February 2, 2022

IPOB sit-at-home inflicting immeasurable hardship, pains on us — South-East residents

IPOB observes sit-at-home on May #0 to honour fallen heroes

•Igbo economy getting destroyed — Abia businessman

•We are dying of hunger — Anambra artisans

It has destroyed our family life — Awka residents

Our Govs have woefully failed us — Enugu residents

SE residents now relocating to other places

By Anayo Okoli, Vincent Ujumadu, Dennis Agbo, Chimaobi Nwaiwu, Ugochukwu Alaribe, Chinedu Adonu, Chinonso Alozie, Steve Oko & Emmanuel Iheaka

THE damaging effects of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB’s frequent sit-at-home order, both ‘legal’ and ‘illegal,’ are becoming worrisome. Every resident of the South-East region is feeling the negative impact; be it on the economy, social, education and other sectors, the effect is lamentable.

The pains are too much on the people of the region. More  disturbing is the fact that this hardship is being inflicted on the people by their brothers. IPOB that started this has announced the suspension of the weekly Monday sit-at-home, but it is still going on, with more destructions.

Many families have lost their dear ones to this irresponsible action. This is said to be encouraged by a factional IPOB. Even the mainstream IPOB is not helping matters as they continue to call for sit-at-home whenever their leader, Nnamdi Kanu’s court case comes up. It is in doubt if this action helps the case.

There is no doubt that a lot of Igbo people sympathize with the cause of IPOB and Kanu’s fate, but the destructive sit-at-home is fast prompting them to change their minds, which is becoming a big minus for them.

The situation has got so bad that a prominent Igbo leader and elder statesman, Chief Mbazulike Amechi, who has always stood by IPOB, cautioning that they should never get involved in any violent action, has expressed disappointment over  some of their activities and threatened to withdraw his support and efforts towards the release of Nnamdi Kanu. Besides him, other leaders and groups have also expressed disappointment over the sit-at-home and its negative effects on the general life of the South- East people.

The nonagenarian was said to have written to Ifeanyi Ejiofor, lawyer to the detained leader of the IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, complaining about the conduct of some IPOB leaders.  Amechi said it appeared that some persons were making money from Kanu’s plight.

Amechi expressed unhappiness that while he is leading a peace negotiation team for the release of Mazi Kanu and other Igbo issues,    the leaders of IPOB are making inciting utterances and issuing sit-at-home orders that are threatening the chances of Kanu’s release. He lamented that their sit-at-home order is ruining Igbo economy, and also sabotaging the effort to release Nnamdi Kanu. He charged them to stop such actions.

The foremost elder statesman sought Ejiofor’s intervention on  inimical actions of some IPOB leaders which he said was not encouraging healthy discussion and negotiation for the release of their leader. He threatened to back out of negotiation if they don’t stop such actions.

“I have personally contacted Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor, and expressed my concerns and sought for his intervention about the action of some IPOB leaders which is endangering the ongoing discussion and negotiation about the release of Nnamdi Kanu and the Igbo question.

READ ALSO: IPOB: Ohanaeze rejoices as Kanu urges supporters to embrace peace

“Their sit-at-home order is ruining Igbo economy and sabotaging the effort to release Nnamdi Kanu. They must stop their actions and utterances which make the release of their leader more difficult. If they don’t stop, I will withdraw my own effort,” Amechi said.

In line with Amechi’s peace move, many other Igbo leaders and stakeholders have called on the Federal Government to engage the group in a dialogue as a way to end the agitation and subsequent crisis.

Though the mainstream IPOB has called on the South-East governors to deal decisively with those still enforcing the Monday sit-at-home, the governors seem to have no idea on what to do.

As the sit-at-home continues as it has obviously gone out of the control of IPOB leadership, some businessmen in Onitsha alone, have put their loss at over N25 billion, apart from loss of lives, limbs and property. They lamented that their customers have been diverting businesses to Lagos for fear of being attacked by IPOB.

Also, a group, Igbo Business Forum, has urged IPOB not to use the Biafran struggle to destroy the economy of the South-East. According to their spokesman, Chief Ndubuisi Ehibundu, the group lamented the negative effect of the sit-at-home.

“How can someone decide to ruin the economy of his people because of a struggle? Come to think of it, they are not more Biafran than us! You tell people to sit at home when you have nothing to manage the effect of hunger in the land and for those of us in the business sector, we lose an average of N25 billion in Onitsha alone and I believe we also lose a lot in Aba, Nnewi and other cities. This is not good for our economy.

“My colleagues in other zones are celebrating what we are losing due to sit-at-home order as our customers have gone to them. What is happening in the South-East, if it continues, would spell doom for the zone. People who come to do business with us in the South-East have deserted us and moved to Lagos and abandoned Onitsha, Aba and Nnewi. We are losing a lot as a result of this sit-at-home. We believe that there are other ways to achieve this struggle besides closing down our shops, factories and offices to our own detriment,” he lamented.

Also, traders and artisans in Awka, the Anambra State capital are lamenting the hardship the sit-at-home is inflicting on them, crying that it is destroying the economy of the South-East in general. They lamented that since the sit-at-home began, their families have been dying of hunger as they no longer meet their needs.

Mrs. Ngozi Ude, a widow, who fries bean cake,  akara, in Awka, the business she has been doing over the years to take care of her family, has been killed by the sit-at-home. “In the last three days, everyone was forced inside the house without food, my family is seriously suffering; we cannot eat as we live on daily sales and income.”

Another trader, Chuks Obasi, a second-hand bags dealer cried out that    for most of them living on daily income, it has been very difficult to survive.

“Since Monday till today I have not been to my shop, since then, we have exhausted all the money and food in our house. This sit-at-home has destroyed our family life. It has also destroyed our economy and if it continues, people will suffer more”, he warned.

Lamenting also, a welder, Chidi Okoye, said he has a lot of work to do in his shop but couldn’t because of the sit-at-home order. He said the sit-at-home is not good for the state economy and if it continues it would totally destroy livelihoods in the South East.

“We must stop this madness that is destroying our economy. People are now going hungry because they can no longer meet their family needs as a result of sit-at-home. IPOB must look inward and stop it to ensure that it does not destroy the people and their economy”, Okoye said.

Also worried by the situation, the Anambra Elders’ Council, comprising eminent people and notable traditional rulers, met in Awka and urged the people of the South East to stop the unnecessary sit–at–home because it was killing the economy of South East. They specifically called on Governor Willie Obiano to liaise with other South East governors and traditional rulers to find immediate solution to the problem.

Former Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku, who is the chairman of the council and the Obi of Onitsha, Igwe Nnaemeka Achebe, who is the chairman of the state Council of Traditional Rulers, expressed concern that some non-state actors have been giving orders stopping people from working, including going to school and writing critical examinations. 

Ironically, prominent Igbo leaders shy away from discussing the effects of the sit-at-home and what should be done to end it but some of the people directly hit by the order say life has become more difficult since the order came into effect.

A commercial driver whose vehicle has a franchise with Eastern Mass Transit, Mr. Obinna Odinukwe said the situation had become unbearable, adding that even when he is willing to operate on Mondays and other days declared as sit-at-home, threats by those who enforce the order scare him and his colleagues who are also ready to do their work.

A trader at Eke Awka, Mr. Tochukwu Obi said the development has forced him to be taking some of his articles of trade home on Saturdays to enable him use his house to do business on Mondays. He, however, argued that it would never be like trading in the market and urged government and security agencies to end the sit-at-home in the interest of the generality of the people.

A frustrated indigene of the region was said to have fled the zone and bid them farewell for life. Narrating the plight of the man, a former commissioner in Enugu State said: “The fifth person I know closely fled the East last night, never to return again, house now for sale. Lost child due to unavailability of medical care during sit-at-home; lost a younger sister last year due to same problem; lost younger brother in one conflict in Orlu; elder brother lost car to enforcers in Onitsha just before the governorship elections. 

“Where has he relocated to? Lokoja; because he said he cannot afford Abuja. What about your name? Won’t you suffer pogrom soon? He shot back: ‘To hell with that, I will change it.’ Please, can these enforcers understand that there are rules of engagement in international and national conflicts? Health institutions, the sick, children, women, the aged, civil environments, etc, are exempted in conflicts.” 

“Otherwise, I am constrained to believe that every armed robber is now a freedom fighter in Igbo land. I am aware that estranged coordinators are now on the loose and are not yielding a quarter.  Governments and security agencies do not care. Trouble looms,” he cried out.

IPOB has, however, called on  South-East governors and members of the public to solve the monster they created, urging them to deal decisively with criminals still enforcing Monday weekly sit-at-home.

Their spokesman, Emma Powerful, described those still enforcing Monday sit-at-home as criminals and urged the South-East governors to deal with them as criminals.

“We have  explained several times that IPOB has not authorised anybody to enforce Monday sit-at-home, which has been suspended since August 19, 2021. Anybody unleashing terror on innocent citizens under the guise of enforcing sit-at-home order is a criminal and does not deserve pity.

“Despite the suspension of Monday sit-at-home since 19th  of August 2021, some unscrupulous elements and criminals conniving with security agencies and our enemies, have continued to inflict pain on our people. Their aim is to blackmail IPOB, but they will 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 will come from the bushes and forests and go after these criminals unleashing mayhem on innocent people and visitors to Biafra land in the name of enforcing non-existent Monday sit-at-home order.

“We therefore, urge  Enugu State Governor, Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi, to deal decisively with any hoodlum using Monday sit-at-home to torture innocent citizens/residents of the state. IPOB was not formed to terrorise people. We remain peaceful and focused on the pursuit of Biafra freedom and independence. Governor Ugwuanyi and other governors in the region must provide security for our people on Mondays because ESN is now ready to confront these criminals.

“No genuine member of IPOB or ESN operative is involved in any enforcement of Monday sit-at-home order. Anybody doing so is working against Biafra restoration and for criminal group.

“We equally call on our people and members of the public to skin alive, any idiot caught inflicting sorrow on the people in the name of enforcing non-existent Monday sit-at-home order. Such evil soul and messenger of death doesn’t deserve to live.

“Those shooting sporadically in the market are criminals and bandits using the name of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu and ESN to humiliate our people and demonize the movement. Their aim is to give the Federal Government an excuse to hold our leader perpetually in detention,” Emma Powerful said in a statement.

A group, Centre for Victims of Extrajudicial Killing and Torture, CVEKT, AFRICA, has also vehemently condemned the senseless and criminal forceful disruption of social and economic activities in the region by some hoodlums masquerading as members of IPOB enforcing sit-at-home order and called on the governors in the zone to act and stop them from destroying the region.

In a statement signed by the Executive Director of CVEKT, Rev. Fr. Tony Amarube, the group expressed worry that “after Fulani herdsmen who have been terrorizing the people of the South-East and destroying farms 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 Fulani to wage economic war against their own people by preventing them from doing their legitimate business on Mondays.

This open declaration of war by these hoodlums must not be allowed to stand.”

They called on the governors of the South-East, as the chief security officers of their respective states to put their feet down and assert their constitutional power 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 power and authority to IPOB. We would rather believe that South-East governors have been humane for too long, to the point of abdicating their constitutional responsibilities.

“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 constitution 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,” the statement said.

Igbo elite body, Alaigbo Development Foundation, ADF, has however, promised that it is seeking solution to the crisis. According to the spokesman of Ala-Igbo Development Foundation, Hon. Abia Onyike, the group plans a meeting of Igbo leaders to proffer solution to it.

Onyike stressed the urgent need to resolve the negative and destructive impact of the sit-at-home order on the residents of the South-East zone.

“The impact of the sit-at-home has been very negative and destructive on the economy of the South-East region and beyond. We in ADF are concerned about it and we are of the view that everything humanly possible should be done to stop it. 

“We understand that IPOB has called for stoppage of the Monday weekly order but the situation has not changed. The sit-at-home appears to have acquired a life of its own amongst the Igbo masses. We need a solution to the problem.

“The South-East governors are not expected to do much in this regard because of their crude approach to issues of this nature. To invite them to proffer a solution to this problem will create new problems which should be avoided.

“ADF will soon convene a meeting of all pro-Igbo and pro-Biafran organisations to discuss the problem and find a solution to it,” Onyike said.

For the Secretary-General of Igbo Leaders of Thought, ILT, Prof. Elochukwu Amucheazi, the way to end the protracted sit-at-home protest was for the federal and state governments to negotiate with the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.

“Why are we anxious to get it stopped? If it is affecting everybody in the country, the message of the sit-at-home is to arouse the people, show anger and call on the Federal Government  to be more realistic in dealing with the situation.

“Beyond Ndigbo who are affected, are there others also suffering? There is anxiety on the land and that is why Ndigbo are asking whoever started this thing to unilaterally withdraw. I think that it calls for some discussions. Let the authorities begin meaningful discussion with these young chaps and it could be stopped. That is the way I look at it.”

A prominent Igbo leader who doubles as the National President of Nigeria Association of Traditional Prime Ministers, High Chief Uche Akwukwuegbu called on the fFederal Government  to heed the clamour for dialogue with the IPOB, to save the South-East economy. Akwukwuegbu, who is the Traditional Prime Minister of Ibeku Ancient Kingdom, said that urgent steps need to be taken to positively engage the youths and address their grievances and expressed worry that the sit-at-home issue is getting out of control.

He lamented that the economy of the South-East had suffered serious ruin as a result of the incessant sit-at-home protests which according to him, has gone beyond the control of governors in the zone.

Chief Akwukwuegbu said that “from the look of things, only the Federal Government can solve the debacle” by embracing dialogue with the pro-Biafra group. He appealed to the Federal Government to reconsider its refusal to apply political solution in resolving the issue of the arrested IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.

According to him, if releasing Kanu would restore peace and stability to the South-East, the Federal Government  should not consider it too difficult in national interest.

“We are tired of all this. Only the Federal Government can solve the problem because the governors are helpless. If releasing Kanu is what will restore peace to South-East, the Federal Government should not consider it too big to do for the sake of peace,” he pleaded.

For Chief Emmanuel Ugwuany, the release of IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is a major factor in addressing the problem.

“In fairness to the situation in the South-East, the sit-at-home is getting out of hand. Our people are suffering. The hardship inflicted on them by the crisis is harrowing.

“Aggregation of factors and policies of the Nigerian government had worsened the situation. However, there is always a way out of every situation. The ugly situation of sit-at-home will end the day Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is out of the prison or DSS custody. It will end completely the day Igbo are given their merited positions. It will take time but the end will come,” Ugwuanyi said.

The Prelate, Christ Victorious Alive Revival Mission, Owerri, Bishop Uzoma Emmanuel also believes that the release of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu will end the issue of sit-at-home and douse the tension in Igbo land.

According to Uzoma, those who have continued to enforce the Monday sit-at-home are angry that Kanu is still in detention. He, however, admonished that violence should not be unleashed on the same people the struggle is meant to protect, for not sitting at home on Mondays.

“I want to appeal to those engaging in killings across South-East to refrain from that. They should not allow themselves to be used by anybody. The best is still non-violent approach, so that we don’t regret the actions we are taking in future.

“I believe those who are still insisting on Monday sit-at-home are doing so out of anger that Nnamdi Kanu is still being held in detention. But violence should not be unleashed on the same people they seek to protect for not sitting at home; that does not do us any good.

The Federal Government should release Kanu as Igbo leaders have appealed.