From Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsha, Petrus Obi, Enugu, George Onyejiuwa, Owerri, Paul Osuyi, Asaba, Aloysius Attah, Onitsha
Residents of major cities and towns in the South East and the South South, are gripped with fear of the unknown, following sit-at-home order declared today, by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
The order was called by IPOB, to honour Biafran fallen heroes who died during the civil war between 1967 and 1970.
Some residents of Anambra, Enugu and Owerri are apprehensive of what may happen, if they violate the order, while others, have interpreted the order to mean declaration of war.
But, Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB)/ Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) has backed out of the sit-at-home order.
To that effect, Police Commissioners in the regions have urged citizens to ignore the order.
They urged citizens to go about their normal businesses without fear of harassment and molestation by anybody, saying they are ever ready for eventualities.
In Onitsha, the commercial city of Anambra State, since there is the likelihood that markets may not open for business, investigations by Daily Sun revealed that traders from far and near flooded various market to buy goods and travel back to their various places to avoid being stranded on that day.
Also, the food stuffs and condiments market, Ose Okwodu Market, was crowded with buyers.
There was security beef-up in Onitsha as both the Police, Army, Navy and Civil Defence Corps were on ground to ensure the security of lives and property in case of eventualities. Security agents were stationed at various strategic places with combined patrol teams moving round the town in show of force.
Anambra State Commissioner of Police, Mr. Sam Okuala, while urging residents to ignore the sit-at-home order, asked them to go about their normal businesses without fear of harassment and molestation by anyone, assuring that the police is ever ready for eventualities.
While threatening to deal ruthlessly with any person causing breach of peace, he warned parents to ensure that their children and wards remain calm and ensure peaceful movement.
Owerri, Imo State residents engaged in frantic purchase of food items and other necessities as a result of the order.
A visit to Ekeukwu and Relief Markets both in Owerri, also showed that there were panic buying among residents.
This was just as both public and private schools in the state capital have reportedly been asked to remain at home to avoid any untoward development.
But, the Imo State police command, in a statement issued by the Commissioner of Police, Chris Ezike, advised members of the public to disregard publications and posts circulating in the social media by pro Biafra agitators directing law abiding citizens to sit-at-home on May 30 in remembrance of the struggle for Biafra independence. He said the publications are not only inciting, but, represent unpatriotic and hostile propaganda against the sovereignty of Nigeria.
Similarly, the Enugu Police Public Relations Officer, Ebere Amaraizu, said it would not disturb anybody who voluntarily decides to obey the order, but warned that it would not tolerate any attempt to coerce innocent citizens to comply.
In Abia State, the Nigerian Police helicopter has been flying round the city of Umuahia, the state capital, at almost roof top level.
It was also gathered that the concentration of the air patrol is not unconnected with the fact that the founder of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, hails from Umuahia.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) for Abia, Mr Geoffery Ogbonna, could not be reached on phone, but an officer at the Central Police Station (CPS), told Daily Sun that it was a “Show of Force to remind IPOB boys to maintain peace and order and reassure innocent citizens of their safety.”
MASSOB/BIM) stated it had already celebrated Biafra anniversary on May 22, 2017 and maintained that Biafra anniversary which was May 30 during the era of late Emeka Odimegwu Ojukwu was changed to May 22, when Ralph Uwazuruike succeeded Ojukwu.
The group’s Elders’ Counci, in Asaba, Delta State, yesterday, lamented the mix-up, and said history has bestowed the leadership on Uwazuruike, after Ojukwu’s death.
Also, MASSOB/BIM has threatened to storm Anambra Police State Command Headquarters with millions of their members if the police delays in releasing their members arrested during their Biafran independence rally celebration on Monday last week.
MASSOB-BIM leader for Anambra South Zone, Chief Arinze Igbani who sounded this warning in Uga, Aguata Local Government Area after their zonal meeting, alleged that eight of the group members have been in police custody since their recent peaceful rally which shook Onitsha city.
Also, Archbishop of Enugu Province, Anglican Communion, Most Rev. Emmanuel Chukwuma, has said the clergy are not in support of the order.
Chukwuma made this known during the Democracy Day celebration and second year anniversary of Governor Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi in Enugu, yesterday.
The cleric, called on people in the South-East to “go about their legitimate businesses,” and insisted the clergy were against the declaration.
Uchenna Ike who spoke to Daily Sun said he was at the Ekeukwu Owerri to buy food stuffs for his family as they have been told that the markets would not be open on Tuesday (today) as IPOB has asked everybody to stay at home.
It was the same for Mrs. Ijeoma Okere who deals in food items that she had to open at least to make some sales as they have been informed that all markets should be closed on Tuesday because of Biafra Day.
“We advise the people of the state to go about their normal businesses without any fear of attack and molestation, we will provide enabling environment for peaceful movement. We shall deploy patrol teams on the roads to ensure that nobody would be harassed,” the CP assured.
But, Media and Publicity Secretary of IPOB, Emma Powerful expressed readiness for the sit-at-home exercise to remember and honour the fallen heroes and heroines.
“We must remember and honour those who died for our freedom during the war of genocide against Biafrans by Nigeria Government in 1967 and 1970. Those our fathers and mothers who fought gallantry for our freedom but still alive today, must also be remembered in two minutes prayer immediately it is 12 noon on that day.
“Also, we must remember, honour and pray for those who died during our peaceful protests and rallies in Aba, Nkpor/Onitsha, Igweocha, Ahaba (a.k.a Asaba).
“The sit-at-home order issued by IPOB leadership still stands, no business, no movement both human and vehicular, no protest or rally, if you come out on the streets whatever you see don’t blame anybody, a word is enough for the wise. Security operatives are prepared to deal with anyone seen outside from 6:00am till 6:00pm in the evening.
“We also pray to Almighty God (Chukwu Okike Abiama) to guide and protect every Biafran who abides to this clarion call today and all the journalists both home and those foreign observers who arrived to monitor or cover this memorable event. More especially, the journalists in Biafraland who will be moving around to cover the event of our fallen heroes and heroines in front of Nigeria security operatives, may God Almighty bless and guide you people.” he stated.
Meanwhile, IPOB yesterday raised the alarm over alleged incessant rains of bullets by the combined forces of security operatives.
The group alleged that soldiers and police were yesterday shooting sporadically in Aba, where IPOB members were evangelising over the honour and remembrance of our fallen heroes and heroines scheduled to hold today.
“We want to put the whole world on notice of the plan of Nigeria and security agencies. Also, Nigeria Air force were also hovering around Umuahia near the house of our supreme leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu which made the people living around Afara Ukwu Ibeku to be ruining helter-skelter and scampering for safety.
“We are calling on men and women of good conscience across the globe, United Nations, European Union, African Union, Amnesty International and other relevant human rights organisations including Human Rights Watch to call the government and security agencies to order because we are only remembering the 50 years of Biafra declaration by Chief Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu”.
“Biafrans and IPOB members worldwide must honour and remember those killed and starved to death during the war,” Powerful stated.