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By Vincent Ujumadu, Steve Oko, Peter Okutu, Chinonso Alozie

AFTER four months of the commencement of the weekly Monday sit-at-home ordered by the leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in sympathy with its detained leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, full commercial activities have finally returned in the South East.

However, the sour point remains that the zone still experiences occasional attacks on security operatives, which many people attribute to the action of some of the security personnel manning numerous checkpoints in various parts of the zone.

At some point during the weekly sit-at-home, there appeared to be a divided operational approach to the enforcement of the order, as a splinter group in IPOB started dishing out counter orders against the ones coming from the recognized leadership of the pro Biafra group.

While the sit-at-home lasted, groups that ensured that it succeeded included transporters who refused to bring out their vehicles, traders who, out of fear, refused to open the markets, banks which decided not to open for business and most importantly, security operatives who disappeared from the roads every Monday.

ABIA

 In Abia State, normalcy has fully returned in Umuahia, the state capital while Aba, the commercial nerve center of the state is picking up after witnessing the most -observed sit-at-home among the cities in the South East. Schools, markets and banks no longer shut down on Mondays, unlike before when such places were deserted in total compliance with the sit-at-home ordered by IPOB.

People now go about their normal businesses in and around Umuahia on Mondays without intimidation or harassment by any lockdown enforcers. The situation, however, differs in Aba as some parts of the commercial city are still deserted on Mondays for fear of the criminal elements who had hijacked the enforcement of the suspended sit-at-home.

While major markets including Ariaria International Market, Cemetery Market, Ekeoha Shopping Plaza remain open on Mondays, traders and customers on their own still stay away, obviously for fear of the unknown. The Coalition of South East Youths Leaders, COSEY, has however challenged IPOB to rise against those whose activities are denting the credibility of the movement.

National President of COSEYL Comrade Goodluck Ibem argued that IPOB stood in a better position to stop those hiding under its cloak to unleash mayhem on the hapless citizens. “IPOB should know how to deal with anyone moving against what it stands for. It was IPOB that called for sit-at-home in the first place, and now those elements trying to hijack the exercise, which has long been suspended should be called to order. IPOB should not allow criminals use its name to unleash mayhem on the people”.

The COSEYL president, however, blamed the persistence of the menace on what he called lack of coordination and synergy among South East governors who, he alleged, had placed their political and pecuniary interests above the interest of the region.

ENUGU

In Enugu state, normal life is gradually returning as some business outlets and civil servants have started going to work.

Last Monday morning, there was   remarkable improvement in commercial and social activities in the capital city. Schools opened for normal academic activities and markets opened too.

Tricycle operators who hitherto were reluctant to hit the streets commenced normal operation.

However, banks and   big transport companies that operate interstate were yet to open for business.

EBONYI

In Ebonyi State, the euphoria behind the sit at home order has completely vanished as residents have since relegated the order to the background. The usual beehive of activities has commenced every Monday in all parts of the state, with residents, commuters and workers going about their normal daily activities.

Even when the IPOB’s directive was prevalent, activities in Ebonyi were usually not completely grounded as economic activities normally start building up in the afternoons and later stretch into the evening period. As both human and vehicular activities resumed in full force in the state, there have not been any reported case of violence or attack associated with IPOB’s sit-at-home order in the state.

IMO

In Imo State, the sit-at-home order has ended in most parts, including Owerri, the state capital, although few people still observe it in parts of Orlu and Okigwe zones. However, some residents, traders, motorists, banks do not open on Mondays out of fear, with some of the people complaining that they were still experiencing some level of insecurity. Some of them claim that they hear of stories of alleged kidnappings and killings, which tended to create some tension, particularly anytime the so-called enforcers of the sit-at-home order stormed their streets.

“The unknown gunmen usually come out to shoot and fight with the security men and we hide in our houses to avoid being killed by stray bullets,” some residents in Orlu said.

Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State was worried that the Monday sit at home was hurting the economy of the people. At a meeting he held with traders at Ariaria International Market in Aba, the governor reminded them that they might not understand the negative impact of the sit -at -home in the immediate, adding that while the business activities in the South East zone were on the downward trend, those in other zones of the country were growing.

READ ALSO: IPOB: Allow Nnamdi Kanu change clothes, court orders DSS

“Our traders should try and understand the situation because we have been hurting ourselves by shutting our markets every Monday. How do we build our economy if we continue to shut our markets? Setting our brothers’ businesses on fire and causing loss of jobs and rise in crime cannot help us. The Igbo must not throw away their strength.

“Our opponents are happy that we sit at home and if it is easy for them, they could have created an alternative market where our traditional customers can go and buy from. Other people are happy that we close our schools every Monday, while their children go to school. Our people are marginalized, but if we start crisis in our land, we will be exposed to our enemies and create division among us”, the governor said.

ANAMBRA

But while normalcy appears to have returned in the South East, the reported attacks on the police still pose a problem. Early this week, the social media was awash with gory pictures of two policemen killed, beheaded and burnt by a group of hoodlums at Orsumoghu in Ihiala local government area. Although the Anambra State police command said it is on the trail of the killers, the fear is that innocent people often suffer the actions of these unidentified hoodlums who often claim to belong to IPOB, even when the leadership of IPOB had denied any involvement in such acts.

The Ihiala killing, as well as the clash between the soldiers and civilians at Awomama in Imo State which led to loss of lives and destruction of property worth millions of naira has attracted enormous condemnation from the people, with some of them urging the police to ensure that those behind the action were made to face the full weight of the law..

Mr. Fabian Ndife, a resident of Awka described the incident as man’s inhumanity to man, adding that those involved might have been under the influence of a hard drug.

“That video in the social media was something that should be condemned in its entirety. The worrisome part of it was that the miscreants relished in their dastardly act and eventually put it out for the whole world to see. This kind of thing has the tendency to cause disharmony in the country considering what the people were saying in the video”.

Another respondent, Mr. Chijioke Nnadi said the incident was capable of jeopardizing the lives of Igbo people residing outside the South East and urged the leadership of youth wing of Ohaneze Ndigbo to prevail on their fellow youths to stop these killings. He however argued that attacks on police would stop once extortion by the police at checkpoints stop.

He said: “For some time, passing through Ihiala in Anambra State  has become nightmarish because of what soldiers and police do at the many checkpoints in the town. Often times, the vehicular queue could stretch for about a kilometer and those manning the checkpoints appear to be deriving joy in seeing people suffer. In the heat of the unknown gunmen, commuters from Onitsha were usually forced to alight from their vehicles, frisked and made to trek past the checkpoint. The situation is usually chaotic.

“This year alone, no fewer than 50 lives have been lost at the Ihiala checkpoints and the disturbing aspect is that once it happens, the soldiers and the police run away, leaving the victims to their fate”.

The member representing Ihiala Federal Constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon Ifeanyi Momah had to bring the issue of the Ihiala checkpoint deaths on the floor of the national assembly after several people lost their lives there on Sunday. In an emotion –laden voice, Momah told his colleagues that the people of his constituency were experiencing hell at the checkpoints mounted by security operatives in the area. Chronicling what has been happening at the Ihiala checkpoints, Momah said: “On Saturday, 30th May, 2020, a police makeshift road block caused a fatal accident at Ihiala which led to the death of a trailer driver and his conductor and over 10 bus passengers.

“On Thursday, 4th November 2021, an accident involving three vehicles on the Ontsha –Owerri road at Ihiala claimed the lives of nine people, three children and six adults as the driver, sighting the road block, was unable to control the vehicle as he was descending the hill. On Saturday, 28th November, 2021, a trailer carrying a container load of goods ran over 20 road users who all died on the spot at the checkpoint”.

He called on the lawmakers to urge the IG of Police and Army authorities to, as a matter of urgency, remove the  checkpoint and the Army checkpoint in front of Abbot Boys Secondary School, Ihiala, to a suitable location that would be safer for motorists and road users to forestall future accidents.

Meanwhile, IPOB has dissociated itself from those masterminding various heinous crimes in the South East zone. IPOB Media and Publicity Secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful accused those opposed to the release of its leader as masterminds of the current insecurity to implicate IPOB and the Eastern Security Network, ESN..

He said that the nonviolent philosophy for Biafra restoration had not changed, insisting that those who unleash mayhem on innocent citizens in the name of enforcing non-existent sit-at-home are not its members, but criminal elements allegedly recruited by the enemies of the struggle.

He said: “The attention of the Indigenous People of Biafra has been drawn to the allegation by the Minister for Information, Lai Mohammed that we are responsible for the beheading of security agents in a viral video being circulated. We, therefore, wish to dissociate both IPOB and ESN from those criminal elements in the said video.

“We don’t know who they are, and they are not IPOB or ESN operatives. IPOB has remained a non-violent movement since inception.

“It is clear to all and sundry that IPOB and ESN do not engage in senseless killings going on in our land. ESN’s mandate is to resist terrorists and jihadists invading our ancestral land and destroying our crops and raping our sisters and mothers. IPOB members are not killers, but freedom fighters struggling for the peaceful restoration of the Independent state of Biafra.

“We are however not surprised at the desperation of our enemies to renew their carnage and atrocities in our land. Their intention has always been to create the wrong and negative impression that IPOB is responsible for the growing insecurity in Biafra land. They are looking for occasions to implicate us but they will continue to fail.

“We only pity the gullible minds that cannot see between the lines. We know the antics of our enemies. They are vexed with the recent move by some respected Igbo Elders and Bishops to secure the release of our leader. And one of their strategies perhaps, is to increase the wave of violence and barbaric acts, including gruesome killings across Biafran land to create the impression that his followers are violent. They want to justify his continued detention and make efforts to release him difficult if not impossible. But we understand their game plan.

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