Residents of Ebonyi, Anambra, Imo, and Abia states have observed the sit-at-home for not less than 144 days from January till date, investigations by Sunday PUNCH have revealed. This was in spite of the directive by governors in the region that people should ignore the directive.
The sit-at-home was declared in the five south-eastern states by a splinter group of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, led by Simon Ekpa. While the Nnamdi Kanu-led IPOB has distanced itself from the sit-at-home, many people have continued to blame the separatist group for the directive, which has led to killings and destruction of property.
The sit-at-home was enforced in the region on Monday until the Ekpa group declared a one-week sit-at-home a couple of days ago.
Meanwhile, findings by our correspondents indicated that the sit-at-home had been observed for at least 31 days in Ebonyi State, 48 days in Anambra State, 28 days in Imo State and 37 days in Abia State.
The Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Ben Kalu, disclosed on Friday that within two years, the zone had lost about N4tn due to the sit-at-home.
Speaking at an event organised by the Ndigboamaka Progressive Markets Association in Lagos, Kalu, who didn’t disclose the source of the data, stated, “We cannot afford to retreat from our business endeavours. The stay-at-home order on Mondays has resulted in staggering losses of N4tn in the last two years in the south-east alone according to statistical data.”
In Ebonyi State, Governor Francis Nwifuru had denied reports that there was no sit-at-home in the state.
Speaking with journalists in Abuja on Tuesday after a meeting of the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Nwifuru stated, “I am surprised to hear sit-at-home from you because there is nothing like sit-at-home in Ebonyi. We never for one day observed sit-at-home and I know you are aware. Some people only wanted to know if they can start putting tension in people and we said no, they don’t have such powers, they can’t do that and it didn’t happen.”
In an interview with one of our correspondents on Friday, the Commissioner for Information, Jude Okpor, said the state would “never submit to the forces of dissidence and terror from an unlawful and proscribed organisation. The present enviable position of Ebonyi State as the most peaceful state in the South-East has come to stay.”
In Anambra State, it was revealed that apart from the weekly Monday sit-at-home, which the residents were forced to observe, the exercise declared by the Finland-based Ekpa recorded about 15 days, bringing the total number to 48 days in the state.
Despite the assurances and efforts of the state government and security agencies, the people, especially traders, had continued to observe the sit-at-home for fear of being attacked or their shops burnt.
Governor Charles Soludo had through his press secretary, Christian Aburime, urged residents to ignore the sit-at-home, adding, “Simon Ekpa is a fugitive and rabble-rouser who should be completely ignored by the citizens of Anambra State and by extension the South-East.
“Our markets, schools, businesses and other social activities will remain open. Anambra State will never be a breeding ground for anarchy, fear or lawlessness.”
Also, the state Commissioner of Police, Aderemi Adeoye, said, “The issue of sit-at-home is one that is complex because we cannot force people to come out because it would be an infringement on their fundamental human rights.
“All that we can do is to ensure the safety of lives and property and allow people to go about their lawful activities without any form of harassment or molestation.”
In Imo State, it was observed that while banks, schools, markets, offices and business centres do not open on Mondays, only government workers at the state level go to work on Mondays because of the penalty imposed by the state government on absentee workers.
Big markets like the new market at Douglas Road, wood markets at Umuonyeali and Naze, Alaba market located at Aba Road, Orlu Market and Orlu building materials market had announced that the markets be locked every Monday.
Apart from the security agents killed by gunmen, many others had also been killed in Amaraku, Anara, Okigwe, Onuimo, Orlu, Oguta, Mbaise, Mbano, Ohaji Egbema, Owerri, Oru, Ideato, Obowo, Ihitte Uboma, Ngor Okpala and others by people said to be enforcing the sit-at-home directive.
Also, security formations and other government institutions like courts, offices of the Independent National Electoral Commission and properties belonging to government officials were also attacked.
Commenting on the issue, the Special Adviser to Governor Hope Uzodimma on Public Communications, Collins Ughalaa, said the sit-at-home order was non-functional in the state as the state governor had used performance and good policies to fight insecurity in the state.
Also reacting, the President-General, Ohanaeze Youth Council, Igboayaka Igboayaka, said the sit-at-home order was crumbling the economy of the region, while calling on the Federal Government to obey court judgments ordering Kalu’s release.
In Abia State, one of our correspondents gathered that between January 2 and the time of filing this report on Friday, residents of the state had observed the directive for about 37 days.
Starting from January 2, 2023, there has been substantial compliance with the order due to the fear of attack by the enforcers. However, there was partial compliance in areas like Ohafia and Umuahia. In Aba, there has been total compliance given the enforcement by the Ekpa group. This sometimes led to clashes.
The exercise has affected businesses and residents, especially daily income earners.
The Abia State Government said it was prepared to face all forms of criminality in its domain. “It is the duty of security agencies to checkmate that and the state government is in partnership with them,” the Chief Press Secretary to Governor Alex Otti, Kazie Uko, said, while urging the people of the state to go about their business.
Though efforts to get the state Commissioner of Police, Kene Onwumelie, to comment were not successful, the state commander of the Nigtia Security and Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps, Paul Igwebuike, said they were ready to end the menace.
Igwebuike, who spoke through the command’s Public Relations Officer, Ndukwe Agu Egwu, said the command was aware of the threat and would not dismiss such.
“Patrol men have been doubled to curtail possible threat,” he said, adding that people seemed to comply due to psychological reasons.
The NSCDC boss said the command had been engaged in advocacy through the traditional rulers and town union executives, among others. He said miscreants could not chase away a whole community.