People in the South East region stayed at home on Tuesday, to mark the fiftieth year after the declaration of Biafra, amidst heavy security presence.
Shops, schools and businesses were shut down in the five states, to mark the day.
Streets were emptied of vehicles and people, while civil servants did not report for duties at government offices, including the state government’s secretariat.A security guard stands in the empty Ogbaru Market as shops and businesses shut down to mark the anniversary of the Biafra independence declaration © AFP / STEFAN HEUNIS
The shutdown was spearheaded by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), whose members did not stage a rally as planned.
Businesses were paralysed in all major towns and cities in the region, including Onitsha, Enugu, Owerri, Aba, Umuahia, and Nnewi.
The paralysis of activities in public and private sector of the region extended to Port Harcourt, the Rivers state capital.
Local people said the closures were either to commemorate the anniversary in support or because of widespread fears of violence.
Nigerian police last week denounced “planned protests and order of market closures” and warned it would “deal decisively” with any breach of the peace or unlawful protest.
Last year, demonstrations marking the declaration of Biafran independence turned bloody. Amnesty International said the military gunned down more than 60 people.
Nigerian Army spokesman Colonel Sagir Musa said in a statement that security had been increased across the southeast in places seen as “real or potential flashpoints”.
“The aim is to proactively checkmate possible security breaches in view of sordid/divisive utterances and in some cases blatant actions by secessionist agitators,” he added.