Sunday, 3rd December 2023

Halt South East’s slide into Anomie, residents charge Tinubu, Governors

By Lawrence Njoku (Enugu) and Osiberoha Osibe (Awka)
08 July 2023   |   4:35 am
As the one-week sit-at-home order by a faction of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) further haemorrhages the South East economy, and cripples private and public institutions, residents are calling on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu...

President Bola Ahmed Tinubu PHOTO: Twitter

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As the one-week sit-at-home order by a faction of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) further haemorrhages the South East economy, and cripples private and public institutions, residents are calling on President Bola Ahmed Tinubu and the five state governors to stop dilly-dallying and halt the drift into anomie.

The residents, who have virtually been indoors since Monday over the fear of being attacked by hoodlums enforcing the order, decried the unquantifiable loss of lives and property resulting from the exercise. They insist that it was high time the government initiated workable solutions to the abnormal situation.

The Simeon Ekpa-led breakaway faction of the Biafra agitators last week issued a one-week sit-at-home order. In a viral video that Finland-based Ekpa circulated, he said that the order, which started on Tuesday, July 4, was aimed at pressuring the Federal Government to release the leader of the IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, from detention. He warned sternly that his group would not take it kindly with anyone who tried to violate the order, which would elapse on Monday, July 10.

The order is aside from the weekly Monday sit-at-home, which has bogged down the region since August 2021.Last Wednesday, July 5, primary six pupils of one of the primary schools in Enugu West Senatorial District, Enugu State could not write their First School Leaving Certificate (FSLC) examination as a result of the order as the enforcers invaded their school and held them hostage.

Before then, the examination had suffered a series of postponements. It was originally planned for Wednesday, May 31, but could not hold because of the Biafra Day celebration. It also did not hold on Wednesday, June 28 it was moved because the Federal Government declared a public holiday to mark this year’s Sallah celebrations.

The pupils, who were rounded up in their school premises by hoodlums enforcing the sit-at-home order were severely assaulted alongside their teachers.
A viral video of the incident saw seen the armed hoodlums threatening not to be lenient with the pupils or their teachers any other time they contravene the sit-at-home order, while their teachers were made to pledge loyalty to directives of the group going forward.

A primary four pupil in one of the private schools in the state, Nnamdirim Nwankwo, told The Guardian that he kept away from school for fear of being killed by the IPOB sympathisers.

“I don’t want to go to a school where gunmen will come and kill me,” he said. Also, the hearing of petitions at the Enugu State Governorship Election Tribunal could not hold, yesterday, as members of the tribunal deserted the court apparently in obedience to the IPOB’s order.

Petitioners and their counsels who showed up at the court, in Enugu, in line with the adjourned date were shocked that entrances to the venue located inside the Enugu High Court premises were under lock and key. They milled around the premises for hours before dispersing.

After last Wednesday’s attacks by enforcers of the order that created panic in the state, the state government issued a statement asking residents to continue with their legitimate activities, assuring them of maximum protection.

The statement signed by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Chidiebere Onyia threatened that, “failure to comply with this directive will be deemed as willful undermining of government’s policy and efforts to restore full working days, productivity, and entrepreneurship in the state, and will as such be met with appropriate sanctions.”

Observations showed that the threat could not yield any positive result. In Anambra State, residents who defied the order scampered for safety as gunmen enforcing it went haywire, shooting sporadically into the air in many parts of the state.

The news of the shooting spree went viral and created tension as teachers and pupils/students ran helter-skelter to save their lives. The Guardian gathered that teachers in most schools put phone calls across to parents and guardians to rush to their respective schools to pick up their wards.

Customers inside bank halls along Zik Avenue, Awka, the state capital, were persuaded to end transactions and leave the bank premises as information of rampaging gunmen filtered in.

In markets in Awka, Nnewi, Onitsha, Abagana, and Nkpor, among others, some traders quickly closed shops and returned home while others stayed away from shops discussing the development.

Magistrate and customary courts near Awka South Local Council secretariat abruptly adjourned cases and closed session as news got to the area. It was, however, gathered that the convoy of a Deputy Commissioner of Police in the state almost ran into a gang operating in two Toyota Sienna vehicles. Upon attempting to go after them, they veered off into Nimo Road, off Abagana Road, and disappeared.

The newly posted Commissioner of Police, Aderemi Adeoye, who was due to report for duty, yesterday, failed to show up and the police ceremonial parade mounted to receive him was called off.

However, the Anambra State Police Command, yesterday, urged residents of the state to go about their lawful activities and not panic over rumours making the rounds concerning the sit-at-home order.

The Command’s spokesman, Tochukwu Ikenga, in a statement, said that the panic was created by some “mischief makers” sharing false security alerts/messages and doctored old videos to cause tension and panic in the state.

He said: “The Anambra State Police Command today 7/7/2023 has observed with great dismay, the mischievous act of persons sharing false security alerts/messages, and doctored old videos of security incidents to cause tension/panic in the state.

“Given the above, the Command shall invoke relevant cyber laws on persons found wanting in this regard.

“Meanwhile, the Command has noted that the confidence reposed on us by Ndi Anambra in the protection of lives and properties shall not be taken for granted.

“The police with other security forces have intensified patrols, improved security dominance and surveillance in the state.

“In the event of any request for security service, members of the public are advised to call the following phone numbers: the Command Control Room Number at 07039194332 or the Public Relations Officer PRO at 08039334002.

“The ‘npf rescue me app’ is also available for free download on both Android and Apple IOS, for Android and iPhone users respectively.”An entrepreneur, Ikechukwu Okam, who operates a popular eatery in Enugu State, told The Guardian that it was no longer a funny situation. He stated that the frequent sit-at-home has compounded the burden placed on his business by the economy.

His words: “I can tell you that this business has as many as 40 workers fully working. The monthly wage bill runs into millions of naira. We are supposed to open daily if we must meet our obligations. But it has been irregular because of several directives and activities of these agitators. It is affecting whatever we do here. As I speak to you, I am finding it difficult to meet salary obligations. It is either they work for three months and receive one month’s salary, or I will reduce the workforce to increase the volume of work for those who can be retained and perhaps, pay two or three weeks after the month,” he stated.

Okam stated that the six days his workers were supposed to work in the week has been reduced to four, adding that the forced one-week sit-at-home would also impact his business negatively.

He appealed to President Tinubu and the state governors to take pragmatic steps that would end the sit-at-home menace in the region. On his part, a civil rights activist, Jonathan Orji, urged the people to vehemently resist further sit-at-home directives, stating that it has brought pains rather than benefits.

He stated that the people who have continued to suffer from the needless order are the common persons, “the majority of who feed from hand to mouth and have always fallen to bullets fired by these hoodlums in their attempt to find what to do to feed their families.”

Orji added: “It is sad that those who call themselves freedom fighters are busy impoverishing the people they are meant to protect and making life miserable for them. Imagine the level of insecurity that we now experience in the entire South East from the activities of these people. I have a feeling that some people are really out to cripple the South East economy and that is why the sit-at-home thing is raging, otherwise, I do not see how people fighting for the liberation of their people could vent so much spleen on the same people.

“On Wednesday while residents were put on the run by the news of the attack of gunmen, I ran into a man whose shop was looted that morning after he had opened but could not close it to run away when he saw people running. This is a man with a family and that shop is their source of feeding. But hoodlums looted it. The way the man was crying and refusing to be consoled by sympathisers after the unfortunate incident will readily tell one that the looted shop has been his stay. This is the kind of pain and suffering we put our people into.

“I think our people are no longer comfortable with this development. The economic difficulty in the land is such that people care about how to feed their families. If you say you want Biafra independence and I say I don’t want it, it should not be used as a means to attack me and make life miserable for me.”

Orji said that the enforcers of the sit-at-home had before now set businesses on fire, destroyed properties, caused injuries, as well as, several deaths in the region, stressing that the idea needs to be discontinued “because we have not made any gain from it.”

When he assumed office in May this year, the Enugu State governor, Dr. Peter Mbah, had declared that effective Monday, June 5, there would no longer be sit-at-home in the state. He had called on civil servants, organised private sector, and road transport workers, among others, to return to normal Monday activities.

“Whether we succeed or fail in ending sit-at-home, we do that together as Enugu people. If we succeed, our collective success means we can rise together against intimidation. It is not anybody’s or the government’s success. We need to take collective responsibility for our decision,” he stated.