Following an ultimatum from Finland-based Biafra agitator Simon Ekpa calling for two weeks total shutdown of the southeast part of Nigeria beginning from 31 July 2023, transport companies in Cross River State have hinted that they may not release their buses to ply that route.
They said the decision was not only to save their buses but the lives of passengers and their drivers.
A few days ago, Ekpa released a statement calling for total compliance.
Part of the statement read, “Following the demand by the Biafra people for more sit-at-home civil disobedience, the Biafra Republic Government In-Exile (BRGIE) and Biafra De Facto Government In Homeland wish to notify Biafrans that there will be sit-at-home civil disobedience starting from 31 July 2023 to 14 August 2023.
“The immediate and unconditional release of IPOB leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu who remains illegally detained at the DSS dungeon.
“In preparation for “Biafra’s self-referendum and to further put the world on notice that Biafrans are taking their future into their own hands.
“To invalidate the illegitimacy of those who parade themselves as Nigeria’s representatives within the Biafran territory.
“The sit-at-home will, therefore, take place in the following order: Monday, 31 July 2023 to Friday, 4 August 2023, and there will be total lockdown in Biafraland.”
He said that on Saturday, 6th August, and Sunday, 7th August, the two-week-long sit-at-home will go on break as all Biafran markets will be opened.
“From Monday, 7th August to Friday, 11 August, there will be total lockdown in Biafraland while on Saturday, 12 August and Sunday, 13 August 2023, there will be a break as all Biafran markets will open.
“We also call on all oil companies operating in the Biafran territory to shutdown oil exploration on these dates to avoid the anger of the Biafran people, which may come with heavy consequences.”
In an interview, one of the officials of a transport company in Calabar, who gave his name as Orji Fabian, said due to the insecurity in the southeast, they have since reduced the numbers of their buses plying that axis, having suffered attacks in recent times.
Fabian disclosed that due to the insecurity, passenger traffic has drastically reduced.
“We do not take the threat from Simon Ekpa’s group lightly. First, we must think of the safety of our passengers, our drivers, and of course, our buses.
“It would be insensitive to deliberately expose lives and our business to avoidable risks. Therefore, we are seriously looking at avoiding that route on the 31st July 2023.”
Speaking further, Fabian listed that insecurity, which includes kidnapping, armed robbery, fuel subsidy removal and resultant high cost of transport fares, have combined to scare interstate travellers.
These have led to a drastic reduction in passenger traffic in the last two months, he said.
Fabian said their transport operations, like their competitors, have witnessed a lull.
“Removal of fuel subsidy which has astronomically raised prices of every item in the country is the major cause. Insecurity in the southeast part of the country is another scare.
“We now have lesser numbers of buses plying our normal routes. Frequently, due to fewer travelers traffic, we no longer depart on schedule.
“There has been a drastic reduction in passengers traffic in most of our departing points, not only in the state.
“We now ply fewer routes with very few passengers. Often, too, we delay as a way of waiting to see if more passengers will show up later.”
He said that the hyperinflation has affected not only their company but other transporters.
He, however, stated that his company may not lay off their staff who are finding it difficult to grapple with the fewer resources at their disposal.
As a way of helping themselves out, he appealed that the federal government should help to restore the fuel subsidy, which he claimed was the only benefit the common people were enjoying from the government.
He feared that corrupt government officials would corner the subsidy removed and will, therefore, not serve desired purposes by the government.
He, however, acknowledged that following the end of school terminal sessions, a handful of students have been booking to travel, adding that there used to be an upsurge in passengers traffic before now.
Meanwhile, the Assistant Inspector General of Police, AIG, Zone 9 Umuahia, Echeng Echeng has said that he prepared to fight illegal sit-at-home orders in the South-East geopolitical zone, kidnapping, armed robbery, etc. He spoke when he visited Governor Nwifuru of Ebonyi State.
He called on all governors in the southeast to cooperate to enable the security agencies to nip in the bud the unrest and fears caused by hoodlums.
Police PRO Irene Ugbo in Cross River State said there was no need for people to be afraid as the security agencies are fully in charge of the situation, urging transporters not to suspend operations.