By Andy Chukwu
The sit-at-home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was widely ignored by residents of the South East Nigeria.
However, there was total lockdown in Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State, on Thursday, as residents complied with the order.
In Onitsha, movement was restricted as traders and residents stayed indoors. As a result, markets, schools and banks were closed in the city while skeletal services happened in Awka and other cities in the state.
But the situation was different in other states in the South East such as Enugu, Imo and Ebonyi States where residents largely ignored the directive and stuck to their normal daily businesses.
The popular Onitsha bridgehead was deserted as was the Enugu-Onitsha expressway. However, a few commercial tricycle operators were seen at work.
All the markets, including the Onitsha main market, Ochanja market, Ogbaru Relief market, New spare parts market Nkpor, old spare parts market Obosi, building material market Ogidi, were in full lockdown.
The ever-busy New Market and Old Market roads leading to the Onitsha main market were deserted, with young boys turning the roads into football pitches.
A trader, Nnana Udenze, explained that the May 30 ‘sit-at-home’ has been an annual observance to honour those who died as a result of the 1967-70 Nigerian civil war
“I want to appreciate the way and manner the sit-at-home is being done now, where everybody will stay at home to meditate and pray for our brothers and sisters who lost their lives in the struggle,” he said.
“This approach is better than the youth coming out on the road in procession and in the process security agents killing them,” he added.
Another resident, Charles Odune, lamented that Igbos would lose billions of naira because of the closure of markets and other places. He said Igbo people, being predominantly traders, would lose from the exercise more than other people.
“Inasmuch as we want to honour those who lost their lives during the Biafran war, must we shut everywhere down?” he asked.
“We are the ones to lose because it is when we do our business that we eat. We should look for the best way to honour the fallen heroes, not necessarily closing everywhere. I don’t know what we will gain by this?” Odune said.
However, skeletal services were going on in the state capital city of Awka as people went on with their activities undisturbed.
But the banks did not open for businesses, although their staff were inside their offices and banking halls.
Private and public schools in Nnewi, Ekwulobia, Ihiala, Onitsha and their environs were all closed for fear of attack by IPOB activists.
In Enugu, residents ignored the order as they were seen going about their normal activities on Thursday.
There was heavy vehicular movement along major roads in the metropolis. There was no sign of compliance as the roads were busy.
There was heavy traffic at some major roads, especially the Agbani road axis, as people, including school children and workers, were boarding commercial buses to their different destinations.
Public and private schools in the metropolis were opened for normal academic activities.
Kenyatta, Garki and Akwata markets in the metropolis were opened for business, while traders were busy displaying their goods as usual. The banks were also running normal services.
A businessman, Francis Ugochukwu, said that everyone had to struggle daily for their livelihood, saying that IPOB would not provide food for anyone.
“It is high time we all learned our lesson. IPOB has deceived us a lot with its seat-at-home order and at the end of the whole thing, nothing happens. Enough is enough,” Mr Ugochukwu said.
In Abakaliki, it was business as usual as businesses opened for the day’s activities.
There was zero compliance to the sit-at-home order in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi state capital as economic activities, movement of vehicles and individuals were hitch-free.
Academic, banking and transportation activities were in full gear in the state.
The major markets in the city namely: Abakpa main market, Mechanic village, building materials market and timber market were all opened for business.
Meanwhile, over 2000 members of the Akubaraoha Youth Assembly led by the former Special Adviser on Youth Mobilisation to Governor David Umahi, Mark Onu, marched around the Abakaliki capital city to ensure total clampdown on the Biafra agitators.
The youth also advised traders not to close their shops.
The movement slowed down traffic along the ever-busy Afikpo road, otherwise, the directive of the outlawed secessionists was not noticed in the state.
As earlier as 6 a.m, officers of the state police command were seen at strategic places to provide security for the people.
Loveth Odata, Police Spokesperson in the state, said officers carried out operation show of force within the state capital and its environs.
She said the IPOB order was a total failure in the state, as no member of the group was seen anywhere during their show of force.
The police spokesperson, however, urged members of the public to report any member of the outlawed group they see in the state to the police.
Residents of Owerri, the Imo capital, also defied the sit-at-home order. The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that commercial activities went on uninterrupted in Owerri metropolis and its environs.
Banks were open to customers, while commercial activities went on normally in all the markets in the city, including the Relief and Timber markets.
Academic activities were also going on normally in some schools visited in the city.
Michael Ugochukwu, a school administrator, who spoke on why the IPOB’s order was not complied with, said: “We did not tell the students anything about it.
“We allowed parents to use their discretion. Some came while others stayed back.”
Another school owner, Chinwendu Osuji, said that the sit-at-home order was not captured in the list of holidays for the current academic session.
According to Osuji, “the school did not think it was wise to add an unofficial holiday to the week, having already observed May 27 and 29 as public holidays, respectively.”
She said: “We already observed a holiday for two days this week and we didn’t see the need to add an unofficial third.
“We did not announce it, even though some parents held their children back at home, probably for fear of the unknown.”
Also, Anthony Obinka, a commercial vehicle operator, said, “Whether or not there is a holiday, people have to feed. So I came out to look for my daily bread.”