As tensions rise in Nigeria’s South East region, the two-week sit-at-home order scheduled to commence on Monday, July 31st, has become a subject of controversy.
Last week, compliance with the order led to tragic consequences as protests erupted in Enugu, resulting in the loss of at least two lives.
The situation has been further compounded by a purported handwritten letter from incarcerated Biafran leader Nnamdi Kanu, instructing Finland-based separatist agitator Simon Ekpa to end the “infamous and reckless sit-at-home” order imposed on the region.
During plenary on Thursday, the Senate vehemently condemned the sit-at-home civil disobedience actions in the South East that have disrupted and destroyed economic activities and stepped down the call to consider a prayer for the release of Kanu on bail, as a way of curbing the situation in the region.
Addressing a motion titled: “Condemning the Disruptive Nature of ‘Sit-At-Home’ Demonstrations in the South East-Nigeria” sponsored by Senator Osita Izunaso Bonaventure (Imo West) and co-sponsored by 14 other senators from the South East, the Senate President Godswill Akpabio said “If Governors in South-East obey Sit-At-Home, it means the real Gov of South-East is Ekpa”.
The Senate further urged the Federal Government to collaborate with the Finnish government to extradite Ekpa for prosecution.
TheNewsGuru.com (TNG) reports that the quest for Biafra’s independence has been a long-standing struggle in Nigeria, marked by periods of unrest and tension.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist group, has been at the forefront of this movement, advocating for the secession of the southeastern region from Nigeria to form an independent Biafran state. Kanu had played a key role in galvanizing support for the cause both within the country and in the diaspora.
The sit-at-home order started as a civil disobedience movement by pro-Biafra groups, calling on residents to remain at home on Mondays as a form of protest after Kanu was arrested by the Department of State Security (DSS) in June 2021.
However, over time, it evolved and gained traction, garnering widespread compliance from the people in the region, impacting business activities and resulting in deadly clashes and face-offs with security operatives.
In response to the two-week sit-at-home call, some transport companies have indicated that they may not release their buses to ply that route.
Ekpa, the self-acclaimed Prime Minister of the the Biafran Republic Government in Exile (BRGIE), insists that the sit-at-home order has a five-point agenda – to pressure the Nigerian government for the immediate and unconditional release of Kanu, prepare for Biafra’s self-referendum and assert the determination of Biafrans to take control of their own future.
It also seeks to “invalidate the legitimacy of those who claim to represent Nigeria within the Biafran territory and demonstrate that the BRGIE is in charge and enjoys 99 per cent loyalty from the Biafran people,” Ekpa said.
“The sit-at-home will be executed in a phased manner, starting with a total lockdown in Biafraland from Monday, July 31 to Friday, August 4, 2023.
“During this period, all Biafran markets will remain closed. However, the sit-at-home will be temporarily suspended on Saturday, August 5, and Sunday, August 6, allowing for a two-day break where markets will reopen.
“The second phase of the sit-at-home will resume from Monday, August 7, to Friday, August 11, 2023, with another total lockdown in Biafraland. Once again, the sit-at-home will be interrupted for two days, Saturday, August 12, and Sunday, August 13, when all Biafran markets will reopen,” he added.
The Biafra agitators have called on all oil companies operating in the South East region to shut down their oil exploration activities on the designated dates.
However, IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, issued a statement on Saturday, confirmed the authenticity of Kanu’s handwritten note to Ekpa calling for an end to the enforcement of the sit-at-home order and disassociating Kanu and IPOB from the “senseless” imposition.
The statement also accuses certain elements within the movement of blackmailing IPOB and Kanu through the violent enforcement of the sit-at-home order.
“When our leader called for complete peace in Biafraland and to protect our people instead of killing them in one of his court appearances, he was referring to the infiltrators to stop their infamous enforcement of sit-at-home orders and enforcement.
“Every Biafran must stop observing any sit-at-home order from the infiltrators. The reckless enforcement and abuse of sit-at-homes is an opportunity for criminals to kidnap, murder, maim, and snatch cars from innocent citizens,” IPOB’s spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, Ekpa remains resolute in his commitment to the two-week sit-at-home order, which he says is “non-negotiable”.
“I will not listen to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, from DSS, from Hospital or from Nigeria. I will not talk to him on phone, on video call, on television call or internet call. I want to talk with him one on one in Finland.
“I am here to Liberate Biafra and I don’t expect political criminals to be part of the liberation. From this day 29.7.2023, I cut off all communication with anyone in Nigeria side including lawyers to Mazi Nnamdi Kanu.
“The only communication will be when Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is released from dungeon. We are not stepping back an inch until Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is freed,” Ekpa said.
The two-week sit-at-home order has heightened tensions in the southeast region and calls for dialogue and a peaceful resolution have grown stronger.