At last, the governors and leaders in the South East region recently resolved to take necessary steps to end the weekly ‘sit-at-home’ order of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as well as attacks by gunmen in the region. The decision was taken at a recent meeting of the leaders in Enugu.
In a communiqué issued after the meeting, the chairman of the South East Governors Forum and Ebonyi State governor, Dave Umahi, stated that governors and people of the South East will do everything within the law to ensure that the sit-at-home directive is ended and people are allowed to move about freely. The leaders also condemned the spate of killings in the region and agreed to join hands with security agencies to stop the trend.
To ensure adequate security in the zone, the governors gave assurance that the regional security outfit, ‘EbubeAgu,’ would be launched and laws passed in all the states to that effect before the end of 2021. We commend the governors and leaders of the region for rising up to the challenge of insecurity in the area. Though belated, their intervention should go a long way in finding lasting solution to the creeping anarchy in the beleaguered zone.
The first sit-at-home exercise was carried out on May 30, 2014 in remembrance of Biafran soldiers and indigenes of the zone who lost their lives in the 1966 crisis and during the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War. It recorded substantial compliance by the people who saw it as a way of hounouring their fallen heroes. The directive became an annual event subsequently, and was largely observed in orderly manner. Things started going awry following the re-arrest and repatriation of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
The present controversial weekly Monday sit-at-home directive was issued by the IPOB on August 9 to prevail on the Federal Government to release Kanu, who is currently in detention. The order had recorded almost total compliance in the five South East states, with the closure of markets, schools, banks and motor parks. Even after the IPOB high command had relaxed the weekly Monday directive, renegades in the group and some undesirable elements have disregarded the instruction and ruthlessly enforced it. Some fifth columnists have also exploited the order to cause mayhem and violence. Some secondary school children were recently prevented from sitting for the WASC examinations by those enforcing the sit-at-home order. Similarly, some vehicles were vandalised and some set ablaze by the overzealous enforcers.
Since the commencement of the exercise, the South East economy has been under huge stress. Not less than N19 billion is lost weekly each time the order is enforced. Other states in the zone suffer similar losses.The impacts are mostly felt on factory shutdowns, non-movement of labour and capital, low productivity and high cost of living.
Apart from the economic losses arising from the sit-at-home orders, attacks on residents and security personnel in the region have taken unprecedented dimensions with the recent killings of notable indigenes of Anambra State. The seeming lawlessness in the zone gives the impression that the South East leaders are not on top of the situation. However, now that they have woken up to the realities of the day and have taken the decision to end the emerging climate of anarchy, they should be commended. The situation in the zone is slipping out of control, if nothing is done now to arrest it. It is sad that the governors wasted much time before acting. Tackling the insecurity and bloodbath in the region must go beyond the meeting and its resolutions to stop the crisis. The South East leaders must seriously engage the youths and halt the rising unemployment in the region.
Having decided to act, the governors should match their words with action. They need a regional approach to resolve the security challenge in the zone. It is not enough to ask the people to come out and go about their normal businesses when their safety cannot be guaranteed. This is time for the governors to activate and formalise Ebube Agu, the regional security outfit.
Above all, let the governors ensure good governance in the region.