The Mondays sit-at- home imposed by Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB),f or about one year now, residents in the South East zone of the country have been replaced by Saturday.
It was being enforced by IPOB and residents have been bearing the brunt of the imposition.
The sit-at-home imposition was brought about to protest the arrest and detention of its leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu by the Federal Government of Nigerian.
The IPOB leader, Kanu has been standing trial before the Federal High Court, Abuja, for alleged treasonable felony. At the inception of the sit-at-home, on August 20, 2021, the leadership of IPOB disclosed that the Monday weekly observation would continue until Kanu was released from detention.
As if the people’s agony and pain over the Monday sit-at-home declaration was not enough, IPOB later declared that the action would also include days Kanu would appear in court.
It therefore goes to say that in the South East, on Mondays since August 20, 2021 till date, virtually markets, schools, transportation, banks, in fact, all economic, social and political activities are usually shutdown.
Even government offices are forced not to be functional because the workers are afraid of being attacked. Those who muster the courage to go to work do not eventually get commercial vehicles to transport them to their various offices.
- Within the first three months of the Monday sit-at-home directive, criminals moved in and took control of the entire situation. They not only harassed innocent commuters, who go about their lawful businesses, in some extreme cases, they attacked, in most cases, murdered such harmless fellows.
“What I witnessed on the first Monday sit-at-home was unimaginable. There is a woman I normally convey from her house at Avutu to this bus terminal along Owerri – Mbaise – Umuahia Road. I had dropped her and was going back home before I encountered an unidentified group very close to the Obowo Local Government Area headquarters.
“The group was stopping all vehicles and passersby. In fact, I can tell you that, at least two people would have died as a result of horrible torture by the group. After that incident I have never ventured to come out on Mondays again.
“Many people do not also come out on Mondays because of fear”, a cyclist who identified himself as Chijioke, narrated.
In the atmosphere of despair in the region, Prof. Charles Soludo, the Anambra governor, went into his crystal ball and came out with a master strategy. He reasoned that Saturdays should now be converted into Mondays. His idea on this proved to be superlative and excellent.
Though he did not make it public, he preferred it to completely wasting the entire Monday.
“The fact remains that Governor Soludo’s idea which converted Saturdays into Mondays has restored Anambra’s economy and social activities. This has proved to be a master stroke as not many people care much again about Mondays. The gain is that there are no more killings by enforcers of the order on Mondays”, Okonkwo Ezeani, a businessman at Onitsha Main Market, stated.
Soludo had initially lamented that Anambra lost about N19.6 billion to the sit-at-home on Mondays. According to him, “Every day there is a sit-at-home, the masses lost an estimated N19.6 billion in Anambra alone.
“Due to the protracted breakdown of law and order, businesses are relocating outside Igboland, with growing unemployment, and traders who used to come to shop in Onitsha, Aba etc, going elsewhere. Who is losing”?
He added; “By forcing our children—the future of Igboland, instead of being in school, while even the critically sick people (including pregnant women) cannot go to the hospital, we harm our future”.
On April 4, 2022, Soludo held a meeting with the stakeholders and announced that sit-at-home had been cancelled.
“Following the unanimous agreement of our leaders across board and the entire body of Christ, I am pleased to inform our people that Monday, April 4, 2022, marks the official end to the ‘Monday in Anambra State.”
Despite the governor’s announcement, markets, shops, banks, schools and filling stations remained closed for business the following Monday. Then came the policy of Saturday as work day.
Since the conversion of Saturday worked in Anambra State, it therefore became a model for other states. Although, like in Anmabra, not officially pronounced, Enugu people have equally readjusted their life styles. Rather than going out on Mondays and face death, business owners, banks and schools now work on Saturdays.
It is equally the case of moving businesses from Mondays to Saturdays in Ebonyi State. “It has not been easy. You cannot do anything here on Mondays because of the directive. What many people do here is to now transact on Saturdays. I mean schools and banks.
“But, we, at the Catholic Church, what we do is to tell the people to monitor their respective areas. Observe the security situation, if it is okay, fine – you move. If not, stay where you are. You see, life first. But we cannot bend as if we are obeying a certain set who we do not know its face and address”, a priest in Abakaliki said.
In Imo State, Mondays are still being observed as a sit-at-home, though there are pockets of business activities that go on within the Owerri metropolis. Yet, it is easily noticeable that all the boisterous activities ever noticed at Wetheral, Douglass, Okigwe, Mbaise roads as well as New Owerri are all missing.
What businessmen and women in Owerri are doing is to allow their workers to observe Mondays as their off duty days while reporting either Saturdays or Sundays as their normal work days.
There are many private schools in Imo State that are operating in full capacity on Saturdays while playing down on normal activities on Mondays. In fact, Owerri is known for its hotel and other hospitality business. The mangers have of these outfits are in agreements with most of the workers to take Mondays as non work days while reporting on Saturdays as off duty days.
“It is said in Igbo that when the drummers change the beatings of the drum, good dancers always change their dancing styles. This is what we do here in Imo. Because of insecurity occasioned by the IPOB imposed sit-at-home on Mondays, we have decided to convert Saturdays into Mondays in order to meet our financial obligations, economically”, Bonny Uka, a manger at one of the popular joints in Owerri said.
For fear of being attacked, Ndigbo in South East decided to respect the directive as issued by IPOB. Yet, there are many others, who genuinely identified with the IPOB order. This set of people are convinced that Kanu is in detention for fighting and standing up for Ndigbo and so he must not be abandoned or allowed to rot in detention.
“You see, Kanu was the only voice shouting against marginalization. He was the only one telling us what the Nigerian elite was doing that never benefitted us as Ndigbo. We see him as our father and leader.
“Therefore, IPOB did the actual thing by requesting Ndigbo to honour and respect Kanu by identifying with him on all Mondays until he is released from detention. I do not think this is out of place. It is not a big sacrifice,” Nnanna Uba, a resident of Egbu, Owerri North, Imo State, enthused.
The directive and its observance has brought the region’s economy to its knees. Some people are crying about the deplorable situation, some others are applauding it.
“I can tell you that the sit-at-home on Mondays have dealt devastating blow to South East’s businesses and economies. Imagine after the lull of Sundays, you again observe Mondays as compulsory public holidays. It is killing. It is an economic disorder and we all should condemn it”, Ibe Odu, a shop owner at the popular Relief Market, Egbu, Owerri, lamented.
An opinion poll conducted by Business Hallmark revealed that the order made the already defeated gunmen otherwise christened Unknown gunmen to resurface and become stronger as they engage in killing spree. It was the fear of the unknown gunmen that makes most people never to come out on Mondays.
Sadly, work days were reduced from five a week to four days. Even, three days if Kanu was to appear in court in a particular week. It goes to say that the zone is unofficially operating a four- days week, rather than the normal five days of work in a week.
In spite of IPOB’s claims of officially putting off the order following outcry against it, the so called unknown gunmen and other disorganized touts have continued to molest, harass and in some violent cases kill those who ventured to come out and operate their lawful businesses.
IPOB spokesperson, Comrade Emma Powerful called this set “criminals not IPOB members”. These criminals, according to report, “have killed many people, burnt vehicles seen on the roads and set ablaze goods worth millions of naira on Mondays.
“At a stage, they started using the social media to threaten people by warning them to be prepared to receive whatever treatment they might meet if they came out on Mondays.”