MASSOB urges churches to hold special prayers for Biafra fallen heroes

The leadership of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) asked churches in the Old Eastern Region and other parts of the country to hold special prayers for its fallen heroes on May 30.

Comrade Uchenna Madu’s led faction of MASSOB reminded leaders of various churches in the Old Eastern Region the need to see the agitation for a Sovereign State of Biafra as their project as most Biafrans are predominantly Christians.

Madu, who stated that there would be human and vehicular movements including holding of socials today, however urged residents of the Old Eastern Region to ensure that they heed the sit-at-home on May 31.

He said: “This year, Biafra Day anniversary celebration will be unique and special because it falls on a Sunday. Observing the Biafra day anniversary celebration on a Sunday makes it more Christianized because the people of Biafra are predominantly Christians.

“Biafra was declared on May 30th, 1967 by General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the leader of Biafra nation. May 30th is sacrosanct and sacred to the history and lives of Biafra Republic. The ordinances of our greatest leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, must be jealousy and eloquently adhered to.

“MASSOB directs all the churches in Biafra land to observe special prayers and supplication for the fallen Biafra heroes during the Nigeria-Biafra war and our comrades that were killed by Nigeria security agents, including the people of Biafra that died in the hands of Islamic Boko Haram and terrorist herdsmen.

“Our religious and church leaders should stop praying for the betterment of Islamic Republic of Nigeria.

“There will be movements and normal social activities on May 30th, being Sunday, because of Christian worship. But there will be a sit-at-home exercise on May 31st, being Monday, for the people of Biafra as a mark of solidarity and honour for Biafra land.

“MASSOB directs all markets, schools, banks and all other public offices in Biafra land to observe the sit-at-home exercise as a mark of respect for our fatherland.”

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