Saturday, 2nd December 2023

Time to end bloodletting in the South-east

By Editorial Board
10 August 2023   |   4:10 am
The letter written by detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, calling for the immediate discontinuation of the sit-at-home orders in the South-East region of the country may be a first crucial action towards restoring peace and tranquility..

[FILE] Officers of the Nigeria police force arrest people, during the trial of leader of the Proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu who is facing a 7-count amended charge on alleged treasonable felony and terrorism . (Photo by Kola Sulaimon / AFP)

The letter written by detained leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, calling for the immediate discontinuation of the sit-at-home orders in the South-East region of the country may be a first crucial action towards restoring peace and tranquility in that part of the country. Kanu’s message clearly is an indication that the embattled Biafran leader is no longer happy with the situation in his homeland, following months of unrest occasioned by the sit-at-home declaration by IPOB which has not only paralyzed the South-east region but also led to bloodshed in the area. It will be necessary, of course, for various stakeholders in the region to embark on further action to complement Kanu’s letter.  

In a handwritten letter dated July 24, 2023, Kanu, through his lawyer Aloy Ejimakor, directed Simon Ekpa, a self-acclaimed Biafran and Kanu’s disciple based in Finland, to cancel all pending sit-at-home orders and refrain from issuing fresh ones. Kanu’s directive was made public by his lawyer Ejimakor during a recent press conference in Enugu.

The IPOB leader stated, “Simon, this is a direct order from me. I hereby instruct you to desist from calling for any Sit-at-Home henceforth. Equally, refrain from antagonising governors or persons in political positions because you are not in a position to know what they are doing on my behalf. I am ordering you to make a public announcement to the effect that you are in receipt of a direct order from me to cancel any pending Sit-at-Home in place at the moment.”

It is heartwarming that Kanu has eventually come out openly to denounce the Finland-based Simon Ekpa and his criminal activities in the South-east. The way IPOB had carried on with their legitimate demand for independence of the Biafra Nation has always been a recipe for chaos, given that non-state actors with biased motives can latch onto the situation to pursue their own agenda. Besides, leadership of IPOB seemed to believe in violence as a means of achieving their goal, as epitomised in the setting up of the militant Eastern Security Network (ESN). There are indications that a combination of these facts, coupled with gradual loss of control of the IPOB machinery, led to the brigandage that has held sway in the south east in the name of sit-at-home orders. Sadly, the losers have been the innocent and law-abiding people of the states, who have been killed, maimed and often had their properties and businesses destroyed on the excuse that they disobeyed IPOB order to stay at home.
The Federal Government should key into the latest development to set the machinery in place for the possible extradition of Ekpa to Nigeria to answer charges of his being behind the killings and destruction in the south east. Similarly, government should adopt a political solution to the continued detention of Kanu, particularly in the light of his release ordered by the Court of Appeal. Keeping him interminably in detention without trial is a violation of his fundamental rights, and disrespectful of the court. The Federal Government must act now and stop Ekpa from further destabilising the South-east. 

Notably, the Senate has approved a prayer urging the Federal Government to collaborate with the Finnish Government to extradite and prosecute Ekpa. At the moment, the South East has turned into a hellish place to live due to activities of fully-armed criminal gangs. Fear, confusion, and uncertainty now rule the South-east. Despite the directives issued by both Enugu and Imo State governments urging shop owners and businessmen in the states to shun Ekpa’s sit-at-home orders, some shop owners and businessmen who opened their shops were killed or injured by criminal gangs supposedly enforcing Ekpa’s orders. Those who largely stayed away from their shops and business premises for fear of being attacked had their shops and business premises sealed by the governments.

Lately, at the popular Ogbete Market in Enugu State, some traders who took to the streets in peaceful protest against the sealing of their shops by the state government due to non-compliance with the ban on the sit-at-home order clashed with some security operatives, leaving one person dead and several others injured. Apart from the increasing bloodshed and significant economic losses in the South-east, the illegal sit-at-home orders have crippled cultural, religious, and social life in the region. The provision of essential services such as healthcare, emergency services, and transportation has been adversely affected, leading to potential life-threatening situations for those in need.

Clearly, the illegal sit-at-home orders and killings in the South-east must end. President Bola Tinubu should exercise his constitutional responsibility of protecting lives and property in Nigeria, including the South-East. Government and all stakeholders must team up and salvage the South-east from its current very bad situation. Beyond lamentation, the apex Pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Igbo politicians, and Igbo intelligentsia should be in the vanguard of rescuing the Igbo people from the ugly situation they are facing now. The South-east governors should come together and find a solution to the sit-at-home killings in the South-east, beyond merely dishing orders for people to disobey IPOB, orders that have not prevented the people from being killed by IPOB enforcers.  

The release of Kanu from illegal detention is important to ending the IPOB agitation in the South-east. Tinubu, having pledged to run an inclusive government of national reintegration, should work towards setting Kanu free in order to pave the way for the much-vaunted national re-integration. 

The Court of Appeal has ostensibly paved the way for the much-vaunted national reintegration and reconciliation. It unanimously held that the forcible abduction and wrongful rendition of Kanu from Kenya to Nigeria on the 27th of June 2021 is a violation of both state laws and international conventions.

Consequently, the Federal Government is barred from prosecuting or indicting Kanu in any court in Nigeria. However, the Federal Government has refused to obey the court order. Tinubu should reconcile Kanu and all his estranged followers and sympathizers onto the path to peaceful co-existence in Nigeria. Every citizen is constitutionally presumed innocent until proven guilty by a court of competent jurisdiction. 

Hopefully, Kanu and IPOB will learn crucial lessons of the danger of allowing hoodlums to hijack an otherwise noble cause. Once that happens, criminality prevails and a good cause is lost. All hands should be on deck to ensure that sit-at-home orders and killings in the South-East end so that peace may reign in that part of the country.

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