The incessant killings of northerners living or doing business in the South East by members of the outlawed Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) have caused the leadership of some northern groups involved in commercial activities between the North and South East zone to direct commodity traders and truck drivers to shun the zone.
The action was necessary to avert reprisals from the youth in the north over the continuos killings and destruction of properties. The strike begun Thursday
Movement of supply trucks is said to be halted on major routes since the commencement of the boycott order with prices of food items soaring in major towns in the South East and the South South zones.
“We have blocked the roads linking the North to the East ranging from Benue, Nasarawa, Kwara and. Plateau state among others, and the truck drivers are cooperating with us, “ he said.
There were reports that gunmen had killed at least 24 persons within three days as they went about enforcing a stay-at-home order declared by a factional spokesperson of IPOB, Simon Ekpa.
The Public Relations Officer of the Arewa Progressives Forum for 17 states in Southern Nigeria, Malam Badamasi Muhammad was quited saying that most northerners living in the villages of the South East have relocated back to the North over fear of the incessant attacks. He said only few people who are living in major cities remain, though they also live in panic.
He said most of those who are still in the South East are there because they have no other options.
“The main reasons why we and others are still here is lack of sufficient opportunities in the North and some of us are used to living in the South East. Many were born and brought up here, many don’t have any other thing to do in the North. Some will prefer to stay here due to the level of the poverty in the North, but as I am talking to you, many have vacated and moved back to the North.
“We used to have many of our people in the villages of South East before; mainly petty traders, those selling beef skewers, cobblers, etc. All have now left due to the activities of the Biafra agitators. It is getting worse these days,” he said.
He expressed happiness with the order to stop commodities from the North getting to the South East, saying it will save the lives of those involved.
“We are very happy with this measure. It’s an action that will send messages to the governors and traditional rulers and other stakeholders in the zone. Our members are being murdered daily. Happily, the federal government has been taking action by deploying huge security formations within the cities, these killers need to be arrested and brought to book. If a young man will make a tweet and will be traced by security men and arrested, what stops the same security agencies from tracing these killers?” He asked.
Another resident of Imo State, Muhammed Abdulkadir was quited saying the killings of northerners in the South East is getting worse on a daily basis. “As I am talking to you, even yesterday (Wednesday) many of our people were killed at Idiato, along Onitsha-Owerri road. The victims were truck drivers and their boys who were conveying noodles, flours and other commodities. Also, some bus passengers were intercepted and killed, they were burnt along with their vehicles.
“I was involved in preparing the dead bodies for burial. We took the wounded ones to hospitals. The Imo State governor had been assisting us with some funds to bury the victims, but it seems he is even tired of it lately,” he said.
The Sarkin Hausawa of Enugu, Alhaji Haruna Sulaiman, who said both him and his father were born in Enugu, bemoaned the ongoing tension while urging the northerners in the South East to always abide by the order.
“Our people should always stay at home whenever there is a sit-at-home order. I have been advising those living in the villages and remote areas to vacate, even me, I don’t go to such areas. I have friends who usually invite me for their occasions, but when I know it is a village, I don’t go, I will just contribute and give them money for the weddings. The precautionary measures are necessary and our people should understand and be careful” he said.
On the boycott order by some northern groups, the Sarkin Hausawa said it will be of help to a certain level as it will draw the attention of leaders to their predicament. “With the strike, even those who are not aware of the current situation, will now know, and maybe it will resolve the issue. But it will also affect us; any northerner you see in the East, he is here for business or working as labourers, so the strike will also affect us” he said.
Some residents of the region were reported saying price of perishable goods and other food items usually supplied from the northern part of the country have risen.