In Onitsha, the commercial hub of Anambra State, Southeast Nigeria, the work week starts on Tuesday. It is the same in other cities and states across the region.
Back in Aug. 2021, the proscribed separatist group, the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), released a statement declaring Mondays a sit-at-home day to prevail on the Nigerian government to release Nnamdi Kanu, the group’s leader who was arrested and charged to court on charges bordering on terrorism.
“Consequently, all institutions including public and private, transport companies, schools, banks, markets, airports and seaports in Biafra land must shut down every Monday,” the statement read in part.
Everything did shut down on Mondays, just as they ordered: Banks, Schools, and even the Onitsha main market famed for being the largest market in Western Africa.
Ideally, an order given by a proscribed separatist group such as IPOB would not be taken seriously but what followed the declaration was strict enforcement measures with buses set ablaze, people killed, and violent crimes committed against the people.
Nobody wanted to die so they stayed home on Mondays.
However, IPOB announced the lifting of restrictions on Nov. 4, 2021, a few days before the Anambra State governorship election. But residents, traumatised from the terror visited on them, continue to comply.
No more sit-at-home but we sit at home
“We the global movement and family of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), wish to reiterate once again that IPOB has cancelled the Monday sit-at-home order and anybody or group enforcing the relaxed order is neither from IPOB nor from IPOB volunteer groups.
“We, therefore, warn these agents of darkness using the name of IPOB to enforce a non-existent sit-at-home to desist because if we lay hold of them they will eternally regret their evil actions,” IPOB’s sit-at-home suspension statement read in part.
But the people had witnessed so much violence from IPOB that the group’s statement did nothing to allay their fears. They remained home on Mondays and have continued to do so, three months after IPOB cancelled the Monday sit-at-home order.
“Even though they said they have cancelled it, there have been many cases where people will go about their daily business and get harassed by people who say that they are enforcing the lockdown. People’s cars were burnt at Owerri road.
“If you try going out, you are on your own because you don’t know where a group of touts will come out to harass you,” Clement Ugwu from Anambra State told HumAngle.
Asked if he would reconsider going out on Mondays if the Anambra State government deployed adequate police personnel to the roads, Ugwu said “I might go out or I might not because the presence of the police on roads might cause more chaos because they might start fighting with touts.”
Others stressed that they need a different type of assurance before they can feel safe outside on Mondays.
“Safety is not assured on Mondays. A whole main market does not open on Mondays, so how dare I go out on Mondays? I can only leave my house by 5-6 p.m., that is when you see people move around,” Ijeoma Nwankwo, also from Anambra State, said.
“Last year after the sit-at-home was cancelled, some innocent people were arrested by armed men. I don’t know if the armed men were police or army, but they accused the arrested people of being IPOB members and took them to Awkuzu [a town in Oyi LGA, Anambra State famed for housing the dreaded ‘Awkuzu SARS’ allegedly responsible for the death of about 35 persons]. I heard they were later bailed with N200,000. That same period, people were injured around 3-3 [a federal housing estate in Nkwelle, Anambra State] and I heard that they flogged some people at Main Market when they went to the market.”
Although there is no estimate on the losses incurred by the total shutdown of the state on Mondays, people complain of huge losses.
“Just like today (Monday, Jan.17), I was supposed to have not less than four sure clients who were supposed to patronise me but it is only one that showed up,” Ikechukwu, who owns a photo studio, told HumAngle.
All the residents of Anambra state who spoke to HumAngle expressed their frustrations with the sit-at-home Mondays but could not be impressed upon to go out.
In Owerri, Imo State capital and Abia State, residents refused to speak to HumAngle for fear of being killed by IPOB.
What next for the Southeast?
When Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB leader, appeared in court today, markets, schools, and banks in southeastern Nigeria were on total lockdown as ordered by the separatist group.
The government of the five Southeastern states seem to have no power over the influence wielded by the group as tertiary institutions in the region have equally been shut down in compliance with the order given by IPOB.
On Monday, Jan. 17, the eve of Kanu’s trial, the federal government added a fresh charge against the separatist leader, a move which his lawyer Aloy Ejimakor has frowned against.
“The latest amendment coming so late on the eve of the trial smacks of dilatory tactics. Better yet, it is an exercise in futility, because it cannot overcome the vested jurisdictional defects springing from the extraordinary rendition of Nnamdi Kanu. Ultimately, the charges won’t stick,” Ejimakor said.
Ijeoma Nwafor in Onitsha, Anambra State does not believe in Kanu’s mission but she believes that Mondays in the Southeast can be a normal day again if he is released from custody. But with the addition of a new charge against the separatist leader and adjournment of the case, this remains to be seen.
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