The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the police are on the verge of a showdown over the sit-at-home order issued by the leader of the proscribed group, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, to mark the anniversary of the Biafra Republic Remembrance Day.
The celebration, which holds on May 30 every year and was supposed to be held today, was shifted to Monday, May 31, to avoid any conflict with the Christian worshippers and to prove that the directive of the embattled leader of the group is obeyed.
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The South-East and South-South police had assured the people of the security of lives and property but warned that whoever breached relative peace, law and order in the wake of the audacious order should first write his or her will.
Therefore, the battle line is drawn between the security agencies and the proscribed group.
Checks by Daily Trust at the weekend indicated that there is palpable tension and anxiety among residents in some parts of the affected states, such as Anambra, Abia, Imo, Ebonyi and Enugu, as well as Delta, Rivers and Akwa Ibom.
While the echoes of the dreadful order are already around in some states and taking a toll on their socio-economic activities as some residents heeded the directive at the weekend, normal businesses went on in other states as though nothing was in the offing.
Owerri residents obey sit-at-home order
Despite assurances of safety given to them by the Imo State Government, residents of Owerri, the Imo State capital, on Saturday, obeyed the order.
Consequently, economic and social activities in the city and its environs were grounded as shops, malls, supermarkets and markets remained closed. Roads were also empty as motorists and pedestrians stayed off the streets.
Some residents who dared to step out were stranded as many of them were unable to reach their destinations nor could find vehicles to go back home.
They also bemoaned the rampant arrests and detention of citizens by security agents, saying it is deterring them from pursuing legitimate means of livelihood.
Many of those who spoke to our correspondent at the weekend said though the sit-at-home order was to take effect on Monday, they decided to stay indoors because of rampant shooting and indiscriminate arrests by the police.
“People are afraid of being arrested for no just cause. Because of the situation at hand, everyone is tagged an IPOB or Eastern Security Network (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 restaurant.
“When the woman pleaded for her son, the policeman slapped her, a resident said.’’
Another resident of Naze, Ndukwe, lamented that some soldiers and Air Force personnel blocked the Aba-Owerri road, shooting sporadically.
Residents shun order in Ebonyi
Residents in Ebonyi State shunned the order on Saturday. Daily Trust gathered that markets, hotels, the Abakaliki Rice Mill, motor parks and shops opened for business. Taxi, keke and motorbike transporters also operated.
Army blocks Onitsha bridge to protest killing of soldiers
Military personnel on Saturday blocked the Onitsha bridge, following the killing of military men in Ihiala, Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State by people suspected to be members of the IPOB.
Daily Trust gathered that early Saturday morning, about five military men were shot dead in Ihiala by gunmen suspected to be members of the IPOB.
When contacted, DSP Tochukwu Ikenga, the police public relations officer, Anambra State Command, said the early morning gridlock at the bridge was as a result of stringent checks by security operatives.
Measure meant to track hoodlums.
Meanwhile, the sit-at-home directive was not effective in Awka, the state capital, as people were seen going about their normal businesses.
Residents went about their normal businesses without any molestation by anybody or group immediately after the state’s monthly sanitation exercise.
A resident, Mr Mike Uche, said he heard about the sit-at-home order, but nobody observed it on Saturday.
However, newspaper vendors in Awka and Anambra decried the stoppage of vehicles conveying newspapers from Lagos to the state at the Niger bridge.
Miss Nneka Okoye, a vendor at Aroma junction, Awka, said the situation hampered their business.
“We are surprised to face this kind of problem this morning. As you can see, there is no Saturday paper on display here now.
“The distributors told us that the vehicles carrying newspapers were stopped at the Onitsha bridge because of the issues the military had with people in Ihiala,” Okoye said.
Apart from vehicles carrying newspapers, others were also blocked from moving in and out of Onitsha in the early hours of Saturday.
We’re battle-ready – Rivers police
The Rivers State police command has advised residents of the state to ignore the sit-at-home order. It warned that the command was battle-ready to deal with any person or group of persons that want to break down law and order.
The command’s public relations officer, SP Nnmadi Omoni, in a press statement issued in Port Harcourt, noted that they were aware of the sit-at-home order.
Omoni added that the command viewed the statement as unlawful and had decided to allay the palpable fears occasioned by the phantom order.
He added that the commissioner of police in the state, CP Eboka, reassured the residents that adequate security measures had been put in place to ensure that they go about their lawful businesses unhindered, unmolested and in a conducive atmosphere.
No compliance in Enugu, Umuahia, Aba
From Idaw River to Uwani in Enugu South Local Government Area, to Coal Camp, New Market, to Edinburgh Road, Ogui Road, where Nnamdi Azikiwe Stadium is located in Enugu North Local Government Area, to New Haven, Independence Layout, Garki and other places, people were seen moving about their normal businesses without fear. Traders opened shops in several markets.
“Ordinarily, a newcomer in Enugu may think that people not moving about in the early hours of Saturday indicated compliance, but in fact, residents of the town are simply complying with the monthly sanitation programme of the Enugu State Government.
“Therefore, there is nothing like sit-at-home order,” said Mr Ikenna Anichukwu, a teacher and resident of Obiagu Road.
Another resident, Mr Kenechi Amah, a taxi driver at New Haven and Garki, said that as far as Enugu State was concerned, nobody was interested in observing any sit-at-home order.
“I am a trader here at Ogbette Market. You can see that the market is full of activities. If you go to Kenyata, Abakpa, Timba, Garki and New Market, you would notice that trading activities are going on.
“Nobody is closing his shop in compliance with any sit-at-home order,” a trader at Ogbette Main Market, Fred Mbachu, said.
Also, normal commercial and social activities went on smoothly on Friday in Umuahia and Aba in Abia State.
Tricycle operators, business owners, timber market, commercial bus drivers, all the inter-state motor parks, were fully operational without obstruction.
However, the military started patrolling the streets of Umuahia and Aba as early as 6 am. No sign of the IPOB was noticed in the cities as of the time of this report.
Meanwhile, there are restrictions in human and vehicle movements as a result of the curfew imposed on the state by the government from 8 pm till 6 am as part of security measures adopted by the state government.
The Abia State Command of the Nigeria Police Force has called on citizens and residents in the state to ignore the order.
Recall that the group had issued a sit-at-home order between Saturday, May 29 and Tuesday, June 1, 2021.
The command, in a statement, urged the public to go about their normal businesses without any fear of harassment.
They assured members of the public that the Force, in collaboration with sister agencies, would guarantee the safety of lives and property of residents.
The command further advised parents and guardians to warn their children and wards to stay away from acts capable of causing a breach of security in the state.
Clement Adeyi (Abuja), Jude Aguguo Owuamanam (Owerri), Dan Azumi Ali (Abakaliki), Titus Eleweke (Awka), Victor Edozie (Port Harcourt), Tony Adibe (Enugu) & Linus Effiong (Umuahia)