Owerri, the Imo state capital, was deserted on Saturday, following the sit-at-home order declared by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra led by Nnamdi Kanu.
There was tension over heavy presence of security agents who mounted checkpoints and conducted frequent patriols.
IPOB, in a statement earlier this month, issued the order to South-East residents in memory of what it described as Biafra Remembrance Day on May 30.
One of our correspondents, who monitored the development, observed that there was a near-total lockdown in the state capital.
While almost all shops and workplaces remained locked, residents stayed indoors throughout. Only few vehicles were seen on the road, while pubs, eateries and supermarkets surprisingly didn’t open for the day.
People could not get to places to buy foodstuffs and other items, while others who had emergencies to attend to trekked long distances.
The ever-busy Douglas, Wetheral, Ikenegbu and Bank roads were deserted as security operatives patrolled the city.
Only few persons were seen in Orji discussing the UEFA Champions League final match between Chelsea and Manchester City.
While some said they would rather remain indoors rather than risk their lives watching the game, others were heard saying they could not afford to miss the match.
Another resident, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he would obey the sit-at-home order.
He said it was his way of telling the Federal Government that the Igbo were not happy with its administration.
Few motorcyclists who defied the order doubled their charges per trip.
Security was beefed up in Imo amid mounting fear over the sit-at-home order. Soldiers set up military checkpoints where passers-by were made to raise their hands above their heads. Some commuters within and outside the state were caught in the gridlock caused by the checkpoints.
However, the police spokesperson in the state, Bala Elkana, told Sunday PUNCH that the police, in conjunction with other security agents, urged people to go about their lawful business without let or hindrance.
The News Agency of Nigeria reports that Owerri malls suddenly halted activities on Saturday around 12.30pm instead of the normal 8pm closing time.
Also, there was heavy security presence at the entrance to the Shoprite mall with the workers trapped in the building.
A mall worker, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told NAN that normal activities began in the mall on Saturday morning but were suddenly brought to a halt following sounds of gunshots in the neighbourhood.
“The management has directed that we close for today though it’s barely midday. They said we cannot leave the premises, nobody goes out and nobody comes in for now until the situation improves,” the worker said.
Ebonyi, Abia residents panic
Residents of Abakaliki, Ebonyi State also expressed fear over the sit-at-home order.
Some of the residents, in separate interviews, said the order was worrisome, especially amid the harsh economy in the country.
NAN gathered that security personnel patrolled major streets in the state capital to maintain peace and order as shops and markets were open for business and residents bought food items for fear of what might happen.
Similarly, there was panic in Umuahia, the Abia State capital as suspected gunmen reportedly attacked the state Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department.
A source told one of our correspondents that the facility was set on fire as residents ran to safety.
When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr Geoffrey Ogbonna, confirmed the incident, saying, “State CID Umuahia came under attack about an hour ago. Details not handy at the moment.”
Gunmen raze another Imo police station, magistrate, high courts
Meanwhile, gunmen went berserk, razing Atta Divisional Police Headquarters in the Njaba Local Government Area of the state and the Atta magistrates’ and high court, as well as vandalising the community health centre. The incidents occurred between 1am and 2am on Saturday.
Amid the chaos, the youth of the community nearly lynched one of our correspondents who visited the area. His gadgets were seized and damaged, and money extorted from him.
According to community sources, the invaders shot indisciminately for close to an hour before torching the government facilities.
The Crown Prince of the community, Remigiius Azike, told Sunday PUNCH that the incident took place when the villagers had gone to bed, while a former president general of the community, John Agbaso, said the community was in pain.
Agbaso lamented that the house of the incumbent community President General, Chijioke Duruonyeokwu, last week, was set ablaze by the assailants, which resulted in his wife’s death.
Calling on the government to come to their rescue, the community leader said that insecurity was on the increase in the area.
He said, “I was the one who built the police station and the magistrates’ court and mobilised youths under the aegis of Transformations Ambassadors of Atta Nwambieri to build the high court. I did this so that our people would have access to government facilities. The government should come to our rescue.”
When contacted, the police spokesperson said he had not been briefed.
Troops raid IPOB enclave, neutralise seven
The Nigerian Army has said troops of 6 Division Garrison, Port Harcourt and 29 Battalion, on Thursday, raided the enclaves of suspected IPOB members at Agbomchia Forest.
It said the raid was a joint operation between the Army, men of the Nigeria Police Force, the Department of State Services and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps.
The Army, in a statement by its Director of Public Relations, Mohammed Yerima, on Saturday, said seven suspected IPOB members were killed while five were arrested.