‘Enough is Enough’, Enugu residents protest against sit-at-home

‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH’ was the message written in bold letters on a banner displayed by hundreds of Enugu residents who staged a protest against the sit-at-home orders in the South-East on Monday, July 24.

The protesters, mostly youths and middle-aged persons gathered at Okpara Square, close to the government house, from where they marched around the Enugu metropolis.

As the protesters marched through major streets in the Coal City, they chanted solidarity songs, expressing their frustrations over the weekly Monday sit-at-home orders, which had taken a huge toll on personal and business activities in the South-East region.

Enugu residents protest against sit-at-home, say Enough is Enough Photos/video by Ihuoma Chiedozie, The ICIR
Enugu residents protest against sit-at-home, say Enough is Enough
Photos/video by Ihuoma Chiedozie, The ICIR

The weekly Monday sit-at-home was initially ordered by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), starting to demand the release of the leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who has been held in the custody of the Department of State Services since his forced repatriation from Kenya in 2021.

Initially a peaceful exercise, the sit-at-home eventually became a bloody affair after hoodlums, referred to as ‘unknown gunmen’, started enforcing the order.

Nigerian security agencies insist those enforcing the sit-at-home are members of IPOB’s militant arm, the Eastern Security Network (ESN). But IPOB has continued to distance itself from the violence that surrounds the sit-at-home orders.

IPOB, through its spokesman, Emma Powerful, in January 2022, announced that it has suspended the sit-at-home exercise. The group declared that those enforcing the order are criminals and should be treated as such by security agencies and the government. But a faction of the pro-Biafra group, known as IPOB Autopilots’, led by Finland-based agitator Simon Ekpa, has continued to enforce the order.

Residents of the South-East, and visitors, who decide to flout the order by stepping out for business, work or personal issues on Mondays risk losing lives and property. Several lives have been lost, and property destroyed at the hands of the unknown gunmen who insist on enforcing the sit-at-home.

After ordering and enforcing a one-week sit-at-home, from July 3 to July 10, the Ekpa-led IPOB faction has ordered a two-week sit-at-home, to commence on July 31.

Checks by The ICIR indicate the two-week sit-at-home order was received with fury and a sense of alarm by most residents of the South-East, who are fed up with the affair.

The protest by Enugu residents on Monday was in line with concerted efforts to thwart the two-week sit-at-home.

The protest is backed by Enugu state governor Peter Mbah, who has moved to end the sit-at-home exercise since he assumed office on May 29. The governor recently said Enugu loses N10 billion every Monday to sit-at-home.

Mbah had directed that government workers who fail to report to work on Mondays, or any other day declared as sit-at-home, risk losing their jobs. Traders also risk losing shops in public markets if they don’t open for business, according to the directive issued by the governor. The directive was also extended to private schools and major shopping malls – failure to open on days the IPOB-faction ordered sit-at-home could lead to withdrawal of licence and shutdown.

As the protesters marched along major streets on Monday, one of the leaders, who was holding a public address system, declared that Enugu residents are fed up with the sit-at-home orders.

Enugu residents protest against sit-at-home, say Enough is Enough Photos/video by Ihuoma Chiedozie, The ICIR
Enugu residents protest against sit-at-home, say Enough is Enough
Photos/video by Ihuoma Chiedozie, The ICIR

“We want to let the whole world know that we are tired of the sit-at-home. We don’t want to sit at home anymore. We want to do business. We want to make money, we want to go to school, we want to go to work. Enugu residents want to go about their normal businesses without any molestation,” the man said in a loud voice.

A resident, who introduced himself as Ikem Nwobodo, told The ICIR correspondent that the two-week sit-at-home must not be allowed to succeed. “It will be suicidal for people to be forced to stay at home for two weeks with the economic situation in the country today. It must be resisted. Enough is enough!”

Another protester, Stanley Okeke, said it is time for residents of the South-East to resist those enforcing the sit-at-home.

“This nonsense (sit-at-home) has crippled the economy of the South-East. We (people of the South-East) are known for business. We are known to be enterprising and industrious. We can’t continue to sit-at-home. It is fear that has sustained this situation, but we are now ready to fight back,” he said.

The ICIR correspondent, who moved around Enugu metropolis on Monday, observed that major shops and malls opened for business. But there were few customers during the morning hours. Transporters, including commercial buses and tricycles (Keke), were also moving on the roads, although passengers were few. Private cars were also on the road. Residents who wished to go anywhere were able to get to the destination.

Heavily armed police operatives moved around the Enugu metropolis in patrol vans. Armoured vehicles were also seen on Enugu streets.

Some residents, who were not among the protesters, came out on the road to hail the group. Others joined in the protest. The number of protesters swelled as they moved around the city.

Sit-at-home takes huge toll on South-East

A woman, Chioma Anaele, who spoke to The ICIR, explained that the sit-at-home has taken a huge toll on residents.

“Parents will pay school fees but kids will not be able to go to school because of sit-at-home. Is that not madness? Things are hard, but we can’t do business because of fear of attacks by hoodlums. It (sit-at-home) has turned everything upside down. Many cities and towns in the South-East are now shadows of what they used to be,” the woman said.

She added that the sit-at-home has disrupted school schedules, making things more difficult for parents and guardians.

Enugu residents protest against sit-at-home, say Enough is Enough Photos/video by Ihuoma Chiedozie, The ICIR
Enugu residents protest against sit-at-home, say Enough is Enough Photos/video by Ihuoma Chiedozie, The ICIR

“Now, because Mondays are lost due to sit-at-home, children go to school and come back by 5:00 pm from Tuesdays to Fridays instead of the usual 1:30 pm or 2:00 pm. Teachers and school administrators no longer have enough time to meet up with lessons. Everybody is struggling to meet up with limited time. It is not easy.”

A report published by The ICIR in January noted that micro businesses in the South-East states lost an average of N4.618 trillion ($10.495 billion) in one year to the sit-at-home order.

By the investigation, the total estimated revenues of micro-businesses in the five South-East states – Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo and Abia – were summed up and multiplied by 52 to arrive at the total sum of N4.618 trillion.






     

     

    The 52 weeks represented the number of the sit-at-home Mondays in a year.

    The investigation relied on figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s data agency, and the Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) 2021 survey reports.

    Another report, funded by The ICIR and published by Dataphyte, noted that micro businesses in the South-East wasted 71 Mondays between August 9, 2021 and December 19, 2022, losing N5.375 trillion ($12.215 billion) in the process.

    In the same vein, a report by The Guardian newspaper noted that in sit-at-homes observed every Monday, from August 9, 2021, the South-East has incurred an estimated loss of N7.6 trillion in productivity, potential investments as well as loss of lives and properties.

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