By Frank Oshanugor
Nigeria’s President, Muhammadu Buhari arrived Imo State capital on Thursday to the warm embrace of officials of the State Government in spite of threat by members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra(IPoB).
The President who is currently in Imo State as at the time of filing this report embarked on the trip on the invitation of the Imo State Government which has earmarked some newly completed projects for commissioning by Nigeria’s number one citizen.
Earlier in the week when it was publicly made known that Buhari would be in Imo State on a presidential visit on Thursday, a warning purportedly issued by IPoB’s spokesman had trended to the effect that residents of the State should not come to receive the President as a way of protesting the continuous detention and prosecution of IPoB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu by the Federal Government.
Though, IPoB leadership later denied issuing any sit-at-home order even as the Ohaneze Ndigbo leadership said that the visit was a welcome development that would portray Buhari as father of the nation.
With the sit-at-home rumour and threat of total lockdown of the state filtered across to the nation’s leadership, security agencies warned against any breach of peace during the presidential visit.
It was therefore not surprising that in the early hours of the day, security agents were on ground going round Owerri to ensure there was no threat of any sort.
Residents either in obedience to the sit-at-home mantra of IPoB in solidarity to Nnamdi Kanu’s Biafran agitation or out of fear of any reprisal attack, chose to remain indoors.
Our reporter who accessed some parts of Owerri in the morning hours said the roads were empty with shops and offices locked. There were no vehicular movements nor pedestrians walking the streets except security agents.
Certain social activities earlier scheduled to take place on Thursday were cancelled and it was gathered that many of the residents did shopping, engaging in panic buying on Wednesday as it was feared that no markets would open on Thursday.
On Monday during which a sit-at-home was observed by residents of the state, many banks had remained locked in obedience to the sit-at-home but some of the banks were later penalised by the state government for disobeying the government which had earlier warned against shutting down economic activities in the state because of IPoB’s order.
Buhari’s arrival in Owerri, the Imo State capital on Thursday in spite of the sit-at-home by many residents did not suffer any indifference as he was warmly received at the airport by his host Governor, Hope Uzodimma and his cabinet including some influential citizens.
Programme of activities for the day had commenced with ease and in his welcome speech, Governor Uzodimma expressed gratitude to President Buhari for accepting to be physically present in the state to commission some projects after he had earlier done so virtually with some projects months ago.
Responding before embarking on the commissioning exercise, President Buhari who dressed in typical Igbo attire like his host Governor, appreciated the people of Imo State and commended the modest achievements of Governor so far.
The President soon embarked on the commissioning of projects beginning with the newly constructed Engr. Emmanuel Iwuanyanwu Way, New Exco Chambers, Naze/Nekede/Poly Ihiagwa Road Phase I, Ebeada Bypass Road and some others.
As at the time of filing this report, the President was still on the commissioning exercise while the entire Owerri was still peaceful as no IPoB members were seen on the street even though some residents who spoke to SECURITY REPORTRS.com from their private residential apartments said they could not come out for fear of attack by IPoB members either during or after the President’s visit.
Security in Owerri has been very tight, leaving no chance for any threat from IPoB or any other armed group. President Buhari is expected to return to Abuja later in the day.