No fewer than 40,000 members and sympathizers of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), yesterday, shut down commercial and business activities in the South East states as they took to the streets to protest the continued detention of Radio Biafra boss Nnamdi Kanu and called for his release to actualize their agitation for the sovereign state of Biafra.
The detained pro-Biafra leader who has been in detention for two months, was supposed to be produced in court yesterday, in Abuja but the trial was stalled over the death of the Chief 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.
In Onitsha and its environs of Obosi and Nkpor, protests were non-violent but 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.
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.
Onitsha-Owerri Road was also blocked by IPOB protesters, who made entry in and out of Onitsha difficult for all road users but they stayed away from markets, although several traders close shop either in solidarity or fear.
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 Aba, Abia State, over 20,000 members of IPOB, 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. They ensured 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.
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.