Journalism in the service of society

How sit-at-home order in the Southeast is negatively impacting businesses in Lagos

IT is almost two years now that the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) announced sit-at-home every Monday in the Southeastern part of the country. The declaration was made by the secessionist group as a way of putting pressure on the Federal Government to release its detained leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who has been standing trial for alleged terrorism at the Federal High Court, Abuja.

To many, the impact of the sit-at-home is felt by businesses and individuals only in the South East, but findings have proved otherwise. Lagos State is also bearing the brunt of the no-work order by the group. This is because from Mazamaza to Coker, Oshodi, Oyingbo, Ojota, to Yaba all in Lagos, the Sit-at-home in the south east every Monday is having ripple effects on commercial activities in Lagos, especially parks and garages where vehicles heading to the Southeast operate from.

It was observed that on Sunday night and Monday morning, the parks and garages in these locations in Lagos are practically empty, especially those whose main destination is the Southeast. The hustle and bustle that usually characterizes these locations on other days disappears on Sunday nights and Monday mornings.

The ripples of all these activities are many. It has become the norms in the last few months for passengers not to show up because no vehicle is heading to the Southeast. As a result of this lull in activities at the parks, all the petty traders and those who provide auxiliary services around the parks and garages often close shops too.

 It is common to see Point of Sales (POS) operators, phone accessories hawkers, water and soft drinks hawkers, food vendors and passengers’ canvassers among many others who provide support services in the different parks and garages. But on Sunday night and Monday morning, they are usually not available simply because there is no patronage.

A POS operator at Mazamaza park, John Chukwuemeka, said that initially when the sit-at-home in the Southeast started, he used to be at the park on Mondays but over time, he has been staying at home on Monday mornings because business is usually very dull.

“The park here is near empty on Monday morning. So, what is the need of coming when I can use the time to rest at home and regain some strength.”

Also, a food vendor at Alafia-Orile, Chidinma Okoye, said that she closes early on Sundays and only comes in Monday afternoon in preparation for sales at night. “This is against the norm and it is because commercial vehicles do no go to the Southeast on Sunday nights and Monday mornings due to the sit-at-home. So, there are no passengers to patronise me. I will be wasting my time and resources if I come out.” 

At Jibowu, Grace Ndubuisi, disclosed that business activities have dropped by over 60 per cent on Monday mornings since the sit-at-home in the Southeast started. “If not for commercial vehicles heading to other parts of the country, it would have been near zero for many of us trading here. If you come here on Sunday night and Monday morning, the huge activities you see here now is not replicated, but it was not so before the sit-at-home started.

“My prayer is that the sit-at-home should stop. So, I am pleading with the Federal Government and all those involved to please help to bring the sit-at-home in the South East to an end.”   

In the beginning

The IPOB as part of its move to entrench its hold on the Southeast and actualize its agenda of having a Biafra State set up its security arm, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), which it allegedly armed to provide security in the region.

The group had stated that the ESN was borne out of the refusal of the governors in the region to create a local security outfit that could check infiltrations, attacks and killings by marauding herdsmen.

Apparently viewing the action of the group as a direct attack, the Federal Government went to court to secure an order proclaiming the group as a “terrorist organisation”. As a result, the federal government asked IPOB members to drop their agitations or face the consequences.

 Things went awry when Kanu’s residence at Afara Ukwu, Umuahia, Abia State, was invaded by soldiers. Kanu escaped. However, the invading army officers damaged several of his property. He was nonetheless arrested months later in Kenya and extradited to Nigeria in 2021 to answer his alleged criminal deeds.

Just weeks after he was arrested and extradited to Nigeria, a statement was issued by the Media and Publicity Secretary of the IPOB, Emma Powerful, declared total shutdown in the Southeast every Monday as well as any other day Kanu would appear in court “until he is unconditionally released.”Some leaders of the Southeast, who felt that the order could have negative impact on the economy and the wellbeing of its people, had appealed for its review. In compliance, those who issued the directive promptly reviewed it, imploring the people to continue to carry on with their daily activities and businesses on Mondays but demanded that they must observe a sit-at-home any day Kanu would appear in court as a mark of solidarity.

But not all the members agree to the directive, as a result, it divided the group, with the splinter members of the IPOB led by Simeon Ekpa insisting that the Monday sit-at-home remains in force as long as Kanu is in detention. 

Ekpa had broken away from the Kanu group after he was allegedly relieved of his directorship role at Radio Biafra. His group has continued to issue contrary orders in the zone and declare sit-at-home at will in the region.  On each occasion, they threaten to deal with anyone found to violate the directive.

To enforce its seriousness about the directive, armed members of the group were mobilised to enforce it. Several innocent residents got punished for failing to comply as they were either felled by bullets fired by these men, tortured or had their property destroyed as the group sought to ensure total compliance with the directive.

With this, the group inflicted fear on the people, especially considering the casualties recorded in the early days, many out of fear of being victims do not dare to do business on Mondays, even though the Kanu group has continued to announce that the exercise has been cancelled. Thus, economic and social activities have remained low every Monday in the Southeast region and any other day splinter agitation groups declare as sit-at-home in the region.

As it is, there are weeks that schools, markets, banks and offices open for just twice or three times in the zone against what is obtainable in other parts of the country. The way the situation is, it may not be out of place to declare the zone as one with parallel governments and hapless residents appear to have accepted the situation as part of their sacrifice for the restoration of ‘Biafra Republic’.

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