Security agents on Monday killed three hoodlums who were purportedly enforcing the suspended sit-at-home directive of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Imo State.
Another set of hoodlums burnt The Nation newspaper’s distribution car after trying to extort N100,000 from the driver.
The incident occurred in Awo Omamma, in Oru East Local Government Area of Imo.
Businesses and offices were shut again in the Southeast as residents stayed indoor for fear of being harmed or killed.
Not even the reassurances of governors and security agencies, as well as the threat of a sack or sanction, could make them come out.
Many said they would rather lose their jobs or daily income than die.
Transporters also stayed away, leaving residents who came out stranded.
IPOB had urged Ndigbo to stay home every Monday to protest the detention of its leader Nnamdi Kanu, who is on trial over treasonable felony charges at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The 6 am to 6 pm exercise was first observed on August 9, with several deaths recorded and properties, especially commercial vehicles, destroyed.
Despite the subsequent suspension of the sit-at-home based on an order from Kanu, residents had refused to come out on the last two Mondays. It was the same again yesterday.
Ebonyi State Governor David Umahi had threatened to sack civil servants who fail to report to work or sanction business owners who fail to open, but even a petrol station said to belong to him was shut yesterday. His workers were not convinced.
Soldiers killed three hoodlums said to be enforcing the sit-at-home at Umuonyewere, Umuowa in Ngor Okpala Local Government Area in Imo.
An eyewitness, who pleaded not to be named for safety reasons, said the hoodlums dispossessed residents of their valuables.
He said the security agents engaged the hoodlums in a gun duel at a filling station where they allegedly robbed a fuel attendant of his cash and phones.
Three of the hoodlums were gunned down; others fled into the bush.
Two vehicles, including a Toyota Rav4, two locally-made pistols, five bullet shells, hard drugs, charms, two plate numbers, among other weapons, were recovered from them.
Some of the residents expressed delight at the prompt response of the joint security team.
It was learnt that the hoodlums snatched a vehicle from Emmanuel Chima Ekeh in the Amafor community at about 6:00 am.
“They went on shooting sporadically in the community and stopped by a filling station where they claimed to be enforcing the sit-at-home.
“They assaulted the pump attendants, snatched his phone and all the money he had on him,” the eyewitness said.
The Commander, 34 Artillery Brigade, Obinze, Owerri, Brig.-Gen Raymond Utsaha, advised the people to be vigilant and report suspected criminals to law enforcement agencies.
The Nation van set ablaze
A Volkswagen car conveying copies of The Nation to the Southeast was burnt at Awo Omamma in Oru East Local Government Area.
The driver, Lateef Akanbi, said: “They flagged me down but when I noticed that they were armed hoodlums, not the police, I sped into the bush and hid.
“From a distance, I heard them saying: ‘Bring N100,000!’. I had no money with me, so, I did not come out. What I saw next was a cloud of smoke coming out from the vehicle. I then realised they had set it on fire.”
Police spokesman, Michael Abattam, a Chief Superintendent of Police, said an investigation had begun.
“They are thugs. We are investigating the matter,” he said.
Businesses, offices, roads and markets were again deserted in Imo, despite Governor Hope Uzodimma’s claim that the sit-at-home did not work in Imo.
Abakaliki, Ebonyi capital, was deserted. Most businesses did not open despite the threat by the state government that shop owners could lose the right of occupancy of their businesses should they not open.
At the international market Abakaliki, the majority of the shops did not open.
Banks remained shut; a few that had their gates open did not have customers to attend to.
A banker told our reporter that they were instructed to report for work but not to open till they were told to do so.
Some security agents were seen in their vans on patrol of major streets. Students for the National Examination Council (NECO) examinations were seen going to school in the morning.
Major transport companies did not open for business. Filling stations and major eateries did not open, including Brass Filling Station said to belong to Umahi.
Enugu residents urge govt to intervene
Some Enugu State residents urged the government to prevail on transporters and traders to end the sit-at-home.
They lamented that the exercise had impacted negatively on their well-being.
A doctor, Cosmas Anibeze, said: “This whole thing is taking a new dimension. Everyone is afraid of being attacked although IPOB, which initially imposed this order, later cancelled it.
“I think what the government needs to do is prevail on the traders and especially transporters to always come out because this economy depends on everyone to thrive.
“Four of my staff could not come out because there were no buses to convey them from their various locations.”
A trader, Josiah Udeh, attributed the situation to fear created by some mischief-makers as well as insistence by transporters to withdraw their services.
Catholic Bishop of Enugu Diocese, Calistus Onaga, appealed to agitators in the Southeast to suspend the sit-at-home.
He spoke at the opening of the Second Plenary Meeting of the Catholic bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) in Enugu.
He wondered why the agitators, who claimed to be protecting the interest of the poor masses of Southeast, would turn around to inflict pains on them.
Onaga said: “The various leaders of ethnic agitations and interest groups should take care not to employ methods to contradict their intentions in any way or try to reduce their intentions.
“They should take an example from those who have done that in the past. Martin Luther King who died for the Blacks did not punish those he was fighting for.
“Even Emeka Odumegwu Ojukwu used his father’s wealth to look for our independence, yet he did not come back to demand return from any of us.”
“When you make us afraid, those you feel you are protecting, what will happen when you get the Independence?”
“This part of the world is known for business; this part of the world is known for education and you tell us to sit at home, doing what?
“What of the parents, who will need to sell their goods to train their children – you tell them to sit at home? Is that the way we can progress?”
Abia, Anambra residents stay home
Residents of Aba, Abia State and Umuahia, the state capital, again closed their shops, offices and markets.
Banks, federal, state and local government workers stayed away despite the assurances of their safety by the security agencies.
Security agents were spotted at different locations in their various patrol vehicles.
In Anambra, commercial activities were paralysed.
Banks, markets, shops and other commercial activities were grounded again in Awka, Nnewi and Onitsha.
It was learnt that there was a gun duel between some criminals and security operatives at Awkuzu, Oyi Local Government Area.
Police spokesman, Ikenga Tochukwu, did not confirm the incident.
Roads and streets in Onitsha, the commercial city and Nnewi, the Industrial town, were empty.
Markets in the two cities were under lock, including the Onitsha Main Market and Nkwo Nnewi.
A group, the Balance and Equity Group (BEG), appealed to IPOB leadership to ensure proper dissemination of suspension of the weekly sit-at-home.
Its Founder, Chris Arinze, urged IPOB to help save the region’s economy.
He said: “It’s very clear that Southeast governors can’t give a contrary order against that of IPOB for the traders and businessmen in Igboland to go back to their businesses on Mondays.
“Every genuine Igbo accepts that Igbos are not well-treated. There are injustices against Ndigbo and Mazi Kanu cannot be faulted on that, but IPOB needs to do something about this Monday weekly sit-at-home.
“Otherwise, people will continue to observe it from now to December or when Mazi Kanu is released and it is not good for our economy.
“It is, therefore, left for IPOB to order them back to their businesses through the mass media, as a show of love, respect and loyalty.”