Dateline: 26/08/2004 16:58:34
Biafra Day: Massob Agitations Cripple Economic Activities
By Joseph Ushigiale, Ndubuisi Ugah, Ben Nwabuwe in Lagos, Okon Bassey in Port Harcourt, Emmanuel Ugwu in Enugu, Chinedu Eze in Abakaliki, Christopher Isiguzo in Owerri, and Charles Onyekamuo in Awka

Agitations by members of the Movement for the Actuali-sation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) yesterday crippled economic activities in Lagos and the five states in the South-east zone, as well as Port Harcourt.

In Lagos, in response to the call by the Chief Ralph Uwazurike-led movement for the Actualisation of the Republic of Biafra, some Igbo traders yesterday heeded the call and abandoned their businesses, while some were seen around their locked-up shops discussing in hushed tones.

Those whohad opened before the information of the closure filtered in, had to close around 11am to heed the call on Igbo indigenes to abandon their business in solidarity with the struggle for te actualisation of the Republic of Biafra .

When our reporter visited the Alaba International market, one of the major electronic markets in Lagos, some Igbo traders who bothered to come within trading vicinity, were seen loitering around the! ir shops.

Also the situation was not different at the refrigerator/air conditioner market at Lawanson and Idumota markets in the Lagos Island, where Igbo traders abandoned their shops, a development which drastically slowed down commercial activities.

Some of the traders who spoke to our reporters, explained that it is high time the Igbo gained their freedom, adding that the Igbo nation has been marginalised.

In Anambra State, residents in Onitsha and Awka, obeyed MASSOB's sit at home order issued about a week ago.

The order was successful as the people stayed indoors. At Works and Engr Arthur Eze roads in Awka, no activity was going on as at 9 a.m. except for some commercial motorcycle operators who charged exorbitantly for their skeletal services which were noticed only around the Nnamdi Azikiwe University junction on the Enugu-Onitsha expressway the whole place was generally calm.

The Eke-Awka market in the city also closed shop just as t! he seat of government was also paralysed as a few civil servants reported for work. This was in spite of Governor Chris Ngige's radio announcement the previous day asking the people of the state to ignore the MASSOB order.

Also in Enugu, traders and commercial bus drivers abandoned their businesses to commemorate Biafra.

The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) had called for the observance of the Biafra Day to draw attention of the international community to the need for the creation of the Republic of Biafra.

At most bus stops in the coal city civil servants and other commuters were stranded, as they could not proceed to their places of work due to the absence of commercial vehicles.

Students of tertiary institutions in the city were also affected as many of them living off campus had to trek to their various institutions.

The popular Ogbete market and artisan market were shadows of their usual bubbling busine! ss activities as traders refused to open their shops even though the markets were open for business.

While in Abakaliki, the Ebonyi State capital, transporters stayed off the roads, markets were deserted and shops locked up following Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra's (MASSOB) stay at home order.

The Abakpa Main Market, the major market in Abakaliki metropolis was literally deserted and reports indicate that Kpiripkiri and Azugwu markets in the capital territory were also deserted, including Building Material market at Azuiyiokwu Street and Mechanic Village at Ndibo Street, that not even one shop or stall was opened in defiance to the order.

But the Assistant Commissioner of Police, Ebonyi State Command, Mr. Mohammed Gana, in a statement on behalf of the State Commissioner of Police, Dr Udo Udo Ubam, warned members of MASSOB against disrupting public peace, reminding them of the Public Order Act.

At Owerri, the Imo Sta! te Capital, residents stayed indoors in an apparent compliance with the "stay at home" order despite the police assurance of security of lives and property.

Most government offices were under lock and key as civil servants kept away from work. The same situation applied to banks and commercial houses as business activities came to a halt.

The ever-busy Eke Onuwa market on Douglas road was empty, even as streets and roads in the city became dry, except very few vehicles were seen plying most of the roads.

In Okigwe the provincial headquarters of the purported "Republic of Biafra" witnessed similar situation as major streets in the town were deserted.

And in Port Harcourt the Police command yesterday flooded, the town with armed Policemen as a cross section of Igbo people resident in the State observed the directive to stay at home. A source close to the State police command told THISDAY that the mass deployment of security agents on the street of Po! rt Harcourt was to ensure that the MASSOB directive was not utilized by hoodlums cause chaos in the city.

More than 50 police trucks of the "Operation Fire for Fire" were observed parading some of the streets where Igbo people resided.

Streets on Olu-Obasanjo Road where Igbo traders sell spare parts, Okija, where electrical parts are sold were heavily patrolled by uniformed and plain cloth detectives.

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