IPOB Protest: Onitsha Market, Schools May Close Today | Independent Newspapers Limited
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IPOB Protest: Onitsha Market, Schools May Close Today

Posted: Sep 23, 2016 at 4:10 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Charles Okogene, Felix Igbekoyi, Awele Ogbogu

Asaba – Markets in the commercial city of Onitsha in Anambra State may not open for business today in compliance with the call by members of the Indigenous People of Baifra (IPOB) on South Easterners to sit at home.

Schools in the capital cities may also not open for fear of the consequences arising from the IPOB protest.

IPOB had declared its intention to shut down the entire South East today in protest against the continued detention of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu. In a recent statement, it ordered those in the South East to sit at home in demand of Kanu’s release. It requested that banks and markets in the region should be closed today while road transport workers and others should stay at home.

It also demanded that all mobile phones should be switched off while members of the public stay at home for the entire day.

The protest, according to IPOB, will take place in many world capitals.

Investigations by Independent in Onitsha revealed that the leaders of market men and women associations in Onitsha, which is reputed to be home to the largest market in West Africa, has instructed their members not to open for business.

Though our findings revealed that the directive from the market association leaders to its members to keep their shops under lock and key is not an indication that they are in support of IPOB protest, their decision to stay off market today we were told, is a precautionary measure to avoid been caught in the crossfire the protest may degenerate into.

“We do not want to experience what happened here in Onitsha some months ago when IPOB celebrated the anniversary of the declaration of Biafra Republic by Ojukwu in 1966,” an official of one of the market associations who refused his name in print told Independent.

“Have you forgotten how people were killed and wounded by the police and army that came to quell the celebration on that day? That is what we want to avoid. We want to avoid needless death. You know our security agents are not well trained on how to handle peaceful civil disobedience protest like what IPOB is known for.”

Schools, both public and private, are also not left out as Independent learnt that students and pupils have been advised to stay away from school today.

Just like market leaders’ associations, the school authorities are said to have taken the decision to avoid the death of their students and pupils in the envisaged confusion that might accompany the protest.

The story is the same in Asaba as unconfirmed report has it that Ogbogonogo Market, the biggest in Asaba, Delta State capital, may not open too.

Though, there is no official pronouncement to that effect, when Independent visited the market on Thursday, both sellers and buyers were seen discussing in low tones that the imposing model market may not open for business.

The leadership of the market, we learnt, is apprehensive that when the crisis starts in Onitsha it might spill over to Asaba.

Meanwhile, the president of Ogbogonogo Market, Chigbogu Nwaobodo, assured that the market will be opened and warned that they will resist any protester that comes near the market to coopt the traders into the protest, saying, “I have not received any order from the government to seal off the market.”

In related development, Delta State Police Command has warned members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to stay away from the state.

SP Celestina Kalu, Police Public Relations Officer, Delta State Command in a statement, said IPOB is outlawed and that the command does not subscribe to such protest.

According to her, intelligence report reaching the command indicates that the group plans to embark on a protest today, stating that the command and its personnel have been fully briefed on the rules of engagement.

He said its personnel have been deployed and briefed to deal ruthlessly with any person or group of persons who attempts to cause the breach of peace for whatever reason.

“In the same vein, parents and guardians are advised to warn their children/wards not to join any form of protest while law abiding Deltans and other residents of the state are hereby assured of their safety and advised to go about their legitimate business while exposing suspicious movement of miscreants,” Kalu warned.