The Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, says it has declared September 14 as “a day of general strike, mourning and resistance across Biafra land.’’
IPOB, a group demanding a separate country of Biafra but labelled a terrorist organisation by the Nigerian government, warned that any person or persons seen outside on September 14 will be classed “an enemy of the people.’’
This is coming almost two weeks after over 100 IPOB women were detained after a protest in Imo State demanding the release of Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the group. The women were later released a week later by a Magistrate Court in Owerri, Imo State capital, after campaigns and demands for their release, especially on social media and by global rights groups such as Amnesty International.
Clashes occurred between IPOB members and soldiers when the military commenced an operation in the South-east states last September.
This left scores of casualties mostly on the side of IPOB and since then, whereabouts of Mr Kanu who is wanted by the Nigerian government for alleged treason has remained unknown.
The army denies knowing his whereabouts and also said no lives were lost during the clash, but Mr Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, insists that his client was kidnapped by the military after the September 14 “invasion.”
Also, speaking in an interview on BBC in February, Mr Kanu’s wife, Uche Kanu, maintained that the Nigerian Army should tell the world what happened to her husband, saying nobody in his family knows whether he was dead or alive.
While the federal government proscribed IPOB and labelled it a terrorist organisation in the wake of the clash, the U.S. government, however, said it does not see IPOB as such.
IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, in a statement Wednesday gave reasons why the group called for a sit-at-home order on September 14 across “Biafraland.”
He said they are carrying out the exercise to protest the invasion of the country home of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, same date last year.
According to Mr Powerful, the protest will “be a way to register our anger regarding the men and women killed at Afaraukwu in Umuahia, during Operation Python Dance II on September 14 last year.”
“…Those killed in Ngwa, Aba, Igweocha (Port Harcourt) and buried in unmarked mass graves as a result of unprovoked military invasion of Biafraland by the Nigerian Army.”
He said inhabitants of South-East/South-South and all conscientious Biafrans living in other parts of Nigeria and the world are required to stay indoors and away from work or daily business activities throughout the said day.
Mr powerful said all businesses, offices, markets, schools and road transportation will be shut down for 24 hours from midnight of the 13th of September. “There will be no human or vehicular movement across Biafraland.”
‘’We shall also remember all those killed in the struggle for the restoration of Biafra independence since August 2015 when the army shot dead Mr. Okafor in Onitsha on a peaceful march from Nkpor to Onitsha main town. Their sacrifice will neither be forgotten nor will it be in vain, because come what may, this generation of IPOB must and will restore Biafra.”
The event, he said, will also be dedicated to the “sacrilegious and disgraceful humiliation of Igbo women, some of them great grand-mothers, ranks as one of the most abominable act of desecration ever visited upon the land of Biafra in recorded history. It will mark the defining event that completed the shame and humiliation of the Igbo race.”
The IPOB spokesman said the group and the people of the South-east are also against the military’s plans to stage Operation Python Dance 3 this year
Mr Powerful said that the sit-at-home is the only way Biafrans can honour their fallen brethren and ‘’legitimately remind our northern oppressors and their collaborators in our midst that enough is enough! We do not want another Operation Python Dance or another mass murder of Biafra agitators and humiliation of our mothers in our land.”
Ohaneze, Others Endorse Sit-At-Home
The youth wing of Ohaneze, an Igbo socio-cultural group, has endorsed the sit-at-home order by IPOB.
“Sit at home is a welcomed idea,” it said in a statement.
It however appealed to the group to carry out the exercise in a peaceful manner.
“Any action of IPOB that is peaceful is welcome. Sit at home is a welcomed idea. That is what we have been saying that IPOB is not a terrorist organisation, they are a peaceful organisation,” Uche Achi-Okpaga the group’s spokesperson said in a statement Wednesday.
“It is the Nigerian Army and government that is deploying all these ploys to make them look violent but all their actions are always peaceful and cordial”, he added.
Mr Achi-Okpaga warned the military not to capitalise on the sit-at-home to attack IPOB supporters in the region.
“There is nothing wrong with asking you to sit at home. If you want to sit at home you sit at home, if you dont want to sit at home you go about your normal business.
“Ohaneze will not be against that move but we don’t want them (the army) to capitalise on that to be killing our people,” he noted.
Also endorsing the order was the national leadership of All Nigerian Ethnic Nationalities Youth Organisations. The group said it would interface with governors of the South-east to ensure there is no breakdown of law and order during the September 14 sit-at-home.
Okechukwu Isiguzoro, the groups’ deputy national chairman, advocated an exercise devoid of violence, insisting that IPOB must change its strategy and ensure people’s lives are not lost in their struggle for self-determination.
He urged security agencies to ensure that there was no confrontation with IPOB on the day of the sit-at-home exercise.
“We call on Security agents to overlook the sit at home order and ensure that South East didn’t witness any act of confrontation between them and Biafra agitators, and maintain peace during and after September 14.”
Sit-At-Home Order – Not IPOB’s First time
IPOB, a separatist movement, seeks an independent Igbo country of Biafra.
This is not the first time it is calling for a sit-at-home.
A day after Nigeria’s democracy day last year, the group called for a sit at home in the five South-east states to mark the declaration of Biafra by late Odumegwu Ojukwu who led the Igbos in a civil war between 1967 and 1970.
Similarly, on May 30, it again called another sit-at-home for same purpose as that of last year.
While last years’ sit-at-home order recorded massive compliance across the South-eastern states, that of this year was partially observed.