Major Southeast cities were grounded yesterday — no thanks to a sit-at-home order by two pro-Biafra groups to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the stillborn republic.
Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and a faction of the Movement for Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) declared May 30 “for sit-at-home”.
They also said they wanted to remember those who died in the 30-month Nigerian civil war, which ended in January 1970.
Markets, schools, government and private offices were shut in Awka, Onitsha, Aba, Umuahia and Enugu. The action was partially successful in Abakaliki, Bayelsa and parts of Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
MASSOB factional leader and Biafra Independence Movement (BIM) boss Ralph Uwazuruike, said the two groups under him were not part of the call.
In Umuahia, workers in federal establishments and those of the Abia Government stayed away from their offices.
Abia State Secretariat Complex, public and private schools, markets and major supermarkets in the city were shut and transporters stayed off the roads.
Umuahia’s city centre, known as Isi-gate, was empty and quiet. The shops in the area and the adjoining streets were all closed.
Many residents remained indoors, while children used the opportunity to play football on some streets.
On the streets, detachments of police and other security agents patrolled, while a police helicopter hovered in the sky to monitor events.
Police spokesman Geoffrey Ogbonna said there was no threat to public peace.
Commissioner of Police Leye Oyebade led a combined team of security agencies to maintain the peace.
In Owerri, two major markets, Eke Onuwa and Relief Markets were closed. So also were shops on major streets – Wetheral Road and Mbaise Road.
The busy Douglas Road, which usually brims with heavy traffic, was free as traders stayed at home.
Banks, eateries and boutiques also closed business activities.
There were few commercial vehicles on the road, while Imo Transport Company shut operations.
Some passengers who arrived at motor-parks were stranded.
Mrs Oluchi Uchenwa said she arrived in Owerri at 7a.m. to travel to Port Harcourt but could not get a vehicle.
Students also failed to turn up in school in spite of their teachers reporting for work.
The situation also affected activities at the courts with some sitting and others not working.
A lawyer who did not want to be named, called on the Federal Government to look into the agitation of the pro-Biafra groups and others.
The sit-at-home order was a huge success in Onitsha, Nnewi and Awka.
Though in Awka, the compliance was not total, banks, markets and schools were closed.
At the state secretariat, i civil servants were seen going and coming out of their offices without working, despite the directive by the state government.
The commercial city of Onitsha was like a ghost land. In Nnewi, the home of the late Biafran leader Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, the compliance was partial.
The spiritual leader of MASSOB, Ndubuisi Igwekani, told reporters in Awka, that he came to monitor activities in the state. He described it as a success.
Igwekani, popularly known as (Agu-Biafra), said MASSOB, IPOB and BIM leaders would be called to a round table to explain their programmes towards achieving Biafra.
From the Head Bridge in Onitsha to the streets in the commercial city, traders stayed away from their shops. There were no vehicles for those who wanted to go out.
The Onitsha-Owerri Express way, the Asaba-Onitsha Expressway and the Onitsha-Enugu Express way were all empty.
Security agents in their patrol vehicles were seen on the streets of Onitsha and Nnewi.
Soldiers were at the usual check points at the entry into Onitsha and exit to Asaba.
Police from Fegge Division were drafted to the Bridge Head by the Divisional Police Officer Mr. Rabiu Garba, to give helping hand.
Navy Officials were equally seen at the usual check point at Atani road Junction Onitsha, mounting their guard.
Inside Onitsha, the, the popular roads and streets, as Awka road, Upper New Market road, Old Market and New Market roads, Oguta road, Old Enugu road, Kirk road, Modebe road, Onitsha Nsugbe and Onitsha Nkwelle Ezunaka roads, were all deserted.
Coal City Enugu wore the look of a national clean-up day.
Traders in the major markets of Ogbete, Kenyatta, Artisan and New market kept away as the markets were shut.
Major shopping malls and super markets were closed for business. The Enugu secretariat was virtually empty as civil servants kept away from their offices.
Commuters who dared to come out were stranded as no commercial vehicles were on the roads.
Although the banks were in operation, there were no customers to attend to. All schools were shut, although most of them started their mid-term break on Monday.
Economic and business activities were totally shutdown as markets, businesses, shops and offices closed for business in total compliance. Major markets: Ariaria, Cemetery, Ahia Ohuru (New Market), shopping Centre, Asa Nnetu Spare parts markets and others remained closed. Government offices of Aba North, Aba South and Osisioma headquarters were closed as motor parks were devoid of the hustling and bustling. Roads like Azikiwe, Asa, Aba-Owerri, Faulks, Ariaria and Enyimba junctions, Ehi, Aba-Ikot Ekpene Expressway and others were without the usual traffic jam with them.
A worker with one of the commercial banks said they were doing skeletal work as there was no directive from their headquarters urging them to stay at home, but that they chose to partially observe the sit-at-home directive in the interest of their customers.
Business activities in some parts of Port Harcourt were on a low ebb as many traders closed shops
Major business areas, especially those dominated by Igbo traders, were shut down.
Some traders who were seen around their business premises said they came to monitor the situation and not to open for business.
Some normally very busy roads, such as the Port Harcourt/Aba expressway, Ikwerre Road and the East/West Roads witnessed light traffic.
Some traders at the Building Material Market and the Nkpolu Oro-worukwo Shopping Centre, Mile Three Diobu, Port Harcourt, expressed support for the groups’ call.
Chief Ike Nwaugo, a trader said that the market union had given a directive stopping traders from opening their shops for business during the holiday.
“Nobody will open for business today; it is a directive even from the union in compliance with the call by the agitators of Biafra,’’ he said.
A trader at the Oyigbo Truck Park, Mr Ignatius Okorie, said that the holiday declared in honour of Biafra was responsible for the low economic activity in the area.
However, a lawyer, Mr Chijokwu Wombu, criticised the observance of the holiday by some traders in Port Harcourt, saying, “ it is of no meaning.’’
Most Igbo people residing in Yenagoa, the Bayels State capital, yesterday, shut down their business premises.
But others opened their shops, stalls and other business premises to attend to their customers.
There was partial compliance at the popular mechanic and computer village located around Tombia and Elebele road in Yenagoa as some shops opened for business while others were shut down.
Persons, who were seen transacting their businesses, said they took the action because they considered the sit-at-home order as voluntary.
A supermarket owner, who identified himself as John, said it was not compulsory to ask Igbo traders to halt their business to mark Biafra.
“Some of us opened because it is not compulsory. But I only opened one of the doors to attend to my customers because some thugs might seize the opportunity to break into my shop”, he said.
But Stephen said that some Igbo people in the state were able to do their business because Bayelsa was not in support of Biafra.