- IPOB declared Monday sit-at-home order in July 2021
- Anambra, Enugu state governors declared an end to the compliance of the order, all to no avail
- S/E biz men, school managers revealed to our reporter how they cope with the situation
It is no longer news that Monday has literally become part of weekend for South East zone of Nigeria.
Since the declaration of sit-at-home order by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB in July 2021 and its barbaric and unlawful enforcement, Monday has become sacrosanct for any economic activity in the zone.
Efforts of state governments to stop the unlawful sit-at-home order
WITHIN NIGERIA gathered that when Prof. Charles Soludo assumed office as the governor of Anambra, he tried all he could to bring to an end.
Since the resumption of the trial of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, the group had called for a shutdown of businesses on Mondays.
But despite the rescinding of the decision by the separatist group, there has been fear of attacks on those who go to work, leading to the continued stay at home every Monday.
However, in a move to return Monday to a normal working day, Prof. Soludo through the Head of Service, Barr. Theodora Igwegbe ordered workers to always ensure they are at their duty posts on Mondays.
In a circular that was in March 2022 signed by Igwegbe, the Head of Service, Soludo warned that absence from work on Mondays will attract sanctions.
The memo partly read thus; “Following the need to reposition the service for better performance and productivity, His Excellency, the governor of Anambra State, Prof. Chukwuma Soludo has directed that henceforth, all public servants should report at their places of work every Monday like every other weekday.
“Consequently, absence from work on Monday, or any other workday without any approval will be viewed as serious misconduct, which will attract appropriate sanctions. This directive takes immediate effect.”
Also in Enugu state, on May 30, 2023, the newly sworn-in governor, Barr. Peter Mbah vowed to end the illegal sit-at-home order by IPOB.
At the meeting, which also had the Deputy Governor, Barr. Ifeanyi Ossai, in attendance, the governor reminded the people of Enugu that he had hit the ground running.
“There is no time to waste. The clock has started ticking on the mandate you gave me and deliverables I promised,” he reiterated.
“A time comes in the lives of a people when they must decide whether they genuinely want to move forward or remain stuck with the conditions of their underdevelopment.
“The creativity and sense of industry of Ndi Igbo are remarkable. Our DNA is wired with commercial and entrepreneurial prowess.
“If this is what we are known by, then it becomes inconsistent with reality that the spirit of entrepreneurship, commerce and creativity are killed every Monday in our land. Our restless spirit of industry abhors laxity and indolence.
“The idea behind sitting at home on Monday, the first working and business day of the week, is abominable and antithetical to greatness and the spirit of industry we profess to have inherited from our forebears. This cannot be us. Tufiakwa (God forbid). It does colossal damage to us”, he further added.
Mbah reminded the people of the direct connection between his lofty promises he made to them and the vibrancy of commerce in the state.
“For us to transit from a public service economy to a private sector-driven one, we must free our markets from the shackles of restriction to commerce. If indeed we aspire and anticipate an influx of private sector practitioners and investors in Enugu State, we must know that this will not happen where the perception of us is that of unproductive people.
“Therefore, those that strike on Mondays, putting restrictions in the way of our Igbo spirit of creativity, cannot be our true representatives. In fact, they kill our spirit.
“We know that our land is a fertile ground for commerce. However, businesses, entrepreneurship and commerce require a vibrant workforce and big markets where they can flourish and make money.
“To this end, therefore, from Monday June 5, 2023, there will be no observance of any sit-at-home in all nooks and crannies of Enugu State.
“Government will enforce this with all the powers at its disposal.
“My charge to all of you – market men and women, the corporate world, industries, schools, civil servants, and all strata of workers in Enugu State is for us to take back our sense of industry, pride of place and re-enact our glorious past.
“By heeding this call, you would have set us on the path of actualising our mandate”, he stated.
Mbah, however, said the release of Kanu was important to the healing of the country.
“I call on our newly sworn in president, President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to consciously work towards the release of MazI Nnamdi Kanu. We believe that his release will expedite the healing process Nigeria needs at this time.
“It will also be a pointer to his administration’s extension of brotherly hands of fellowship to Ndigbo”, he concluded.
Governor Mbah went a bit further by going shop to shop in Ogbete main market Enugu metropolis, enforcing end sit-at-home order.
Our findings also revealed all other South East state governors have adopted one form of harsh method or the other to end the sit-at-home order all to no fruitful result.
However, despite all the efforts by these state governors, Monday sit-at-home order has persisted.
Those who “flouted” the order have either lost their life or property through unprovoked attack by the group.
How South Easterners cope with the order
Since the sit-at-home has persisted for over two years despite the efforts of the state governors to restore normalcy in the South East, all economic, social and political activities have been literally grounded.
However, in the past six months, some of the residents in the zone have devised survival means especially on Mondays.
WITHIN NIGERIA findings revealed that many business outfits have recently decided to open their doors for business Mondays with some measure of restrain and brain.
For instance, in Enugu state, especially in Nsukka area, many filling stations open for business with one entrance opened as from 10am and shut down by 4pm.
A manager of one of the filling stations who spoke to our reporter under the condition of anonymity revealed that they wait till 10am to make sure that there is no security issue before opening for business.
“You know, every Monday is like a no-business day. But for the fact that we operate an essential business outfit, we cannot afford to remain shut down.
“However, on Mondays, we wait till 10am before we open. This is to know if there is any security issue in town. If we hear that any vehicle was attack, we may not open again for that Monday. But if there is no security issue, we can stay till 4pm.
” We close by 4pm to a avoid any security because you know, no bank opens for business on Monday.”
Asked how they secure their money on Mondays, since no bank opens on Mondays, the manager told WITHIN NIGERIA that that is a very big challenge to them but they have been able to surmount it.
However, in Ogbete main market, Enugu metropolis, one of the traders who gave his name as Joel Eze told our reporter that ” every Monday, we hang around the market to see if there is any customer coming to buy anything here. Sometimes, we get many customers, but most times, we don’t get.”
Narrating further, Mr. Eze, cell phone accessories dealer stated that ” I must confess, it is far better than staying idle at home. In fact, some times l make more than what I usually make other days. We have to survive and that’s why we device this means of survival. We don’t open shops but we sell our wares.”
In Ogige main market just like every other market in Enugu state, it opens on Mondays virtually no customer is seen on Mondays. Most of the traders hang around the market, waiting for prospective customers.
One of the traders, Marcel Okafor who spoke to WITHIN NIGERIA stated that ” we can’t afford to continue staying at home in the name of sit-at-home. We usually give out our phone numbers to our customers. If any of them or their friends needs to buy anything from us, they usually call us on phone and we will come to the shop to sell them.
“Apart from that, we usually come here by 10am on Mondays to look out for prospective customers.”
Mr. Okafor, a dealer in food items told our reporter that ” we can’t continue staying at home on Mondays. We have to survive.”
However, for the Enugu state civil servants who are mandated by the state governor to go to work every day including Mondays, it is indeed a different ball game.
Findings by WITHIN NIGERIA showed that many of them, especially teachers who teach in remote areas like Nrobo, Abbi, Opanda and Ukpata in Uzo-Uwani local government area usually write their attendance on Fridays and send same to their respective board in Enugu city on Mondays.
Despite the penalty of non-payment of their salary, none of them goes to work on Mondays, knowing full well that their superior can’t go on inspection on Mondays.
Many of them who live in Nsukka metropolis usually use the sit-at-home day like Monday to attend to their farms.
However, our further checks also showed that pupils, students usually get busy on Mondays either by attending church activities.
Many parents and guardians, our reports showed also enroll their children and wards respectively on private lessons to make up for the lost ground.
Nevertheless, it was also gathered many schools like those in Anambra state usually go to school on Saturdays to make up for the lost time.
Those in Enugu and Imo state also close for school at 3pm and 3:30pm as the case to make up for the huge lost.
Again, all the states cut down on duration of their holidays. For instance, the just concluded long vacation which was supposed to last for eight weeks was pruned down to six weeks.
By and large, many, especially government schools no longer have their usual mid-term breaks. They take the term at a stretch.
How ordinary citizens cope with sit-at-home order
As for the ordinary citizen of the South East zone, especially those in Ebonyi state, a hot bed for the IPOB activities, they usually buy their items especially food items on Saturdays or Sundays. Petroleum products like gasoline, cooking gas or premium motor spirit are also purchased either on Saturdays or Sundays.
WITHIN NIGERIA equally gathered that majority of the citizens do not come out until around 9am. Shop keepers usually come around 10am after checking for security situation.
Light at the end of tunnel
How long this ugly situation will continue is everybody’s guess.
However there seems to be light at the end of tunnel as the Supreme Court is said to be delivering judgment on the appeal seeking to compel the Federal Government to release the embattled leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, from detention on December 15.
Recall that the Court of Appeal in Abuja had in a judgment delivered on October 13, 2022, ordered Kanu’s release.
In a unanimous decision by a three-member panel, the appellate court also quashed a 15-count terrorism charge that FG entered against the detained IPOB leader, before the Federal High Court in Abuja.
However, dissatisfied with the judgment, FG took the matter before the Supreme Court.
At the proceedings on Thursday, a five-member panel of the apex court headed by Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, fixed the matter for judgment after the parties involved in the case adopted their final briefs.
While adopting his final brief, counsel for Kanu Mike Ozehkome, SAN, urged the court to order the immediate release of his client from detention and award a heavy punitive cost against the FG.
In his words, “We urge my lords to uphold our Cross-Appeal to do substantial justice to this matter and to the Respondent who has been in detention since June 29, 2021, even after the lower court ordered his release and that he should never be prosecuted again on the same counts.
“They are still holding him unconstitutionally. We pray my Lords to deliver justice and use this case, just like in Ojukwu vs. State, to demonstrate that no man or government should be above the law.”
However, in his submission, FG’s lawyer, Gazzali, SAN, urged the apex court to set aside the judgment of the Court of Appeal which ordered Kanu’s release.
He also prayed for the court to order the resumption of his trial before the Federal High Court in Abuja for terrorism-related charges.
How this will pan out will definitely be determined on December 15, 2023.