Enugu State, Nigeria – The Enugu State Government has taken decisive action against businesses observed to be in compliance with an “illegal sit-at-home order” issued by a faction of the outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). On Monday, the Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority, led by the Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Chidiebere Onyia, sealed two commercial banks and 107 shops across the state.
The sit-at-home order, which has been enforced by IPOB factions in Enugu and other Southeast states, has been a contentious issue. While the governor of Enugu State, Governor Mbah, had previously banned the Monday sit-at-home, the civil action persisted, affecting the spirit of entrepreneurship and commerce in the region.
The recent action by the Enugu State Government aims to demonstrate the seriousness of the government in enforcing the ban on the illegal order and to encourage residents to go about their normal activities. The sealing of the businesses was not intended as a punitive measure but rather to promote an ownership culture and discourage intimidation from any group.
Mr. Onyia, the SSG, expressed the government’s commitment to promoting economic growth while also fighting against those attempting to disrupt peace and normalcy in the state. He mentioned that many traders had shown up in some markets, but some shops remained closed, leading to their sealing by the authorities.
“It is not a punitive but ownership culture, where all of us (should) come together to fight the menace of illegal sit-at-home,” he said.
“We are taking it up not because Mbah is in the business of stopping economic growth but to fight those that think they can intimidate us.
“We have been to ShopRite, Celebrity- a shopping mall – SPAR (a supermarket), and others. We saw shops that were not open, and we sealed them,” Mr Onyia stated.
Governor Mbah had previously issued warnings to public servants, political officeholders, schools, and markets that continued to observe the sit-at-home order, threatening sanctions and closures. Despite these warnings, the civil action persisted, resulting in the recent sealing of shops and banks.
He added: “So if you failed to obey our rules and directives (of opening on Mondays), we can revoke them or withdraw your approvals and give them to people eager to do business in the state.
“Those whose shops are sealed, we will tell them the penalty, but the governor was magnanimous by saying that the exercise was not punitive,” he said.
The IPOB, a separatist group, has been agitating for an independent state of Biafra, seeking to carve out territories from the Southeast and parts of South-south Nigeria. The group’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu, has been detained and is facing a terrorism trial. Although the IPOB faction led by Mr. Kanu suspended the sit-at-home order, another faction led by Simon Ekpa has continued to enforce civil action in the region.
The situation has led to incidents of violence, with gunmen attacking residents who defy the sit-at-home order and venture out on Mondays and other days in violation of the order.
The Enugu State Government’s move to seal shops and banks sends a clear message that it will not tolerate the disruption of economic activities and is determined to ensure peace and stability in the state. However, it also highlights the ongoing challenges in addressing the divisive issue of the sit-at-home order and the quest for an independent Biafran state.