Vehement in their resolve to get the detained Radio Biafra boss Nnamdi Kanu released and to actualze their agitation for the sovereign state of Biafra, no fewer than 40,000 members and sympathizers of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, yesterday, shut down commercial and business activities in the South East states as they took to the streets to vent their spleen.
This was even as hundreds of agitators thronged the court located at Wuse Zone 2, Abuja, yesterday, to show solidarity to Kanu who has been in detention for the past two months.
The detained pro-Biafra leader was supposed to be produced in court yesterday, in Abuja but the trial was stalled over the death of the Chief Magistrate’s father.
In Onitsha, the commercial city of Anambra State and its environs of Obosi and Nkpor, the protesters held sway in a non-violent procession.
Vehicular movements were grounded by the intimidating number of the IPOB members and their sympathizers, who marched from the Niger Bridge Head to the former Ogbunike Toll Gate to register their anger against the continued detention of Mr. Kanu.
The blocking of the Niger Bridge disrupted vehicular movements for over seven hours before normalcy was restored on the bridge.
The attempt by the military to disperse them failed because of their number and their resort to non-violence. The military however showed professionalism that had never been witnessed in Onitsha, under similar situation as they carefully implored the agitators to free the road for other users.
Onitsha-Owerri Road was also blocked by IPOB protesters, who made entry in and out of Onitsha difficult for all road users.
The crowd was so intimidating that some businesses and markets located along the road including Bridge Head Market, Onitsha Patent and Proprietary Medicine Dealers Market, Ochanja Market, all in Onitsha; New Auto Spare Parts Market and New Tyre Market Nkpor; Building Materials Market Ogidi and Bakery Market, also in Ogidi equally closed shops as a result of the protest.
When Vanguard sought to know why they closed their shops, some said they did it in solidarity, while others said they were afraid of being invaded by the protesters.
The protesting IPOB members were peaceful contrary to allegations that the traders were forced to close their shops or their shops invaded to loot their goods.
One of their leaders and spokesman of IPOB, Mr. Emma Powerful, who spoke to newsmen said: “We decided to avoid coming close to markets, especially Onitsha Main Market, because of the false allegation by some leaders of the traders, who have been paid to destroy our image with allegations of looting and destroying the traders’ goods.
“We are not protesting against our brothers and sisters who are doing their genuine business of trading and other businesses. So, there is no reason to attack anybody or invade their shops, neither are we begging anybody to come and join in the protest.
“People whose lives and businesses have been destroyed by government policies join us without invitation, while others join in solidarity. Allegation of infiltration into our fold is also false, baseless and figments of the imagination of those making it. We are only protesting to secure the release of our leader,” he said
In his chat with newsmen, National Coordinator of IPOB, Mr. Chidiebere Onwudiwe, who was flanked by Mr. Powerful, said that the protest was a result of the detention of Mr. Kanu and marginalization of the South East, adding that the protest will continue on Wednesday.
Aba also grounded
In Aba, Abia State, it was a carnival of sort as over 20,000 members of the group, yesterday, fulfilled their threat to shut down markets and other commercial centres in protest against the continued detention of its leader, and host of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
The protesters who adorned Biafra emblems and Kanu’s portraits with speakers mounted on motorcycles, marched from the dilapidated Port Harcourt Road through Asa Road from where they divided into smaller groups to other areas of the city, ensuring that all markets and shops along the areas were shut. There was heavy traffic when the protest started, but as at 10a.m., the roads were deserted as IPOB members marched, singing Biafra songs and Kanu’s praises.
Vanguard gathered that as early as 8a.m., members of the group had stormed Ariaria International, Ekeoha, Cemetery and Ngwa Road markets to ensure that traders did not defy the order to shut their businesses.
Along Azikiwe and St. Michael’s roads by Mosque Street junction, shop owners, who had already opened for business hurriedly shut down as IPOB members were sighted at the area.
However, the Ehere modern market on Ikot Ekpene Road was open as traders went about their businesses without molestation.
Some youths later mounted a roadblock at St.Michael’s Road by Mosque Street junction, making it impossible for motorists to pass through the area, but the roadblock was later dismantled.
While marching along Aba-Owerri Road, a group of IPOB members blocked the gate of Keystone Bank opposite the State Polytechnic, insisting that the Nigerian flag mounted at the bank premises must be removed.
It was a theatre of confusion as some IPOB members, who spoke to Vanguard, insisted that the bank must comply with the order to shut down before they left the area.
The situation created tension in the city as banks and schools opened with caution. Business centres along the ever busy Asa Road located at the city centre, were deserted and later opened at 3.30p.m. when the group had passed through the main park area.
A cross section of members of the group who spoke to newsmen insisted that the protest would continue until Kanu regained freedom and the actualization of an independent state of Biafra became a reality.
“This is just the first stage of the protest, if they don’t release our Director, they will be surprised by the next stage of our protest. We are going to shut Nigeria. We are not joking about it,” they chorused.
When contacted, Abia Police spokesman, DSP Ezekiel Onyeke, said they were monitoring the situation and assured that the Police would not fold their arms and watch the protesters breach the peace of the state.
Kanu’s trial stalled
The protest however became more grievous when the IPOB members received a message from their colleagues in Abuja that the court did not sit yesterday and neither was their leader, Kanu produced in court.
Hearing on his case was stalled following the death of the magistrate’s father.
Kanu was brought before an Abuja Magistrate’s Court by the Department of State Service, DSS, on allegations of criminal conspiracy, engaging in unlawful society and criminal intimidation, which violate Section 97, 97B and 397 of the penal code.
The magistrate, Usman Shuaibu, had on November 23 adjourned sitting till December 1 for ruling, but failed to appear, citing the death of his father.
According to the court registrar, Salisu Yinusa, the magistrate had to travel to prepare for the burial of his father.
The court was, however, considering December 16 for ruling on the matter, but the registrar said that date was still tentative.
One of Kanu’s lawyers, Marcel Dim-Udebuani, told journalists that his client had no problem with the recent development, but hoped for a favourable judgment when the magistrate returned.
Call to release Kanu
Meanwhile, the General Overseer of the God’s Covenant of Christ Sabbath Mission, High Priest Clifford Nmenabu has called on the Federal Government of Nigeria, to free the Radio Biafra Director, Mr. Kanu from detention.
Nmenabu made the call at Amanachi, Orsu Local Government Area, while addressing journalists on the recent pro-Biafra demonstrations in the country.
He said that Kanu had done nothing to deserve such a treatment for too long by the Federal Government, adding that Kanu was only seeking the freedom of his people.
He also called on the international community to come to the aid of the Biafrans, who, he said, had been marginalized in the country for too long.
On the issue of the existence of the Radio Biafra, he said that it was divinely created to save the oppressed in the society. He said, “ Kanu was not speaking against any person or group of people. His broadcast were truth-oriented and conscience awakening. It was a divine arrangement for a renaissance and liberation of a particular sect that is under bondage.”
A case for one Nigeria
Worried by the agitation for a sovereign state of Biafra, the Nigerian-Jewish community has reiterated its support for Nigeria as one indivisible entity notwithstanding dissatisfaction raised by some ethnic groups.
The National President, Pan Africa Jewish Alliance, PAJA, Most Rev. Kohen Okorie who made the call at a press briefing in Onitsha, Anambra state, yesterday to usher in a week-long centenary celebration of Sabbaths in Nigeria, Nigerian-Jews disagreed with Biafra agitators who are calling for secession from the country..
According to him, “We so much believe in the unity of Nigeria. The Jewish community in Nigeria in conjunction with Pan Africa Jewish Alliance PAJA disagrees with the detained Director of Radio Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, on the nation of Biafra to secede from Nigeria.”
Although we accept him as an Igbo Jew and support most of his views on Igbo nation but we totally disagrees with him on secession”.
Okorie, however, called on Nigerians to always think of how they would build and unite the country instead of how they would divide it.