From Ogbonnaya Ndukwe, Aba; Mokwugwo Solomon, Nnewi and Stanley Uzoaru, Owerri
There is growing concern in the South East following threats by the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) to lockdown the entire region with effect from Monday, August 9, 2021, if its detained leader, Nnamdi Kanu was not released unconditionally.
This is as fresh facts emerged yesterday regarding the nature of the impending lockdown.
IPOB has declared that it would be a complete shutdown, directing all markets, banks, schools, airports and other public places to close down from August 9.
The group’s media and publicity secretary, Emma Powerful in a statement on Friday, explained that the lockdown will be observed Monday of every week from 6am to 6pm.
He warned of great consequences of flouting the directive, saying any defaulter will have to pay a huge price.
Tagged: “Ghost Mondays”, Powerful noted that it was “designed to show the world how serious we are towards this fight for Biafra freedom and independence. Everybody must adhere to this clarion call put in place by the leadership of IPOB and it would be good for everyone to know that IPOB will not relent until Biafra is fully achieved.
“People are to remain indoors to register their concern over the fate of our leader and the rest of all agitators languishing in various security detentions.
“Nobody should attempt to flout this directive as doing so may come with huge consequences. Anybody flouting this order is taking a grave risk.”
However, mixed reactions have trailed the impending lockdown across the major commercial towns and cities of South East.
While many traders and businessmen in Aba, Abia State, decried frequent closure and disruption of businesses in the region, some others in Nnewi said they would always identify with the struggle for independent state of Biafra.
According to them, adhering to such lockdown will run down the economy of the South East geopolitical zone, which is grossly dependent on private sector investments.
They said the Igbo, including the IPOB, would rather vouch for a speedy trial of Kanu, by the court and his acquittal, instead of disrupting livelihood of people.
A textile dealer in Ekeohe Shopping Centre, Chief Cornelius Ezeokoli, said Ndigbo depend on private struggles for their families’ daily living, stressing that should they be stopped from doing business on Mondays, things would get out of hand.
“We are already saddled with sitting at home on May 30th, every year, adding another day especially Mondays, the first business day of every week will be very injurious to our families.
“IPOB should rethink, and do the right thing in the interest of the ‘war’ we are fighting,” Ezeokoli urged.
Another trader, Chief Ibe Chijioke, who spoke in the same vein, called on Ndigbo, not to do things that will create problems for the masses at the community level.
He said: “Our people rely on farming and petty trading, if they are ordered to sit at home every Monday, until further notice, who will feed their families?”
Chijioke said Ndigbo will continue to support the just cause being fought for by people like Kanu, but will resist attempts to strangulate and stifle their sources of livelihood.
Others who said they would ignore the sit-at-home order, should it take effect, included artisans, labourers and female petty traders in the various community markets.
But a market leader in Nnewi, Anambra State, Ichie David Udemesi, has called on the Muhammadu Buhari-led government to invite IPOB to a roundtable discussion with a view to minimizing economic waste. Udemesi, who is also a former chairman of importers association in Nnewi, said though Kanu might have committed crimes that led to his arrest, yet, government should, for the sake of peace, law and order, security of lives and property, and for the economic progress of the country, sheath its sword, and address the agitators’ demands.
“In the real sense of it, IPOB is capable of locking down the economic and social lives in the South East. They can do it every Monday, as they said.
“FG should not neglect IPOB members in this very issue. I am not in the position to direct FG on what to do or what not to do; but it is my candid counsel that FG should look into that demand. If government is truly there for the welfare of the people, this is the right time to prove it; because, South East will be losing over N2 billion every Monday, if FG refuses to release Kanu, and IPOB fulfills its threat,” he said.
Meanwhile, the separatist group said it has an intelligence report that Kanu was being tortured to death in detention. It further alleged that this was the reason the Department of State Service (DSS) has refused to grant Kanu medical attention and access to his family members.
“The DSS can go ahead and keep our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu incommunicado without access to him and we observed that DSS operatives are torturing our leader to the point of death. That was why they don’t allow anybody to see his state of health in the DSS facility.
“DSS should know that if anything untoward happens to him, we are going to confirm what IPOB is made of and they will understand that we are prepared for this freedom. Our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is not a criminal and has the rights to be visited in their custody,” Powerful stated.
The group has also called on all Igbo leaders as well those it claimed were responsible for Kanu’s detention to intervene or have themselves to blame.
He said: Nobody should take our quietness as cowardice. Our intelligence reveals that Nnamdi Kanu is under serious torture and humiliation because he refused all offer given to him,” Powerful claimed.