Enugu residents and the pains of sit-at-home order

Residents of Enugu state has sour stories to tell following the continued enforcement of the sit-at-home order in the state. CHUKS NWEZE reports.

Nobody likes to suffer, not even the martyrs enjoy suffering. This however is not the case of the people of Enugu state and by extension entire South-east geopolitical zone that have been suffering economic and social stagnation since August 9, 2021 when pro-Biafra group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) declared that every Monday, unless their leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is released unconditionally, the entire zone would be shut down. What it means is that every socio-economic activity like market, schools, offices, transportation would be shut down. This has been going on even when on September 19, IPOB leadership rescinded its decision.

It however turned out a huge surprise that the order has continued to be obeyed even as IPOB had categorically suspended the order which they believe was stifling the people who depend on their daily sales and services to live. 

By suspending the order, the pro-Biafra group only gave a caveat that the order would only be observed any day Kanu would appear in court, but a certain people who could best be described as unknown gunmen have been enforcing the order suspended by the very group that initiated it.Since it was suspended, every Monday, negative stories of attacks on individuals and businesses have been rife. This has left a sore taste in the mouth and many have been wondering who are the persons behind it.

In Nsukka axis of Enugu recently, a trailer load of motorcycle spare parts was set ablaze with the goods within.Not too long ago, a security man who works at the University of Nigeria Teaching Hospital (UNTH), Ituku Ozalla was gunned down on his way from work in the early hours of the morning and a vehicle that was used in distributing bread and a tricycle, popularly known as Keke, was set ablaze at Emene, near Enugu.

IPOB in continuous denial
To prove that IPOB does not have a hand in the enforcement of the order, its  spokesman, Emma Powerful  reiterated that they did not ask any of their members to enforce the order for them.

To prove that they are oblivious of the enforcement, he asked South-east governors to do something about the hoodlums, whom he described as criminals.  He said IPOB and the vigilante group, Eastern Security Network (ESN) on their part would do something to stop the enforcement, while lamenting that their name is being dragged in the mud whereas they are a peaceful organisation whose only preoccupation is the liberation of Biafra from Nigeria through a peaceful agitation.

The IPOB spokesman, in one his denials that IPOB is not fuelling the enforcement of the sit-at-home order had said, “We have severally explained that IPOB has not authorised anybody to enforce Monday sit-at-home order which has been suspended since September 19, 2021. Anybody unleashing sorrow on citizens under the guise of enforcing any order is a criminal and does not deserve pity.

“Despite the suspension of Monday sit-at-home order since September 19, 2021, some unscrupulous elements and criminals, conniving with security agencies and our enemies have continued to inflict pains on our people. Their aim is to blackmail IPOB but they would continue to fail.

“Now we want to inform our people to stand firm in the fight for their liberty. IPOB did not ask anybody to enforce sit-at-home of any kind, henceforth, ESN operatives would come from the bushes and forests and go after those criminals unleashing mayhem on innocent people and visitors to Biafra land in the name of enforcing nonsexist Monday sit-at-home order,” the IPOB spokesman had said in anger.

Even with the denial, the enforcement had continued.  On Monday January 10, 2022, a man was shot dead at Gariki Area of Awkunanaw in Enugu-south local government and a car set ablaze. The enforcers came on an ash colour Sienna bus with masked their faces while carrying out the criminality. No only that, they killed and set vehicles ablaze,  went into markets and streets where they shot into the air and forced traders, transporters and artisans to close shops or risk their lives. Even people in the rural areas were not spared as the enforcers would not allow them to go to their local markets on Mondays.

Because of the fear of what transpired the previous Monday January 17 2022, last week, Enugu witnessed a ghost town as nobody dared to come out for fear of what could befall them and thus, people began to die in silence.
The worst of it all is that on 17, 18 and 19th January respectively, Enugu was on lockdown because fear would not allow people to come out again based on the sad experience of the previous Monday. On Tuesday and Wednesday, Kanu appeared in court and in those three days, Enugu and the entire South-east lost a great deal.

A businessman, James Alozie who is tired of the whole development said, “I am thinking of how to relocate from South-east to elsewhere. I hear that traders in Onitsha are relocating to Asaba. People are losing millions of Naira since this sit-at-home began,” he lamented.

“I don’t know what to do but I must have to sit-at-home every Monday. I don’t want anything to happen to me. If it is easy for me to relocate my business and my family, I will do it. I am tired,” a patent medicine dealer also lamented.As individuals are lamenting, so are organisations over the unbearable order.

Corporate lamentations
A human rights organisation, Centre for Victims of Extra-judicial Killings and Torture, (CVEKT) has asked the South-east governors, as the chief security officers in the zone, to rise to the occasion and do something about the continued enforcement of the order especially since IPOB had suspended the order.

Piqued by this ungodly development, CVEKT director, Rev Fr Anthony Amarube in a statement said, “Whereas it is public knowledge that IPOB had long announced an end to the Monday sit-at-home practice in the South-east in view of its negative effects on the socio-economic well being of Igbos, it is in this light that CVEKT views the continued enforcement of the so called sit-at-home order by these hoodlums as a declaration of war against Igbos as well as an insult and affront on the collective interest of Ndigbo.

“CVEKT considers it both ironical and highly insidious that after Fulani herdsmen who have been terrorizing the people of the South-east and destroying farm crops and preventing our people from engaging in economic activities by way of farming had largely been forced out of our forests and farmlands, some Igbo young men have taken over from the herdsmen to wage economic war against their own people by preventing them from doing their legitimate businesses on Mondays. This open declaration of war by these hoodlums must not be allowed to stand.

“This is to say that the governors of the South-east, as the Chief Security Officers of their respective states must put their feet down and assert their constitutional powers and obligation to defend the lives and property of citizens and residents in the region.

“CVEKT rejects the notion or impression advanced in some quarters that the South-east governors have lost their powers and authority to IPOB. We would rather believe that they have been humane for too long to the point of risking the charge of abdicating their constitutional responsibilities, by continuing to treat these recalcitrant and pseudo IPOB irredentists with kid gloves even when they have turned to bare-faced terrorists.

“CVEKT is convinced that the time is overdue for the governors of the South-east to assert and invoke the powers conferred on them by the law to stop these hoodlums in their track with executive order by directing law enforcement agencies in their respective states to marshal every force allowed by law, including shoot at sight order, to deal decisively with these enemies of Ndigbo and clear criminals under a false cloak of Igbo patriotism.

“As the Igbo proverb says, ‘When an animal runs too fast, the hunter responds with equal alacrity’. A situation where over 100 billion naira is lost to the South-east economy every Monday and other days people are prevented from their business and where dozens are killed and cars burnt with reckless abandon in the name of enforcing sit-at-home has certainly assumed a state of emergency.

“This is why the South-east governors must act fast and now, or be seen to be incapable of the primary obligation of their offices, which is the protection of lives and property of their people. We are convinced that our governors are not incapable.”

Should something come out from the outcry, maybe in no distant time, Enugu and the entire South-east may enjoy socioeconomic life again unhindered.

In line with an Igbo adage that, ‘To give a monkey a cup is not a problem but how to collect the cup back is the problem’.  Now that IPOB has suspended the sit-at-home order, how will the enforcement of the order eventually stop ongoing criminality?  The order is like a mad man setting fire on a bush only to turn round to say that he only put fire somewhere but he is not aware about the raging fire.