People of South East Nigeria have, in the last few months, been suffering a deprivation of some of their human and socioeconomic rights granted them as free citizens of Nigeria. Some of them are the rights to the freedom of movement, the right to education, and the right to work and engage in trade and commerce among others.
This is as a result of the sit-at-home order routinely declared in the region by the members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on various days to protest the incarceration of its leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
IPOB has been seeking the excision of the Igbo in the South East from the Nigerian federation.
IPOB leader Kanu has been in detention since June this year when he was repatriated to Nigeria after he escaped from the country and thereby broke his bail conditions. He has since been returned to the courts for his ongoing trial on sedition and incitement charges among others.
It is to pressure government into releasing their leader that IPOB started declaring periodic stay-at-home directives in the entire South East, at the beginning, on the days Kanu is to appear in court, and subsequently every Monday, and whenever it feels like, like the one it declared on the day President Muhammadu Buhari visited Imo State.
Expectedly, the sit-at-home orders are largely complied with. On such days, almost all government, social and economic activities are abandoned, and the streets of the cities and towns are empty of human and vehicular traffic.
It is poignant to point out that the general compliance with such perceptibly illegal and indiscriminate directives stems not majorly from South East residents’ conviction in the cause IPOB is fighting for and/or its modus operandi; rather it is the fear of suffering violence from the separatist group’s apologists that forces most people to stay off the streets.
Reports and social media videos of violent attacks on ‘violators’ of the group’s wishes is enough threat to others about what may befall them if they refuse to comply. It is also probably that fear that made political and opinion leaders stay mum all this while the ordinary people suffered a continuous deprivation of their rights, until recently when both Ebonyi and Anambra State governors came out openly to campaign against the IPOB suppression of the people.
Sadly, the security agencies in the region are not of much help to the people in the region who may want to defy IPOB. Apart from their limited numbers in the country, especially as the country is fighting insecurity on every front, policemen in the South East are themselves endangered species after the relentless bloody attacks and havoc wreaked on their stations and staff across the South East in which many of them were killed and their offices razed by unknown gunmen.
This grounding of the South East people on certain days by IPOB is having a big toll on their economic and social wellbeing as, according Governor Dave Umahi of Ebonyi State, the region loses N10billion every day they are forced to stay at home. Students are also deprived education on such days. Recently, some students were violently chased out of a national examination hall. No group that means well for its people will jeopardise the present and future of their people in this way.
Recently, IPOB has itself declared an end to the weekly Monday ban on activities, yet it appears some ‘renegades’ within the group are bent on continuing to terrorise the people who wish to go on with their lives in peace.
As a newspaper we deplore the reign of terror being unleashed on the South East people by lawless individuals and miscreants who are hiding under IPOB cover to perpetrate wickedness on their brothers.
In the first place, IPOB has no right to place a restriction of movement on the region. It epitomises the failure of governance that such a rag tag group should hold the region to ransom. The most it should do is to tell its members to abstain from whatever catches its fancy without bothering the peaceful people of the South East most of whom do not subscribe to IPOB’s cause or its methods.
Hence, the state governments in the region must work assiduously with other political leaders in the region, security agencies and the traditional institutions to stop those who want to continue piling more misery on a people already feeling marginalised in their country with nonsensical sit-at-home orders. The South East people’s right to the freedom of movement must be restored, and fast.