By Maryam Sulaiman Maintain
Human and commercial activities were grounded in the South-Eastern states on Monday as residents obeyed the sit-at-home order by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
In Umuahia, the Abia capital, and adjoining villages, residents stayed back home, leaving the streets, especially the ever-busy city centre, known as Isigate, completely deserted.
Government offices, schools, banks, shops, business centres, markets, malls and plazas and petrol outlets remained closed.
Also, private and commercial vehicles kept off the roads, leaving the metropolis like a ghost town.
A cross-section of the residents expressed mixed feelings over the IPOB order.
While some said it was necessary to honour millions of lives lost during the Nigerian civil war, others said they complied to avoid being attacked by hoodlums or those monitoring compliance.
A commercial bus driver, Mr Kingsley Friday, said he decided to stay at home because of the prevailing security challenges in the state.
Friday said he did not want to be a victim of circumstance.
Also, a hairdresser at Ubakala, in the outskirts of Umuahia, Mrs Chidinma Ogbonna, said she wanted to go to her salon but could not because there were no vehicles on the road.
Ogbonna, who said she depended on the daily earnings from the shop to fend for her family, regretted that the sit-at-home would “short” her daily income.
A shop owner at the popular Isigate in Umuahia, Mr Geoffrey Ugochukwu, told NAN that traders were seriously warned before hand not to open their shops on Monday.
“I deal in provisions and I normally leave home early, but today I have to stay home with my family because nothing is worth my life,” he said.
A tricycle operator, Mr Kelechi Kanu, said he went out early in the morning for business but was disappointed because there were no passengers on the road.
Kanu said he could not move freely on the roads, pointing out that most of the streets were blocked by boys playing street football.
Meanwhile, heavily armed policemen and soldiers were seen keeping surveillance in Umuahia metropolis and its environs, without molesting residents.
The situation is not different in Imo, where socio-economic activities were also at a standstill amidst heavy security presence in major cities and towns, including Owerri, the state capital.
Markets, roadside shops, malls and filling stations were not open, while suburbs near Owerri blocked all their entrances to ward off invasion by stranger elements.
Areas with heavy security presence include Akachi, Okigwe and Dick Tiger Roads, Imo State University Junction, Control Junction, Airport Junction, Obiangwu-Ngor Okpala and Amakohia- Akwakuma Flyover and the World Bank/Umuguma Junction.
NAN learnt that military helicopters were seen hovering around the Sam Mbakwe Cargo Airport as part of the security surveillance in the area.
Some residents, who spoke with NAN on the development, said they obeyed the order to be on the safe side.
A roadside trader, Mrs Ngozi Ukpabi, said: “I have not displayed my wares today. Infact my table is upside down so that I will not be labeled a saboteur.”
Another trader who live around Urata, a suburb of Owerri, said she could not display her wares for fear that IPOB members might be monitoring compliance in the area.
A tailor, Mr Francis Udoh, said he obeyed the order because he noticed that everyone around his shop complied.
Udoh also said that opening his shop for business might be an effort in futility, pointing out that clients might not readily come around out of fear.
Also, respondents from Ahiazu and Aboh Mbaise areas of the state, said that while there was no vehicular movement, helicopters were seen flying through the area periodically.
Respondents from Mbaise area of Imo said that Sunday’s shootout between the police and hoodlums caused uneasy calm in the area, hence people were afraid to come out on Saturday.
Mr Chimezie Odom from Nnarambia in Ahiazu Mbaise to NAN in a telephone interview that businesses were shut in the area with no vehicular movement.
Mr Charles Osuagwu from Aboh Mbaise said the streets were empty and quiet, adding that there was heavy presence of security operatives in the area.
However, a commuter-bus driver, Mr Ebuka Felix, expressed displeasure with the situation, saying he had lost the day’s income because of the order.
In Awka, the Anambra capital, residents also complied with the directive as hotels, restaurants snd markets in the city and surrounding villages remained closed.
Also, schools, government offices and banks did not open, in spite of the deployment of heavy security in the area.
NAN gathered that businesses in Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of Anambra, were completely shutdown.
A resident of the city, Mr Okey Ejide, told NAN in a telephone interview that there was no movement of persons and vehicles in the area.
Ejide said the popular Main Market, Onitsha, along with Ose, Ochanja, Relief and Bridgehead markets did not open for business.
“Even supermarkets, hair-dressing salons, mechanic workshops and roadside vulcanisers, amongst other artisans, also joined the sit-at-home order,” he said.
The people urged the Federal Government to address the alleged marginalisation of the southeast to give the zone a sense of belonging and ensure peace and security of lives and property. (NAN)