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Curfew in Onitsha, soldiers, police patrol streets

Posted by From Chuks Collins and Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka) on 2006/06/18 | Views: 766 |

Curfew in Onitsha, soldiers, police patrol streets


A DUSK to dawn curfew has been imposed in Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of the South-East geo-political zone of the country, which has been engulfed in violent social unrest since Thursday.

A DUSK to dawn curfew has been imposed in Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of the South-East geo-political zone of the country, which has been engulfed in violent social unrest since Thursday.

The state governor, Peter Obi, yesterday in a state broadcast expressed hope that the curfew would end the crisis.

He also announced the ban on the National Association of Road Transport Owners (NARTO) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).

The activities of both groups, according to the governor, are inimical to the peaceful co-existence of the citizens.

Meanwhile, soldiers have joined policemen in keeping the peace in the commercial city. The 7 p.m. to 6 a.m. curfew will be for an initial period of one week, from yesterday to next Saturday.

The governor "urged parents and guardians to advise their wards to desist from actions that can only earn them unpleasant consequences." He also disclosed that soldiers had been brought in to help maintain law and order, thereby complementing the efforts of the police and other security groups.

Obi noted that his broadcast "underscores the fact that government is doing everything possible to ensure that normalcy returns to Onitsha." The governor said that he had already "briefed His Excellency, President Olusegun Obasanjo, on the situation in Onitsha" and that the President had called him on return to Nigeria on Saturday, "and was fully briefed. The President immediately and graciously took necessary actions". While assuring that the state was now on the verge of a new era of peace that could not be negotiated or compromised by anybody or group, Obi appealed to those he referred to as "miscreants attempting to disrupt Anambra's peace to desist." The governor also confirmed that he would continue his consultations with the various stakeholders and security agencies, within the week, on further ways to ensure lasting peace and a cordial environment for the people to dwell and carry on their lawful businesses unmolested.

While fielding questions from reporters who accompanied him on the tour of the "war zone", the governor said that the situation had reached an intolerable level where the lives of residents, passers-by and visitors to the commercial city were being imperilled. An eyewitness, a commuter bus driver who gave his name as Mr. Ikwuka Offia, accused NARTO, an out-lawed body of commercial transport workers, of being behind the whole brigandage. He stated that the bone of contention was the control of motor parks in the city and its environs. He pleaded with the Federal Government, through Governor Obi, to get the police to withdraw their men whom he accused of aiding the outlaws. He claimed to have witnessed brutal shooting to death of three persons and the setting ablaze of two others within the Okpoko-Upper Iweka-Owerri Road axis between Friday and Saturday.

The governor acknowledged that reports confirmed that 90 per cent of those masking under various names to wreak havoc in the state were actually not from Anambra State. Obi also warned those behind them to desist and counselled them to go into farming, small-scale industry or come forward for soft loans through micro-credit. He blamed the development on the aggregate result of all manner of local and private armed groups by previous administrations, under various names like Bakassi Boys, Vigilante's or bodyguards. He advised anyone who was interested to join the Police or army, which are legitimate and recognised bodies. "I am not putting them out of job, rather I want to change their conditions and focus on something better to give them a guaranteed future," Obi stated.

The governor inspected only two out of the four police stations at "33" area of Nsugbe; and the People's Club police post. He could not visit the In-land Town Police Post and the Marine Police Station, which were razed down.

At the "33" police station which was newly commissioned, Obi was confronted with charred police uniforms, documents, exhibits, personal effects and completely burnt down building. An assistant Superintendent (ASP) Ikechukwu Egbuchukwu told the governor that his men were subdued by the superior fire power of the miscreants who set the station ablaze with petrol bombs. He also confirmed that one of the detainees set free by the rioters had been re-arrested.

At Owerri Road where more casualties were reportedly recorded, one of the newly-acquired Armoured Personnel Carriers (APC) and another police duty truck were completely burnt beyond recognition.

In a sharp reaction, the PDP state secretary, Chief Rueben Okpaloka, distanced the party and its South-East leader, Chief Chris Uba, from the incidents. He told newsmen that the allegation that the crisis was masterminded by the PDP was "absolute falsehood." Okpaloka said: "We are a party of respected people and have no relationship with miscreants". The state government, he added, "has our full co-operation and support", querying: "so how can we be part of this ugly scenario?"

The Guardian learnt that the fight for supremacy and control of the money spinning Onitsha motor parks was the bone of contention between NARTO and some nameless persons who claimed to be MASSOB members. This has disrupted life and commercial activities in the city since Thursday as vehicles coming into or going out of Onitsha, from either the Owerri Road end or the Niger Bridge were kept stranded for more than 48 hours.

But the arrival of the joint security patrol of soldiers and the police has restored normalcy, while passers-by and their vehicles are being thoroughly frisked.

The President General of the Anambra State Markets Amalgamated Traders Association (ASMATA), Chief Sylvester Odife, told The Guardian that additional measures had been made to secure and fortify the various markets in the state from the vandals and miscreants. He confirmed that the governor had already been briefed on the situation.

Many residents who recorded casualties or had their cars, buildings and wares destroyed have continued to appeal for the government's assistance.

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Comments (3)

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Abieyuwa(Edo, Nigeria)says...

Otasowie means evening life is better than morning life. There is an error in your “evening life is better than evening life”?

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Naija g(Houston, Minnesota, US)says...

Sokari doesn’t mean joy. Joy is Biobela. Go to the village and ask the meaning of the name.

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Fay(Katy, Texas, US)says...

Actually translates to bravehearted.