Monday Sit-at-home: Onerous Task for Anambra Gov, Security Agencies

David-ChyddyEleke reports that while Anambra State Governor, Prof ChukwumaSoludo, has done well in the fight against insurgents, he still needs to address the Monday sit-at-home order by outlawed Independent People of Biafra, which still persists in the state.

Normalcy is gradually returning to Anambra State, with the degrading of insurgents by security forces, contrary to what the state used to be since the advent of insurgency. Anambra State governor, Prof ChukwumaSoludo, who will be two years in office on 17 March, has since he came into office had insecurity as one of his greatest challenges. The challenge precedes him in office as the activities of gunmen started during the second term of his predecessor, Chief Willie Obiano.

In the very peak of insurgency in Anambra State, no day passed without stories of attacks on public facilities by gunmen, killings, kidnappings and others, but after two years of concerted efforts, Soludo may have restored security in the state. But despite this feat, the sit-at-home protest usually carried out on Mondays have continued and almost become a norm.

The Monday sit-at-home was a civil disobedience introduced by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a way to protest the arrest and renditioning of its leader, MaziNnamdiKanu, from Kenya in 2020, for him to face trial, after he jumped bail in 2017 and left the country.

The exercise crippled the economy of the South East, with many well meaning people of the zone begging for an end to the exercise as it was rather doing the zone harm than good. This led the group to call off the exercise in 2021, but a splinter group of secessionists, led by Finland based separatist leader, Simon Ekpa, has insisted on enforcing the exercise.

Three years after IPOB called off the exercise, the entire South East zone has continued to remain a shadow of itself every Monday, as most parts of the zone, especially in the hinterlands fail to open for business. In Anambra, most schools, banks and other businesses still do not operate on Mondays, while markets that open as a result of government orders rarely have traders coming out to open their shops.

Security agencies in the state have, however, intensified efforts to secure residents on Monday, while also assuring them of safety.

On the part of the state governor, the state government has constantly made announcements in the state government owned radio station, Anambra State Broadcasting Service (ABS), begging people to open for business on Mondays.

Last Monday, the state Commissioner of Police, AderemiAdeoye, in a bid to boost the confidence of the people visited Onitsha to assess the security deployment and level of compliance by residents to open for business. He also interacted with shuttle drivers plying Upper Iweka Road to assess the return of commercial activities in the area.

The Police Commissioner who spoke with newsmen after the exercise revealed that Anambra State government has lifted curfew imposed on Nnewi, Onitsha, and Ogbaru. Governor Soludo had in the wake of regular attacks placed imposed curfew in some local government areas, restricting tricycles, shuttle buses and motorcycles from operating in the affected areas.

But Adeoye while revealing the lifting of curfew by the State Government urged them to be law-abiding, vigilant, and promptly report acts of crime to the nearest police station or call the Command’s Control room. “Doing this shows the act of patriotism to the nation and in return your safety is our responsibility,” Adeoye said.

Police is not the only security agency in the state working to restore normalcy  on Mondays. The Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC) in Anambra State recently deployed its personnel to protect residents and critical infrastructure on Mondays. The State Commandant, OlatundeMaku, stated that the deployment aimed to safeguard lives, property, and critical national assets across the state.

In the deployment, operatives were dispatched to banks, markets, parks and select schools.

Maku said, “It is to build confidence for a seamless return to business on Mondays across the state and reassure the public that NSCDC in synergy with other security agencies have occupied the public space to send strong signals to misguided elements that it would not be business as usual because the Command will deny them any opportunity to perpetuate crime in the state.

“We have reviewed the current security situation in the state, and reinforced our operations with a robust patrol system that can checkmate any amoebic modus non-state actors might use to oppress members of the public. We are determined to protect lives and property, maintain effective serenity, and suppress the antics of the underworld personalities. The deployment of personnel saw the area’s dominance of operatives at various critical national assets and banks across the state.”

Maku emphasized that the deployed officers would be civil, professional, and firm while adhering to established protocols. The NSCDC also encouraged the public to report suspicious individuals or activities. This collaboration, combined with sustained operations, aims to revive economic activity and deter potential misconduct.

“The confidence building attracted the opening of more banks from last week’s reportage of two banks to five banks this week, with full operations ongoing. The success of the operation is an indication that members of the public are tired of being forced to sit at home, we appeal to the people to assist the Command with vital information on the movement and activities of any suspicious person or group of persons who might pose danger to their security within their respective neighbourhood.

“We encourage the people to go about their respective legitimate business as the operation would be sustained to revive the crumbled economic activities in the state and keep the unwanted miscreants off the state,” Maku stated.

Last Monday, THISDAY took time to move around Awka, the Anambra State capital, and found that despite efforts by security agencies, frequent radio announcements by the Anambra State government, many business places still remain deserted. Though Eke Awka, the major market in the state capital was open, but only few traders open their shops, just as only few customers came to the market.

Though there were operations in various motor parks, their operation can be described as skeletal as travellers refused to turn out. An Eastern Mass Transit bus driver, who gave his name as Mr John Eze said: “I don’t blame passengers who do not come out to travel on Monday. Awka may be open for business, but there are other places you go to and you will know that the sit-at-home is still very effective. I’m loading to go to Nnewi now, once your vehicle drives past Awka, you will see that all the towns around before you get to Nnewi are all dead.”

Also, financial institutions have continually observed the sit at home order too. During the early days of the exercise, there have been attacks on banks in the state. Also, banks had at one time been threatened by separatist leader, Simon Ekpa to bring down Nigeria flags in their premises, so long as they are operating in Igboland. Many banks had obeyed the order out of fear, not wanting to be the next target of the insurgents.

A bank executive in Awka who refused to disclose his name or his bank told THISDAY: “Banks do not operate like traders in the market. That is why every time, there is a circular from state government for all banks to commence operation on Mondays, but at the end it is ignored. Traders in the market are the owners of their goods, they can decide to gamble. As for banks, the funds there belong to the public. If you lose it, what will you tell the people who banked with you?

“Another thing is that as far as the Head offices of banks have not directed the regional managers to instruct the branch managers to open their banks, there is nothing that can make banks heed those state government circulars to open their banks on Mondays.

“If you as a regional manager or bank manager dares to open your office on Monday and anything happens, you may be in trouble. So for now, we operate central command. If the head office asks us to open, we will obey them and know that whatever happens, was because we’re following their instructions,” the banker said.

There are, however, arguments about whether freeing the leader of IPOB, Kanu, who has been described as a prisoner of conscience can restore peace in the region. While some believe that his freedom can reposition things, many others think that with the impunity with which rival separatist, Ekpa has flouted Kanu’s orders, he may be building himself an empire, which may lead him to counter even Kanu, who is known as the Supreme Leader, even when he is released.

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