Economic and social activities in Owerri, the Imo State capital, and its environs have been grounded to a halt as residents of the state stayed indoors 48 hours before the sit-at-home order given by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB).
This was despite assurances of safety given to them by the Imo State government.
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Shops, malls, supermarkets and markets were completely closed and roads empty as motorists and pedestrians stayed off the streets.
The famous Eke Onunwa and Relief markets were ghosts of their former selves as most traders and buyers stayed away.
Some residents, who dared to step out, were stranded as they either did not reach their destination or did not find vehicles to go back home.
At Douglas Road, people going to Aba were stranded as security men blocked Akachi and Naze junctions.
There were long queues of trucks and trailers at both sides of the road.
Most motor parks were also empty.
The stretch of Okigwe – Owerri road, normally a beehive of activities, was bereft of its hustling and bustling.
Our correspondent, who drove from Anara to Owerri, did not encounter any gridlock, which is one of the characteristics of that road.
IPO, since late April, has been announcing a sit-at-home to the Igbos, to mark the anniversary of the defunct Republic of Biafra.
They had earlier announced May 30, 2021, but being Sunday, they shifted it to the next day.
According to IPOB, the day is to remember Igbo men and women who had lost their lives in various instances of oppression against the people by the Nigerian system.
They asked all Ndigbo to observe the day in all states of the South East and South-South zones, as well as Abuja, Lagos and northern towns, and the diaspora.
‘Why we are indoors’
Meanwhile, residents have bemoaned the rampant arrests and detention of citizens by security agents, saying that it was deterring them from pursuing legitimate means of livelihood.
A cross-section of residents, who spoke to our correspondent, said that though the sit-at-home order is to take effect on Monday, they decided to stay indoors because of rampant shooting and indiscriminate arrests by the police.
One of the residents, Uchenna, told our correspondent that people were forced to stay indoors by circumstances beyond their control.
He said, “People are afraid of being arrested.
“Because of the situation at hand, everyone is tagged an IPOB or ESN member.
“An incident happened at Ogbo oshishi (timber market) where a boy helping his mother to sell food was arrested along with people eating in the makeshift buka. When the woman pleaded for her son, the policeman slapped her.”
Another resident of Naze, Ndukwe narrated that some soldiers and airforce personnel blocked the Aba – Owerri road, shooting sporadically.
He said that the situation created panic in the area.