The Human Cost Of IPOB’s Sit-At-Home Order In Southeast Nigeria

Several months into the Indigenous People of Biafra's Monday sit-at-home order in Nigeria's southeast, residents count the cost.

Chike (not real name) who resides in Bende, Abia State, narrates that he lost his mother in 2021, due to the sit-at-home order by the proscribed group Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB). 

His mother, who lived in Enugu State, was suffering from high blood pressure, and on that fateful day when she fell ill, she was all alone. 

“Unfortunately, when she called me on Friday and told me she wasn’t feeling well, that day was declared a sit-at-home. I tried calling her hospital to know if they could check on her and if emergency cases were treated differently. But I got no response. I called several times, but nobody answered, “ Chike said. 

He added that before the order, his brother usually went home for the weekend ahead of her regular check-up and medication.

“He couldn’t make it home that Friday because he was in Ebonyi State. But when he got to the house on Monday evening, he saw her lying on the floor. She still had a pulse by the time he got to her, so he performed CPR to resuscitate her, but nothing happened. She was rushed to the hospital, but on arrival she was pronounced dead.

“My mother battled for her life for four days. She suffered that pain for too long.” 

Chike concluded that “everyone is scared to speak against these atrocities openly.”

The sit-at-home order

For months, the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) declared a sit-at-home on Mondays in Southeast Nigeria. This was intended to persuade the federal government to release their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who is currently facing seven-count charges on treasonable felony.

However, despite an order by the proscribed group lifting the order, there seems to be no end to the lawlessness. Either the leadership of IPOB have lost control, or criminal groups have taken over. HumAngle has reported the grave consequences on residents who fear those who claim to advance their interests.

According to a resident of Enugu, name withheld, “the brutality of the ESN [Eastern Security Network] has exceeded that of the Nigerian police.”

Aside from the growing threats to security officials, there are reports where the armed groups carried out indiscriminate killings and destruction of properties of civilians they claim to be protecting against their perceived enemies, “the federal government and Hausa/Fulani.”

A 50/50 chance of survival

“You can’t predict what will happen, even if you want to go to the hospital. Are the doctors themselves present in the hospital? Everyone is not spared from this. Even when this started, a medical doctor was shot dead on his way to the hospital. The thing is just out of hand,” Daberechukwu Ajieh from Enugu told HumAngle.

Asked if emergency cases are treated differently, Ajieh said, “Even if there is an emergency, there is a 50/50 chance anyone won’t get killed before getting to the hospital. Different IPOB militants are doing their thing. Now they are in fragments. The only way you can get medical attention is if a medical practitioner stays close to your area.” 

In addition to what Ajieh said, Ikenna Omeje pointed out that “some of the enforcers of the order are overzealous, and some people could have fallen victim to their high-handedness.”

However, in some states, residents said few of the enforcers are less strict when it comes to emergency cases.

“It depends. While the sit-at-home is strictly observed in some places, it is relaxed in other places. A relative of one of my friends was rushed to the hospital Wednesday and nobody stopped them on their way,” Omeje said.

“There are also cases where the sit-at-home enforcers have stopped people, and after explaining why they had to move, the enforcers allowed them to go without harm.”

The police force are in hiding

HumAngle observed that the police and other security officials have abandoned their posts in many Local Government Areas (LGA) across the Southeast. They move to larger towns or the state capitals because armed groups have deliberately targeted them.

“Even the police are demanding help,” Ajieh said.

Since the sit-at-home order was declared, many attacks and reprisals have been made on the Nigerian Police Force and the army. Over the month, the separatist group has burnt and destroyed properties belonging to the security agencies. Many security personnel have also lost their lives to IPOB militants and other criminal groups. 

Ajieh added that with all the damages and deaths that the separatist group has caused, many security agencies have fled the Southeast. 

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