Economic activities in Anambra State were disrupted yesterday following the closure of all markets and peaceful protests embarked upon by traders over the alleged plan by the Federal Government to relocate some Boko Haram detainees’ still awaiting trial in various prisons in the North eastern part of the country to the state.
The protest, which commenced simultaneously in all major markets in Onitsha, Awka, Nnewi and Ekwulobia after the monthly sanitation exercise, caught most traders unaware as they went to their shops to commence the day’s business only to discover that all the entrances were under lock and key.
Some market leaders who planned the protest under the aegis of Anambra State Amalgamated Markets Traders Association AMATAS) soon mobilized the bulk of the traders who quickly stormed major roads in the state bran-dishing placards.
Some of the traders carried placards with various inscriptions such as: “Mr. President, we support you, but not on this planned Boko Haram prisoners relocation,” “Buhari, why now?” “Anambra Traders say no to Boko Haram detainees on our soil,” President Buhari, Anambra State is too calm for Boko Haram!
In Onitsha, it took the intervention of the policemen from different police divisions led by the Area Commander, AC Philip Ezekiel, to avert blood bath and also to dismantle the roadblocks already mounted by the protesting traders along Onitsha-Owerri road, Enugu- Onitsha- Asaba Expressway and Niger Street leading to Onitsha Main market.
Similar protest rally was also organized by Nnewi Traders Association. The President of the union, Chief Edward Muozam, led the group from Nkwo Nmewi Roundabout to Ibeto Avenue, Old Nnewi-Onitsha Road and Nwanyi Imo Bus Stop causing human and vehicular traffic that lasted for hours. He said the traders totally rejected the planned relocation of insurgents to Southeast.
His counterpart in the South East Amalgamated Traders Association, Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo, while also addressing the traders, declared that the alleged planned move by the Federal Government to relocate the detained Boko Haram insurgents to the state was unacceptable to the traders who constitute about 75 percent of the state population.
The market leaders said that relocating the detained insurgents to Anambra State would complicate the already complex security situation. They maintained that the protest was in the best interest of the Igbo nation and ac-cordingly advised President Mohammadu Buhari and his security team to think twice on the planned decision as Anambra traders would not allow any threat to the peacful atmosphere and crime- free environment being enjoyed by the people of the state.
According to Ezenwankwo, more prisons should be built in the North east to accommodate the detained in¬surgents, rather than bringing them to the South east to pollute the relative peaceful environment in the area.
Speaking in the same vein, the Publicity Secretary of the traders’ union, Dede Uzor . A. Uzor, said the alleged plot was to destabilize the reigning peace in the Southeast.
“We see this as a plot to destabilize the peace of the state, hence their comrades in arms will be relocated or focus their attention to the state especially on how they will storm the prisons to rescue their colleagues. Recall what they did in Kogi and Adamawa which led to the death of innocent citizens.”
When contacted on phone, the Deputy Controller in charge of Awka Prisons, Mathew Kalu, declined com¬ments. But a top security official in the state who pleaded anonymity confirmed that plans were underway by the Federal Government to relocate some suspected terrorists to Aguata Prisons in Anambra State.
The source disclosed that the government through the office of the National Security Adviser had announced the Radicalization Implementation Programme for violent criminals where they will be relocated to other parts of the country.
Also commenting on the development, the leader of the Progressives People’s Alliance in Anambra State and publisher of Orient Dailies and Magazines, Mr. Godwin Ezeemo, said the planned action, if true, was not in tandem with social reformation and peaceful coexistence, as such mix up could pollute the minds of other inmates awaiting trial or serving jail terms for other minor offences.
On his own part, the National Director of Information of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Comrade Chris Mocha, warned that the traders’ protest would be a child’s play, if the Federal Government failed to cancel the arrangement.