Boko Haram: Traders Paralyse Commercial Activities In S’East

Irked by the Federal Government’s seeming unwillingness to relocate suspected Boko Haram prisoners from Ekwulobia Prison in Aguata Local Government Council, Anambra State, despite street protests, traders under the aegis of the South East Markets Traders Amalgamated Associations (SEMATAS), on Thursday, paralysed commercial activities in the region. The traders demanded that the prisoners be moved of the prisoners to their original base.

Most markets from Onitsha in Anambra to Aba town in Abia State were shutdown in the morning hours. They were however re-opened after some chapters of the association decided to hold their separate protests.

Protest in Ekwulobia over boko haram prisoners

Traders and customers in markets located in Anambra, including Onitsha, Nnewi and others, were greated by public notices from the Anambra State Association of Amalgamated Traders Associations AMATAS announcing that markets in the state would not open for business.

As early as 8am traders carrying placards denouncing the arrival of the insurgents, trooped to the Ekwulobia stadium for the protest, chanting war songs.

Some of the placards read: “Don’t pollute South East;” “South East rejects Boko Haram;” “Boko Haram, please leave us alone;” “Boko Haram, a crime against humanity;” and so on.

Leaders of the market union’s in the South East led by their President General, Okwudili Ezenwankwo, addressed the protesters, describing the transfer of the insurgents as an act of “man’s inhumanity to man,” wondering why the detainees would still remain in Anambra after the earlier series of street protests.

The traders said they learnt that most of the insurgents transferred to Ekwulobia prisons were Nigeriens and Chadians, who are said to be the most unrepentant of the insurgents. They therefore appealed to the Federal Government, President Muhammadu Buhari and Governor Willie Obiano to see reason and take the insurgents back to their original base.

According to Ezenwankwo, “Anambra is safe and under Governor Obiano, it is even safer. We say no to Boko Haram.”

Early in the week, prisons chiefs in Abuja Headquarters of Nigeria Prisons Service (NPS) also held a crisis resolution meeting for several hours, on how the information about the movement of the prisoners leaked.

The meeting, according to a competent source at the NPS headquarters, was convened by Peter Ekpendu, it Controller-General to address the issue for which governors of the South East geopolitical zone called for immediate reversal.

Also on Thursday, Anambra State governor, Willie Obiano held a closed door meeting with a seven-man Federal Government delegation from the National Security Adviser’s office on the transfer of the prisoners. The state’s delegation included: The Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnemeka Achebe, Igwe Cyril Enweze of Umuoji, Catholic Bishop of Awka, Most Rev. Paulinus Okafor and the Anglican Bishop of Awka, Rev. Alexander Ibezim.

Obiano told newsmen after the meeting that deliberations on the issue were highly successful, noting that the Presidency was fully aware of the strong feelings of Anambra people against the presence of the “high risk’’ prisoners.

He expressed optimism that the matter would be resolved shortly and reassured the people that the dreaded suspects would soon be moved out of the state.

According to Obiano, “the matter will soon be over. Since the news of the transfer of the deadly suspects to Ekwulobia, I have been relentless in my efforts to engage all relevant authorities in Abuja. I, therefore, want to appeal to Anambra people to desist from anything that might lead to breach of the peace in the state.’’

The protest did not however hold in Ebonyi, following what Governor Dave Umahi told journalists during an inspection tour of ongoing projects in Abakaliki was because the suspects had already been relocated to Abuja.

This is why, he said, the protest was unnecessary, noting however that “the traders have the right to protest, but there was no need for the protest because we (South-East governors)  had enjoined  the Federal Government not to relocate any Boko Haram prisoner to any prison in the South-East. Those suspects brought to Anambra State have been taken back to Abuja.

“The state decided against the protest for the reason that the governors of the region had intimated the Presidency on their opinion on the matter, and so no need for anyone to encourage people of the state to take to the streets.”

It was gathered that the planned protest by the traders was expected to hold simultaneously across the five states of the South East.

The traders in Abakaliki, according to sources, were expected to convene at the Abakpa main market by 8am and thereafter march round the state capital, Abakaliki, before converging at Government House gate where Umahi was billed to address them.

Anti-riot mobile policemen however took over the market to prevent the protest and to avert possible breakdown of law and order in the state.

When contacted, the Police Public Relations Officer, Chris Anyanwu, “we got wind of plans by traders in Abakaliki markets to stage a peaceful protest over what they alleged as relocation of persons suspected to be Boko Haram members to some prisons in the South-East. We had to mobilise our men immediately to major roads and locations in the state to avert any breakdown of law and order”.

Meanwhile, barely a month after a suicide bomber detonated a bomb that killed over 40 people in Adamawa State, there was another blast on Thursday morning near a mechanic workshop opposite the state headquarters of the Federal Road Safety Commission (FRSC) along Numan Road in Yola, the state capital. Two persons sustained minor injuries.

Daily Independent gathered that four children of school age were allegedly handed the explosive by an unknown person to drop at a specific place in Bachure suburb village, mainly inhabited by retired soldiers.

The bearers of the explosives, two of them now in police net, confessed that an unknown person gave N2,500 and that after collecting the container, it was too heavy for them to deliver at the specified place because of the inconveniences of carrying it. They then sold it to a dustbin scavenger, whom they ran into at the nearby mechanic workshop.

They claimed that the scavenger refused to buy the container, because he does not buy anything below one kilogram in weight.

The scavenger, who is now helping the police investigation and was also hit by the blast, explained that while the negotiation was on, he noticed smoke from it and before he could take a step, it went off shattering his legs and the two bearers of the devise.

In the ensuring confusion that followed the blast, the two other kids sneaked away from the scene.

Intelligence officers from the FRSC were quickly drafted to the scene.

Sector commander of the FRSC, Luka Ikpi when contacted, said “one version suggested that it was tyre burst since it was close to a mechanic workshop, but I insisted that my intelligence officers should go and confirm. And on reaching there, it was discovered to be grenade explosive and the boys were arrested and brought to our office before the arrival of Anti Bomb Squad from the State Police Command”.

When the Anti Bomb Squad and other security operatives arrived at the scene, many arrests were made, including those within the vicinity of the mechanic workshop.

The suspects picked from within the area were taken the State CID in three Hilux Jeep cars.

In a related development, Deputy Senate President, Ike Ekweremadu said he is worried by the recent spike in the activities of Boko Haram sect. expressing fears that the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja, could be the next target of the insurgents, unless something is urgently done to stem the tide.

Ekweremadu also appealed to the international community to support the country in the fight against the terrorists, adding that “I was hoping that when we come back in the 8th Assembly, that I will work with our colleagues from the North- East to develop a plan of action that will help to rehabilitate that part of Nigeria. Regrettably”, he pointed out”, the actions of Boko Haram seems to have resurfaced now not only in Borno”, but in Plateau, Adamawa and Kaduna.

On efforts needed to stamp out the insurgent group, he said: “It is important for us as those in government whether Executive or Legislature to come together to find solutions to these problems.”

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