Suspected gunmen enforcing the one week sit-at-home order in the South-East burnt part of the Amaraku market in Isiala Mbano Local Government Area of Imo State on Friday night.
The hoodlums also razed vehicles and goods belonging to traders, mostly women, and fled to another community, Obolo, also in the LGA, where they burnt some commercial vehicles.
According to eyewitnesses, the masked hoodlums flogged traders and sent them packing for flouting the ongoing sit-at-home order, declared by Simon Ekpa, a self-acclaimed follower of the embattled leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
Ekpa had in a viral video ordered Igbo in the South-East and beyond to sit at home for one week to press home the demand for the release of Kanu, who had been detained by the Department of State Services since 2021.
Although IPOB’s spokesperson, Emma Powerful, had, in an earlier statement disowned Ekpa and his sit-at-home orders, most markets, shops and private establishments in the region were closed for fear of attack.
In the recent Imo attack, eyewitnesses said the attackers warned them never to flout the order again.
One of the victims, who refused to give her name for fear of attack, told Sunday PUNCH, that when the gunmen arrived, they began to beat them and damaged their goods.
“They went on to raze a part of the market and some commercial vehicles that were parked in the area. On their way, they shot indiscriminately and burnt vehicles in the Obolo community. This is very unfortunate,” the source said.
The source also claimed to have lost millions of naira worth of goods to the attack and begged the government to intervene.
The state police public relations officer, Henry Okoye, confirmed the attack, adding that adequate security measures had been put in place to arrest the situation and nab the perpetrators.
“Members of the public are advised to go about their lawful business without any form of fear or intimidation and at the same time remain vigilant and swiftly report any criminally-minded element seen enforcing the unlawful sit-at-home order,” Okoye said.
Keke rider killed
On Saturday morning, some gunmen again went on the rampage, killing a yet-to-be-identified tricycle rider in Akwakuma area of Owerri, Imo State.
The attack caused panic in the area, forcing traders to hurriedly close for the day.
Eyewitnesses said the keke rider died on the spot as a result of excessive bleeding from the gunshot wounds, while his passengers sustained injuries and were said to have been rushed to a hospital.
One of them, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the gunmen arrived in a Siena vehicle and a commercial bus, popularly known as ‘Imo bus’, and disrupted activities in the area.
The PPRO had yet to respond to an inquiry concerning the latest incident.
Meanwhile, in a live video on Saturday, monitored by Sunday PUNCH, Ekpa, who is said to be based in Finland, thanked Igbo people for obeying the one-week sit-at-home order, saying he was also observing the order.
“This is the seventh day of our one-week historic sit-at-home which began on Monday. This is in furtherance of our demand for the Nigerian government to release Nnamdi Kanu and in preparation for our actualisation of Biafra,” he added.
50 students arrested
In Enugu State, Sunday PUNCH learnt on Saturday that operatives of the state police command reportedly stormed the Enugu State University of Science and Technology and arrested over 50 students.
It was gathered that the police entered the university on Friday evening amid the sit-at-home to effect the arrest.
Confirming the arrests, the President of the ESUT Students Union Government, Donatus Okolieuwa, described it as ‘unacceptable and condemnable’, adding that it was carried out by policemen from the anti-cult unit of the command.
Okolieuwa called on Governor Peter Mbah to intervene in the matter to enable the affected students to regain their freedom.
He added, “Our students are beginning to have the fear of not being safe even inside the school; 50 of them were arrested. Such action shows that the security of our students in the school is no longer guaranteed in the height of the insecurity ravaging the society currently.”
When contacted, the state PPRO, Daniel Ndukwe, confirmed the arrest but denied that up to 50 students were arrested.
He stated in an interview with Sunday PUNCH, “Actually, there was an arrest but I am yet to get the full details of what transpired, but be assured that our men didn’t arrest 50 students. When I get the full details, I will issue a statement on that.”
Meanwhile, the Enugu State governor has said his government is considering the option of dragging both the instigators and enforcers of violence and illegal sit-at-home order in the state before the International Criminal Court at The Hague to answer for the crimes.
Speaking at a news conference at the Government House on Friday night on the sit-at-home order, he said the state was winning the war against the sit-at-home enforcers and would never take orders from people he described as murderers and enemies of Igboland.
He added, “We are equally exploring the option of dragging both the instigators and enforcers of violence and illegal sit-at-home order in the state before the International Criminal Court at The Hague to answer for the crimes against humanity. Ndigbo are on one page in demanding for the release of Nnamdi Kanu. I have also seen the President over this matter. Other Igbo leaders have made the same demand and we are not relenting.
“However, the so-called sit-at-home enforcers are mere criminals and our people must face them frontally.”
Also, the Imo state governorship candidate of the New Nigeria People’s Party in the November election, Ben Odunzeh, has commiserated with the families of traders who lost their lives and goods following the attack on Akwakuma in Owerri and Amaraku market in Isiala Mbano LGA by gunmen on Friday night.
He called on the President to “intervene and bring the ravaging insecurity in Imo to an end once and for all.”