The fear of being attacked or victimized by members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is forcing a lethargic compliance with its sit-at-home order in the South East states despite its negative effect on economies of states in the region and residents’ businesses, findings by our correspondents in the region have shown.
IPOB wants an independent Biafra and has been branded as a terrorist group by the federal government which has held their leader, Mr Nnamdi Kanu, in detention since June after his arrest in Kenya.
IPOB members and Kanu’s supporters have been ordering residents of the states to stay at home on Mondays as a sign of protest against Kanu’s detention.
But the order has been affecting economic and other activities.
Our correspondents observed that most residents comply with the order for fear of being attacked and not necessarily out of solidarity with the group or support for the agitation. IPOB has been fingered in many acts of terror and violence in the region, and those who fail to comply with the order have been attacked.
Ebonyi is reported to be the worst affected by the order, even as the effect is evident in Anambra, Imo and Enugu with minimal effect in Abia.
Reports quote SB Morgen, a Lagos-based research firm, as saying in a survey that over 83 per cent of interviewed respondents in Ebonyi State said they were economically affected by the order which has been frequently disrupting economic activities in the region on Mondays.
The impact is also severely felt in Enugu, Anambra and Imo states in that order. Abia has seen the least disruptions, residents said.
The firm said; “Of the five states in the South-east, the sit-at-home order was most effective in Ebonyi State with 98.07 per cent of the respondents affirming that it was observed.”
IPOB last week threatened to enforce a seven-day lockdown in the region from November 5 unless Kanu is released by the federal government on or before November 4. The governorship election in Anambra State holds on November 6. In view of the state’s importance in the region, the apex Igbo group, Ohanaeze N’digbo, has said that any harm done to the state would create disastrous reactions for the Igbo.
Why Residents Still Obey Order
Despite the harsh effect in Ebonyi, the state’s consultant on security, Chief Stanley Emegha, says residents of Abakaliki, the state capital and environs still obey the order only out of fear.
Chief Emegha, the immediate past commissioner for internal security and conflict resolution in the state, noted that to a large extent, the people no longer adhere to the Monday sit-at-home order as witnessed in other South East states.
He noted that some residents of the state had been attacked and killed by some hoodlums enforcing the order, adding that since the state government decided to clampdown down on the perpetrators, people now go about their normal businesses.
A senior security officer who does not want his name in print told Leadership Sunday that majority of businessmen and women in the state were tired of order, adding that apart from the attacks and molestations occasionally witnessed, the people would have been going about their normal businesses.
Some residents of Ebonyi, especially traders, tricycle operators, commercial motorcyclists and artisans are afraid of coming out.
“So, it’s not a question of compliance. It’s a question of fear,” he said.
A resident and businessman at the Abakaliki International Market also said no trader commercial motorcyclist or artisan in the state wants to miss a day of work.
“In Abakaliki, people like to work, they go to farm everyday, when you take a walk to opposite Abakaliki township stadium, you would see men and women in their numbers who come out to do their artisan work and denying them that means starving their families. Many of them earn their daily living.
“Why many people tends not to depend on the assurances of state government and security agencies are not far-fetched, the security personnel are overwhelmed and people can no longer count on their show of force and strategies.
“Security agencies in the state to a great extent have failed in the protection of lives and property of the people. That is the reason why it appears that some people still comply.
In Enugu, investigations carried out by LEADERSHIP Sunday also revealed that residents have continued to obey the order out of fear.
Most of the residents who spoke to our correspondent blamed the activities of IPOB on the South East governors, saying the governors had refused to secure the environment for them.
“My brother, forget all those governors, you are a journalist, how many security operatives do you see patrolling along the streets during sit at home, they are deceiving people. They are not ready to end it,” Ikechukwu Anikwe, a resident, said.
The spokesman of the Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps in the state, Denny Manuel Iwuchukwu, said people were afraid to come out because of the ongoing killings in the South East.
He said people are not happy with the order but were afraid to come out, adding that even security operatives are not spared in the killings.
A factional secretary general of Ohanaeze in the state, Okechukwu Isinguzoro, said the people had lost confidence in some governors of the region.
He noted that people were obeying the order because they were seeing the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, as someone who feels their plight while the governors do not.
He suggested that the governors must find a way to persuade President Muhammadu Buhari to declare bandits as terrorists, adding that it would help to restore the lost confidence.
A government official who did not want his name in print, said governors of the zone were only pretending and calling on people to ignore the order but had failed to provide logistics for security operatives to face the enforcers of the order.
According to the chief press secretary to the Abia State governor, Barrister Onyebuchi Ememanka, findings by the administration indicated that residents’ adherence to the order is borne more out of fear of the unknown.
He said even when some had chosen to defy the order, they either ended up having their movements restricted or business activities disturbed by hoodlums, who he said had been hiding under the cover of the order.
“However, following consistent announcements for the residents to ignore the order by the government, there has been a departure from what it used to be a couple of weeks ago. And there is hope for further improvement,” he said.
Meanwhile sources at the security agencies indicated that they have been relentless in their monitoring of both members of IPOB and the observation of the order, and other anti-social activities.
One of the sources at the state Police Command headquarters confirmed that there had been “a relaxing of the every Monday 6am to 6pm order.”
Further inquiries indicated that unlike the previous instances, last Monday’s observation of the order was partially complied with, especially in the urban areas where the residents were seen moving about their normal businesses.
In Imo State, findings revealed that people obey the order out of fear for their safety.
According to Mr Pius Ugochukwu, a resident, it is better to err on the path of caution than fall victim.
He said the beheading of people and razing of business ventures for defiance had sent panic into residents, adding that it was the singular reason he chose to respect it.
“No, I am not a coward but it is better to earn a query at work than lose a body part or your life. Come to think of it, what measures has the government put in place to protect the citizens?” Ugochukwu said.
A trader, Mrs Amarachi, said the order had made business dull because consumers go on panic buying on Saturday and Sunday.
She said; “Prices of foodstuff have skyrocketed and customers complain. Somehow they rush to buy things on Saturday and even Sunday, only a few dare on Monday,” Amarachi said.
Information commissioner in the state, Chief Declan Emelumba, in a chat with LEADERSHIP Sunday, said people do not obey the order but that those who do, chose to do so out of fear.
According to him, civil servants who fail to report for work on Mondays will be penalised but he didn’t admit if the procedure is in effect.
Spokesman of the Imo police command, CSP Michael Abattam, said the command had provided a robust policing mechanism in the metropolis and all nooks and crannies of the state.
According to him, the police have several plain-clothes men drafted to all parts of the state, especially hot spots, including special forces drafted to local government areas, including Operation Search and Flush.
He said the command always issues press statements to assure the public that they should come out on Mondays without fear, adding that the command had good information management and response time.
He said; “We have warned against enforcement of any illegality, people should resist it while we will ensure their safety. Imo command has good information management and response time. However, people must realise that we need to work together. They must support us to fight crime and criminality to make Imo safer for us all”, Abattam maintained.
The government submitted that they would not allow any group of persons, no matter how highly placed, to hold the citizens to ransom and restrict the movement of the populace.
This position was made known by the commissioner for information and strategy, Hon. Declan Emelumba, while interacting with LEADERSHIP Sunday.
According to him, the state government will not sit-down and fold its hands and allow a group of people take the citizenry for granted and issue illegal orders which are not in tandem with the law of the land.
Hon. Emelumba stressed that the state government had the capacity to quell any disturbance and illegal directives from any group.
He revealed that the citizens are not comfortable with the IPOB directive but seem to comply due to the fear of the unknown.
Uche Onwuchekwa, another resident, said it appeared citizens do not want to take anything for granted.
He said the obedience of the order was borne out of fear in the sense that IPOB allegedly strikes unexpectedly and nobody wants to be a victim.
He said notwithstanding the security measures put in place by the state government, the obedience is out of fear of the unknown.