Commercial activities were paralysed on Saturday in Anambra State following protests by traders across the state.
The traders, who closed their shops as early as 9am in major cities of Onitsha, Awka, Nnewi, Ekwulobia and Agulu, took to the streets protesting what they termed plan by the Federal Government to transfer Boko Haram detainees to prisons in the state.
At Tarzan junction, Nkpor in Idemili North Local Government Area of the state, traders and other residents blocked the Enugu – Onitsha Expressway chanting songs suggesting they would be forced to revive the clamour for Biafran Republic if pushed to the wall.
The traders carried placards bearing inscriptions like ‘Buhari should not destroy the peace in Anambra State,’ ‘Biafra kanyi choro’ (We want Biafra), ‘Buhari, Igbos cannot accept your prisoners, ‘We do not want Boko Haram in Anambra,’ ‘Federal Government, why extend Boko Haram to Anambra?’ and ‘Boko Haram prisoners are not allowed here.’
Speaking with journalists during the protests, the Secretary-General, Anambra State Amalgamated Traders Association, Chief Chuma Elucharu, stated that traders in the state decided to shut markets to protest the rumoured relocation of Boko Haram detainees to the state.
Eluchraru said the protests would be continuous until the Federal Government assured that there was no such plan.
At Onitsha, the protesters threatened to be violent should the rumour proved to be true.
There was tension as police used tear gas to disperse the protesters.
While addressing the traders, the President-General of AMATAAS, Chief Okwudili Ezenwankwo, urged them to be calm, saying further consultation would be made by the association to get clear picture of the situation.
Also, the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Uche Eze, said there was no need to panic, nothing that the police were handling the situation.
Eze enjoined the people of the state to go about their businesses without fear of molestation.
A senior officer in the Nigerian Prisons Service in the state who spoke on the condition of anonymity to our correspondent, however, said they got a signal recently to prepare to receive some detainees of the violent sect.
But the Nigeria Prisons Service has said there is no plan to transfer Boko Haram suspects in custody to prisons in Anambra State as being speculated.
The NPS Public Relations Officer, Francis Enebore, said most of the terror suspects in prison custody are still awaiting trial and cannot be moved out of the jurisdiction of the court where they would be prosecuted.
He dismissed speculations that the prison authorities had formalised plans to transfer terror suspects from the northern states to Anambra State, saying there is nothing like that.
Enebore said, “Most of the terror suspects are awaiting trial and so, there is no way they can be moved to another state because they must be tried in the state where they committed the crime.
“Apart from this, our duty is to move them from prison to court for trial and since they have not been convicted, how can we transfer them to other states outside the jurisdiction of the court where they would be tried? People are just saying things they know nothing about, there is no truth to the rumours that we are transferring terror suspects to other states.”