Fear and anxiety have gripped residents of states and communities in the South-East following sit-at-home order issued by two separatist agitation groups, Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). The two groups are observing what they call, ‘Biafra Day’, which holds on Monday.
It is a day these two groups and other agitators commemorate the birth of the defunct Biafra on May 30, 1967.
However, May 30, this year falls on Sunday and the groups said they were not going to disrupt the spiritual lives of the people, who are predominantly Christians. They therefore shifted the event till the next day, Monday May 31. This year’s sit-at-home comes amid a high level of insecurity in the region, following the attacks on security formations and killing of security men, as well as the destruction of buildings housing national institutions by unknown gunmen. This has led to a military siege in most of the communities in the five states.
On Thursday, the acting Inspector General of Police, Usman Alkali Baba sent reinforcement of 3,700 police personnel to Southeast and South-South.
In order to mitigate the escalating insecurity, Abia State has imposed curfew on many communities in the state. Other states have carried out measures aimed at reducing the spate of insecurity in their states. To avoid collateral damages that may arise in the event of confrontation between security operatives and separatist agitators on Monday, people have devised precautionary measures.
In Anambra State, private school proprietors have directed their pupils and students not to come to school until Tuesday, June 1. Imo State government told residents to ignore the order, adding that it has put in place adequate security to safeguard the citizens, but the people seemed not to be too confident with the assurance for safety as they hit the market to stock up their kitchens. Our correspondent who monitored major markets in the state reported that most of the items bought by the residents were foodstuffs and beverages. At the popular Douglas Road Market, Owerri, the traders were seen to be making good sales, with thousands of buyers storming the market to purchase different items. The scene at the markets could only be compared to the Yuletide shopping as the buyers managed to get in and get out of the narrow roads leading in and out of the markets. At the Relief Market, Egbu Road, the situation remained the same. The usual traffic congestion on the road leading in and outside the market was heavier. Some of the buyers told our correspondent that they heard that terrible things would happen and nobody should come out on Monday. People had also been advised to buy foodstuffs in the event of any eventuality.
In other four states, despite assurances by the governments to their residents, the people are still not comfortable and have for safety reasons decided to keep indoors. Some people that spoke with Saturday Sun noted that these are uncertain times in the South-East, noting that the least anyone could do is to play safe and avoid going anywhere. Some Igbo elders have advised the youth not to wave any flag or put any Biafran flag or wear any Biafran insignia if they valued their lives.
Over 200 security personnel comprising the army, naval personnel from Ogbarru, Nigeria Navy Outpost; and mobile police are guarding the Nigeria Correctional Centre, Awka, Anambra State.
Meanwhile the Imo State Police Command has warned that any hoodlums attempting to threaten the peaceful disposition of the state should write their wills before stepping out on the slated date. In a statement by the State Police spokesperson, Bala Elkana, it urged the people to ignore the order and go about their normal business.