In August 2021, it was announced that the nationalist separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) had declared a mandatory sit at home order in South East Nigeria.
The sit at home order was introduced to put pressure on the Nigerian government to release the group’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu. When it was announced, it was meant to be every Monday. Everybody was to be home, shops closed, offices closed even schools, all closed. After a while, the order was reviewed. Now, in addition to Mondays, residents were to sit at home on whatever days Nnamdi Kanu was appearing in court.
According to research conducted by political risk analysis firm SBM Intelligence, on the first Monday the order was in place, two commercial buses were burnt, with casualties reported in Imo and Anambra State respectively. Also, the research revealed that the order has affected productivity in the region. When asked if the 9th of August sit-at-home protest was observed in their locality, about 82% of respondents claimed it was observed. Now, of that 82%, a majority 64.1% said that their productivity was “very affected”.
“It [sit-at-home-protest] is happening on Monday, which is the beginning of a work week,” Ikemesit Effiong, head of research at SBM Intelligence said.
A group known as the Igbo Business Forum have stated that the order is destroying the economy of the South East. In a report by Vanguard, the group’s spokesperson, Chief Ndubuisi Ehibundu lamented,
“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,”
Now to be fair, on August 14, IPOB’s spokesman, Emma Powerful announced that “following a direct order from Nnamdi Kanu”, the sit at home order had been suspended for Mondays but remained on days when Nnamdi Kanu was to appear in court. However, residents have still had to deal with violence from unknown persons claiming to be members of IPOB enforcing the sit at home order.
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Traders and commuters have been attacked, goods have been destroyed, structures have been brought down. All in the name of the order. On the 16th of May, 2022, members of the Anambra police force announced that they had shot down two gunmen who were enforcing the sit at home order.
The Nigerian government continue to blame IPOB for the attacks, however the separatist group continue to deny being involved.
The only thing that would probably be able to put an end to the uncomfortable happenings and the violence in the region would be the release of Nnamdi Kanu. However, nobody knows if, when or how soon that will become a reality. So South East Nigeria will continue to be under seige by these unknown elements? What is the way forward?