Four days after President Muhammadu Buhari visited Imo State, in what many believe to be the Presidency’s outreach to the Southeast; and despite directives by Anambra and Imo governors for residents to shun the customary Monday’s sit-at-home protest in the region, many parts of the Southeast states were, yesterday, grounded in observance of the sixth version of the protest since it began on August 9.
The protest had been in solidarity with the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, who has been in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) since July 2. Economic and social activities were again paralysed as residents continued to observe the ‘suspended’ weekly sit-at-home.
Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano, had at the weekend, given directive to market leaders, banks and other business outfits to open or face sanctions, but despite this warning, traders, banks and residents refused to open for business by observing the IPOB’s suspended Monday sit-at-home.
IPOB had reiterated the suspension of the order following intervention by elders and prominent Igbo leaders, who expressed concern over its negative effects on Southeast economy. Surprisingly, however, after the August 9 first Monday sit-at-home, Southeasterners have continued to follow the order.
Business activities in Onitsha, the commercial city and the industrial town of Nnewi were, as usual, totally locked down, with markets, banks, transport companies, and motor parks in the two Anambra business locations failing to open for business.
Road and street shops, as well as artisans, also stayed away from the day’s businesses as roads in the cities were deserted. Governor Obiano and some of his commissioners visited banks around Ukwu Orji in Awka to ensure they were open for business, as well as Eke Awka market. He commended the few traders and customers who came to the market, noting that hoodlums must not be allowed to take over the state.
Some of the banks visited were offering skeletal services and had few customers inside. Only few vehicles could be seen on the road, as the inter-state transporter operators did not operate.
The Commissioner of Police, CP Tony Olofu, in company of officers and men, visited the UNIZIK junction, the state Secretariat and Eke Awka market to enforce government’s order.
In reaction, the traditional ruler of Oraukwu community in Idemili North Council of Anambra, Igwe Emeka Onuora, described the frequent sit-at-home exercise as worrisome, lamenting that it is gradually crippling business activities in the Southeast.
“If the exercise continues, customers who usually come from the north to patronise Onitsha traders might look for elsewhere to buy their goods in time to come, a situation which could lead to backward trend in business activities in Igbo land.”
Also speaking, a legal practitioner in Onitsha, Humphrey Udechukwu, advised President Buhari to listen to the agitators and see if he could accede to some of their demands, so as to curtail the frequent sit-at-home exercise in the region.
In Imo State, unknown gunmen invaded Comprehensive Secondary School, Nkume in Njaba Council and chased away students participating in the ongoing West African School Certificate Examination (WASCE).
Enforcers of the sit-at-home order forced the students and teachers to stop the English examination for WASCE. The enforcers, fully armed, had stormed the school premises in the early hours of the day.
According to an eyewitness, they came in a convoy of motorcycles and vehicles, and started shooting in the air. He said the enforcers set ablaze about eight motorcycles belonging to teachers and chased them away from the school.
“In the process, students were afraid and started running and the teachers, including the exam monitors, also ran for their lives. These boys were well armed with sophisticated guns mounted in the entrance to the school shooting in the air.
“Others entered into the classrooms and first of all asked everybody to lie down and then asked them to pack all their belongings and vacate the school premises. They warned them not to come back to the school to conduct any exams again. We are afraid that our children will not sit for the exams. Other schools not visited have also been deserted,” the eyewitness said.
Although there were no reports of casualties, a viral video of the incident showed the students and staff shouting and running for their lives.
But in other parts of the state, it was a partial compliance as some Imo residents carried out their usual daily business activities. Although businesses at the major markets were not at their peak, a reasonable percentage of buying and selling still went on.
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