By Grace Chigbu
Imo State witnessed a complete shutdown on June 30th as residents observed the sit-at-home order issued by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). The streets of the State capital, Owerri, were devoid of the usual hustle and bustle as banks, schools, markets, and other public institutions remained closed for the day. The impact of the order was felt throughout the region, with fuel stations experiencing an unprecedented lockout and a notable absence of vehicles on the roads.
Between 9:30 am and 11 am, our correspondent diligently monitored the situation in Owerri. The fuel stations, which are typically busy during these hours, were eerily silent, with padlocks securing their entrances. The major roads that would typically be crowded with vehicles were deserted, save for a few commercial vehicles struggling to find passengers. It was evident that the sit-at-home order had been widely adhered to by the residents.
Eke Ukwu Owerri, Relief Market, and Alaba Market, known for their vibrant trading activities, had only a handful of traders present, while most of the shops remained closed. The usually bustling streets were eerily quiet, and the silence was palpable. Some of the well-known roads notorious for traffic congestion, such as Bank Road, Tetlow Road, Mbaise Road, Wetheral Road, and even Douglas Road, experienced a smooth flow of traffic due to the reduced number of vehicles on the streets.
Biafra Day holds significant historical and cultural significance for the people of the region. It commemorates the declaration of an independent state of Biafra on May 30, 1967, by the late Igbo leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu. The secessionist move led to a brutal civil war that lasted for three years, resulting in the loss of countless lives and the displacement of millions.
The sit-at-home order, issued by IPOB, aimed to honor the memory of those who lost their lives during the Biafra war and to reassert the group’s call for secession from Nigeria. The call for the sit-at-home was met with widespread compliance, as individuals chose to stay indoors to demonstrate solidarity with the cause.
The impact of the sit-at-home order was felt not only in Imo State but also in neighboring states, where similar compliance was observed. The atmosphere of the day was marked by solemnity and reflection, with many taking the opportunity to pay tribute to the fallen heroes and express their support for the movement.
The closure of businesses and public institutions brought economic activities in the state to a standstill. While a few traders attempted to conduct partial business transactions, the overall impact was a significant reduction in economic productivity. This served as a reminder of the power of collective action and the determination of the people to make their voices heard.
Security agencies were on high alert throughout the day to maintain law and order. The absence of any major incidents during the sit-at-home order was a testament to the peaceful nature in which the day was observed. The government also took measures to ensure the safety and security of citizens, urging residents to remain calm and vigilant.
As the day drew to a close, life gradually returned to normalcy in Imo State. The streets that were once deserted began to see an increase in activity, and businesses slowly resumed operations. However, the impact of the sit-at-home order was undeniable, serving as a poignant reminder of the ongoing struggle for self-determination and the historical significance of Biafra Day.