Despite the suspension of the Monday sit-at-home announced by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, business activities were yesterday grounded across major cities in southeast geo-politicial zone.
Most streets in Umuahia, Aba, Awka, Nnewi,Onitsha, Abakaliki, Nsukka,Owerri and Orlu were ghost towns yesterday as residents continued to yield to the IPOB sit-at-home order even after it was suspended.
This was happening as the detained IPOB leader was meeting with his younger brother Prince Emmanuel Kanu at DSS headquaters in Abuja.
Recall that the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPoB, suspended the protest it ordered in the region, saying the civil action would now hold on days its detained leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu would appear in court.
The group explained that should there be any need to reverse the decision, the group wouldn’t hesitate and stated that the next sit-at-home would now take place on October 21, 2021, when Kanu is scheduled to appear in court.
Kanu is facing charges bordering on treasonable felony instituted against him in response to years of the campaign for the independent Republic of Biafra.
His trial was adjourned till October 21, 2021, after the July 26 hearing failed to hold.
In solidarity with its detained leader, IPoB ordered a weekly sit-at-home exercise across the South-East states.
Long before the sit-at-home, some notable Igbo leaders and groups had kicked against it, saying the South-East economy would be gravely affected.
Kanu’s family had also differed with IPoB on the matter.
IPoB called off the order at the behest of Kanu.
But despite the cancellation, commercial activities were still grounded in southeast states yesterday.
Total shut down in Awka
In Awka, Anambra State, banks, markets, as well as shops did not open, even when there was nobody ordering people to remain at home.
Although there was no molestation of any sort on motorists who chose to travel to any part of the country through the zone, many people remained indoors and traffic was light.
At the state secretariat complex in Awka, only a few workers were seen on their duty posts and unlike last week when security operatives were patrolling the major streets, no security personnel was seen on the roads yesterday. Normal checkpoints were, however, operational at their usual locations.
At the two campuses of the state-owned Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu University at Uli and Igbariam, the second-semester examinations scheduled for yesterday could not hold because the campuses were virtually deserted. Similarly, Nnamdi Azikiwe University was devoid of the usual heavy movement of people, although some offices were open for business.
Onitsha, Nnewi, other Anambra communities locked down
Onitsha, the commercial city and Nnewi, the industrial town of Anambra State were yesterday locked down.
Motor parks, shops, and other business and commercial activities located in the areas were under lock and key.
The two Army check-points along Onitsha Owerri road, precisely at Mgbidi and Ihiala, where motorists from Onitsha to Owerri and Owerri to Onitsha spend hours with passengers were deserted as no vehicles were seen on the dual carriage road.
Upper Iweka Onitsha, known for its bustling business and transport activities with all manner of touts operating was a ghost of itself as people deserted the roads.
Popular markets in Onitsha, Nnewi and their suburbs, including Onitsha Main Market, Ochanja Central Market, New and Old Motor Spare Part Markets Nkpor, Building Materials International Market Ogidi and New Tyre Market Nkpor, Nkwo Nnewi Market, Timber Market Nnewi, Agbardo Market Nnewi were shut against the day’s business.
Banks, stores, shops, and other business and commercial places in Onitsha and Nnewi also closed shops as people deserted the roads where they are located.
Residents of the two cities of Onitsha and Nnewi were indoors.
Streets and roads within Onitsha metropolis and the attendant business and human activities were deserted with nobody seen round. Even youths who usually turned the roads into playing fields were not seen anywhere let alone playing football.
Security agents including Police and Army were not seen anywhere at the checkpoints and junctions in Onitsha. However, Vanguard sighted Naval ratings along Onitsha-Owerri road attempting to drive off probably because of the emptiness of the road.
IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, who was notified about the surprising desertion of the roads and how people decided to observe the sit-at-home, had nothing to say other than, “let them go ahead.”
Imo shut down again
Economic activities were largely shut yesterday in Imo State.
Vanguard noticed that no single commercial bank or market in the state opened for business yesterday while all commercial vehicle operators distanced themselves from intra and inter-state travel.
When Vanguard visited Rotobi Street, which houses all the national newspapers, the sales representatives bemoaned their inability to send papers to the outstations.
Their Chairman, Mr. Alex Udofia said: “Imo has shut down again today (yesterday). No single commercial vehicle was seen anywhere to move our papers to the outstations. It is another bad business day for newspaper houses in the country.”
Similarly, so many petrol stations and shops did not open for business in Owerri.
Shops, roads deserted in Owerri
Owerri, the capital city of Imo State was a ghost of itself yesterday. While most shops and offices were locked, vehicular movement was at the lowest ebb.
As at 11 AM when Vanguard visited the ever-busy Wetheral, Douglas, Orlu, and Okigwe roads, most shops were locked and few vehicles were seen plying the roads.
All the banks visited were locked, except Union Bank on Okigwe Road which was seen attending to customers.
A guard in one of the banks who pleaded anonymity told our correspondent that the staffs were instructed not to come to work for fear of the bank being attacked by gunmen.
He said the management of the bank didn’t want to take any risk they would regret.
“You saw what happened last week during the sit-at-home. People were killed and businesses and vehicles attacked. We didn’t want to take that risk. It’s better to lock and continue tomorrow than to take such a risk and regret it”, he stated.
Speaking with our correspondent, an electrical appliances dealer who gave his name as John Emenike said: “I’m aware IPOB cancelled the sit-at-home order but I have to apply wisdom to avoid losing my wares. That’s why I decided to lock the shop and sit here in case any customer comes”, he stated.
Businesses were also closed in Orlu and Okigwe areas of the state.
Ghost streets in Umuahia
Shop owners on the streets stayed away from their shops which remained under lock and key as of 11:00 am.
Some traders were observed hanging around their shops but refused to open for business.
They were seen in groups discussing in hushed tones.
Vehicular movements were also seldom as motorists stayed away apparently for fear of the unknown.
Some streets including Niger Road, and Ibeku by Awolowo Street were converted into football pitches as some youths were seen playing football.
Almost all the shops along Aba Road Umuahia were under lock and key except for a few of them.
Similarly, the ever-busy Isi Gate Umuahia was a ghost of itself as the usual gridlock that characterizes the place simply disappeared.
The fruits & vegetables mini market around the popular Orpet Junction by Agbama junction was completely deserted as neither sellers nor buyers were sighted when our Correspondent visited the place.
Banks in the capital city also did not open for business as their gates were firmly locked while few customers were observed making withdrawals from the Automated Teller Machines, ATMs.
Roads deserted, markets, banks shut-in Aba
The city of Aba was deserted yesterday as residents stayed away from their business places.
Even the announcement by the Abia State government through the Commissioner for Information, Chief John Okiyi Kalu, urging residents to go about their duties didn’t sway residents as they chose to stay at home.
The roads were deserted as no motorist was on sight. Even the banks and markets like Ariaria international,Ahia Ohuu, Cemetery,Ehere, and Eziukwu were also deserted as traders and customers stayed away.
At about 7 am, some hoodlums had mounted the Ngwa road / Port Harcourt road junction chasing away those who dared to trek to their destinations.
However, the hoodlums fled as they sighted a patrol team of soldiers in the area.
It was the same situation at the Osusu road and Faulks road areas where suspected hoodlums also attacked people trekking to their destinations. The hoodlums also attacked a minibus and assaulted the driver.
A trader at the Ariaria market, Mrs. Celine Eze, told Vanguard that they stayed away for fear of attack by hoodlums.
Several teams of soldiers and policemen were seen patrolling Asa, Azikiwe, and Aba- Owerri roads, even as the areas were still deserted.
Social activities paralysed in Nsukka
Commercial, academic, and social activities were paralyzed in the university town of Nsukka, Enugu State, yesterday.
Vanguard observed that major markets in the metropolis and streets of Nsukka were shut, even as commercial banks refused to open for a transaction. Primary and secondary schools in the area were equally closed.
A trader in the popular Ogige Market at the heart of Nsukka, Nnabuike Eze, told Vanguard that no amount of sacrifice would be too much for the people of the southeast zone in their bid to secede from Nigeria because of the continuous marginalization of the people in the country.
“A man whose house is on fire does not hunt for a rat. We will continue to observe this order until Nnamdi Kanu is released from DSS custody. Anyone who violates the order is a saboteur.”
A senior lecturer at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, UNN, Chief Dr. George Iloene, who told Vanguard that his child was sent back home by the school management, argued that if the suspension order did not come from the leadership of IPoB, there would have been a counter statement.
While talking about the effects of the order on the economy of southeast Zone, the don insisted that the national economy has been epileptic since the coronavirus broke out, adding that the nation is at a dead end because nobody is addressing the many issues plaguing the nation.
Ebonyi partially locked down
Many people were seen going about their normal businesses while others stayed back at home.
Vehicles, the popular Keke and Motorcycles were rarely seen carrying passengers from one location to the other in the state.
Banks along the popular Ogoja, Waterworks, and Afikpo roads didn’t open for business including motor parks in the state.
When Vanguard moved around the Abakaliki metropolis, the environment was unusually calm without its normal hustle and bustle, especially in the morning hours of the day.
Some schools that have not closed for the third term did not open as students and pupils were at home.
Most shops along the popular Gunning road and its adjourning streets didn’t open for business as most streets in the state looked deserted and lonely at the time of this report.
Nnamdi Kanu, brother meet at DSS HQ
Meantime, over one month after his alleged abduction and extra-judicial rendition from Kenya, leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra IPOB Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, was yesterday allowed to have audience with his family member.
Kanu’s younger brother, Prince Emmanuel Kanu who spoke with Vanguard on phone, said he met with the IPOB leader at the Department of State Services, DSS headquarters, Abuja where he is currently detained.
According to him, the IPOB leader “is in high spirit and now more determined than ever in getting Biafra.”
Kanu’s younger brother also said his brother urged all Biafrans to keep the Biafra spirit alive, expressing optimism that the Biafra Republic would soon be restored.
He’s in high spirit and appreciates all the support from all Biafrans, home and abroad,” he said.
Prince Emmauel appealed to the authorities to grant his brother access to his personal physicians, and pleaded with the international community to prevail on Nigeria to free his brother, so he could re-unite with the family.