Igbo traders close shops for MASSOB nationwide

By Our reporters
Friday, August 27, 2004

ENUGU—IGBO traders across the country yesterday closed shops in obedience to the directive of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) that the day be observed as work-free to draw attention to alleged marginalisation of the Igbo.

The sit-at-home, as MASSOB called it, was particularly effective in the South-East states, parts of Lagos and markets in other parts of the country where the Igbo are dominant.

In Enugu, all the markets including the Ogbete Main Market, Kenyatta Building Materials Market, Artisan Market and the Timber Market and motor-parks were completely shut while public offices remained closed.  Some banks, which partially opened for business, later shut their doors against customers for fear of being attacked by hoodlums.

 Private business operators also locked up their shops as business activities were grounded.
Busy roads within the state capital witnessed low traffic as private and commercial motorists withdrew their vehicles while the few that operated carried green leaves as a mark of solidarity with MASSOB. As early as 7a.m., most residents were seen gathered in groups discussing the issue of Biafra and asking those who were going to their places of work to turn back in their own interest.

Some youths believed to be members of MASSOB moved round the urban centres in a long convoy of motorcycles, chanting solidarity songs and forcing those who had opened their shops for the day’s business to leave or be dealt with. Their action caused panic among residents, some of whom joined the youths who dressed in black with red headband to sing solidarity songs for Biafra.

The residents hailed the MASSOB members, saying: "Biafra, Biafra, Biafra ka anyi ga eso, ma ona eje eje ma ona ana ana, Biafra ka anyi ga eso o" meaning: "We must follow Biafra whether good or bad."

In some parts of Enugu metropolis, youths set bonfire on the roads while some children took over deserted roads playing football and other games. Detachments of armed mobile policemen patrolled the major streets to ensure that there was no breakdown of law and order but withdrew few hours later after observing the peaceful atmosphere around the city. There was no report of violence or arrest by press time yesterday.

The State Police Command which had warned the MASSOB members to desist from carrying out their planned procession was reluctant to comment on the situation yesterday.

The situation was not different in Owerri, Umuahia and the commercial nerve centres of Aba, Onitsha and Nnewi

Security beefed up in Aba, Umuahia
Security was beefed up in Aba and Umuahia and mobile policemen in a convoy of six vehicles drove round Umuahia with loud speakers appealing to people to go for their normal business. At  newspaper stands, the police  seized magazines and newspapers which carried stories on Biafra.

Mr. Uchenna Madu who said he was the Director of Information for MASSOB, described the sit-at-home order as “wonderful and satisfactory.” His words: “I am pleasantly surprised. In fact, I did not know that our people would comply with the directive given by MASSOB. What is happening today shows that Igbo and their Biafran brothers want to get out of Nigeria. This is just the beginning of the struggle.”

Owerri markets shut

The Relief Market, Owerri Main Market, Nworie Lane Market, the Timber Market and the New Market, all in Owerri were shut. Motor parks, as well as commercial and merchant banks, were also not opened. Travellers were stranded as most of the commercial taxi and bus operators in the state withdrew their vehiclesfrom the roads.

Many markets and shops owned by Igbo traders in parts of Lagos metropolis were also shut. These included Tejuoso, Lawanson and Ladipo auto spare parts markets.

Reports from Jos and Port Harcourt also showed that Igbo traders there heeded the MASSOB call, although in Port Harcourt some traders began to open their shops from about 4 p.m.

It was, however, a different story in Calabar where shops owned by Igbo opened for business. Some Igbo who spoke to Vanguard in Calabr said they were not properly briefed on the sit-at-home order by MASSOB agents .  Emaka Ejiofor, who sells parts at Bedwell, said “let them continue with their MASSOB, we will make money first so as to be able to pronounce MASSOB,” adding: "The time for that (Biafra Republic) is not now.”