The sit-at-home order observed by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) yesterday turned bloody, as four drivers were abducted, while no fewer than 15 trucks were set ablaze by hoodlums in Oyigbo local government area of Rivers State.
This followed a clash between suspected members of the proscribed pro-Biafra group in the state.
But the movement restriction order failed in four South East states of Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia and Imo, just as residents in the states went about their businesses in utter disregard to the order.
The Rivers State Police Command confirmed the arrest of 18 suspected members of IPOB following the violence in parts of Oyigbo local government area of the state.
LEADERSHIP Weekend gathered that the missing drivers were conveying goods from Onne and Port Harcourt to states in the North when they were attacked by the hoodlums who were trying to enforce a sit-at-home order by IPOB.
The proscribed group had ordered a sit-at-home protest in the entire South East geopolitical zone and some states in the South-South to mark the one-year anniversary of the disappearance of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, and his parents after soldiers of Nigerian Army on Operation Python Dance attacked their country home at Afarachukwu, Umahia, Abia State.
LEADERSHIP Weekend further gathered that yesterday’s violence forced many shop owners, banks and other businesses in Oyigbo local government area to shut down in order to avoid trouble.Secretary of the National Union of Road Transport Worker (NURTW), Onne Branch, Mahmud Lawal, who confirmed the disappearance of the four drivers, said two of his trucks were set ablaze by the hoodlums.
Lawal stated that other trucks conveying goods such as rice, beans, fertilizers and baking flour were also set ablaze by the bandits while about N1.2 million cash in some of the trucks was stolen by the assailants.
He said, “We were informed that it was IPOB members that set our trucks ablaze. Some of the trucks set ablaze were conveying goods outside Port Harcourt. Others were parked along Port Harcourt-Aba Express Road by Oyigbo Timber Junction. Some other ones were coming into Port Harcourt through Oyigbo.
“The trucks were loaded with 30 tonnes of beans, 30 tonnes of fertilisers and 30 tonnes of rice, and were on their way to their various destinations before they were attacked.
“This incident occurred at about 3am Friday morning. About four drivers who were in the trucks were abducted – and they are still missing as we talk now. Different amounts of money such as N500,000, N400,000, N200,000 and N270,000 in various trucks were stolen by these bandits.”
Confirming the incident, the chairman of Oyigbo LGA, Prince Gerald Oforji, said policemen and other security agents had been drafted to the area to avoid further breakdown of law and order.
Oforji said, “Early this morning, we got information that a group of boys were out there going violent, trying to make a case. I don’t know these boys. I don’t know what to call them but I know they are from Eastern Region making a case that people should sit at home.
“I don’t really know what they want to achieve. They went violent trying to stop people and, in the process, they torched a compactor that is stationed at Kom-Kom market. For now, the Area Commander, the DPO and other security agencies are trying to put them in check. So, the security agencies are out there now.”
Meanwhile, Rivers State Police Command has arrested no fewer than 18 suspected members of the IPOB over the incident that occurred on part of Oyigbo local government area of the state.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Omoni Nnamdi, who disclosed this in a chat with journalists in Port Harcourt, said the suspects had been transferred to the State Criminal and Investigation Department (SCID) for further interrogation.
Omoni, a deputy superintendent of Police (DSP), said the police did not anticipate the attack since IPOB had been proscribed by the federal government.
He said, “They are members of the IPOB that has been proscribed. They took laws into their hands and unknown to us, they attacked trucks parked along them road and burnt about three vehicles.
“When our men got the hint and went there, we couldn’t get anyone of them. They disappeared into thin air. Eighteen of them had been arrested and transferred to the State CID for further investigation.
“We have been able to restore normalcy in that area. People are now going about their lawful businesses. The whole area is calm. For whatever reason, IPOB is a proscribed organisation.
“Any action emanating from them is illegal to the extent of their proscription. So, we are going to deal with them accordingly. Having violated the law, they are going to face the music.”
Meanwhile, the movement’s restriction order failed in four South East states of Ebonyi, Enugu, Abia and Imo.
Our correspondent reports that residents in the four states went about their businesses in utter disregard to the order.
In Imo, the sit-at-home witnessed non-compliance, as most residents ignored the directive and went about their normal daily businesses uninterrupted.
Commercial activities in the state went on normally as transporters and motorists plied their trade unmolested, even as most of the supermarkets, fast food centres, filling stations, banks, schools, civil servants and artisans were seen going about and doing their normal businesses.
Some of the residents, however, stayed indoors from where they peeped from their windows and doors to watch what was happening.
As early as 7am yesterday, patrol vehicles fully loaded with armed mobile policemen and operatives of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) flooded the town apparently to forestall possible break down of law and order that might be caused by the agitating IPOB men.
Our correspondent observed that strategic locations and sensitive institutions were heavily manned by armed security personnel, while road blocks were also mounted and motorists thoroughly checked and searched before proceeding their journey.
The state Police Public Relations Officer, Andrew Enwerem, commended Imo citizens for respecting the directive of the government.
He said, “Imo citizens are well educated. They know the difference between a lawful order and an unlawful one. It is based on the aforementioned that they were able to distinguish between a lawful order and an unlawful one”.
Also, the sit-at-home order failed totally in different parts of Enugu State as, residents of the city ignored the order and went to offices and markets as well as other places of interests to them.
Our correspondent who went round the city and other parts of the state yesterday observed that there were vehicular movement in Enugu, while commercial banks and other financial institutions were opened for business.
The different markets, including Ogbete Main Market, Kenyetta Market located at Achara Layout, Afia Nine, among others opened for businesses.
It was further gathered that the movement restriction order failed completely at Agbani, Nsukka, Udi, Oji-River and other major towns in the state, making it a total departure from the last sit-at-home order by IPOB.
Some of the residents who spoke to journalists said they were not happy with the process some of the pro-Biafran group were carrying out the struggle, stressing that embarking on mass protest was misplacement, as it could escalate tension in the region.
Also, the sit-at-home exercise witness failure in Ebonyi State, as resident went about their normal business.
The new commissioner of Police, CP Musa Kimo, in the state yesterday advised the people of the state to go about their normal business.
Banks, markets, offices and schools opened yesterday without any molestation or harassment from the group.
Similarly, shops, motor parks and other major businesses remained open in the city from 8am yesterday in disobedience of the order by the pro- biafran group.
The Abakpa main market, the mechanic village and other markets in the city were open, with traders making their usual brisk business.
However, transporters had no buses going to Onitsha or Aba in Anambra and Abia states respectively.
Joint security patrol teams toured the streets of the city with some others on standby at strategic points.
A resident, Geoffrey Igboke, who spoke to our reporter, said he did not observe the exercise because he did not see the need for it.
Meanwhile, the state government has debunked the insinuation in some quarters that the closure of some major petroleum marketers was not related to the IPOB sit-at-home.
The senior special assistant to the state governor on Internal Security said that the failure of the marketers to open for business was not unconnected to the sealing of a filling station along the Enugu-Abakaliki express road.
It would be recalled that the leadership of IPOB had urged Ndigbo nationwide to embark on sit-at-home protest on yesterday over the alleged invasion of the home of the leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu.
But another pro-Biafran Group under auspices of Biafran Independence Movement for Actualization for Sovereign State of Biafra (BIM-MASSOB) urged the Igbos to ignore the order, saying it was a misplaced protest.
Speaking on behalf of the leader of the group, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, during the commemoration of the 19th anniversary of MASSOB by the Enugu West zone of the group, a member of the group, Chief Benjamin
Ekwenugo, berated IPOB for issuing the order.