There are growing concerns that the economy of the southeast region may suffer serious decline should the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) make good its threat to lock down the zone beginning from August 9, should the Federal Government fail to release its leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu unconditionally.
Experts said that already, the economy of the zone was bleeding, having failed to recover after the forced closure occasioned by the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and the recent growing insecurity that have paralysed several businesses and activities.
The economic downturn of the region, they added, was compounded by the fact that over 80 percent of activities in the region centered on buying and selling, adding that earnings in the zone had dropped tremendously over unfavourable economic climate.
A Public Analyst, Dr. Freeborn Orjiakor, stated in Enugu last week that the Southeast region was on the verge of depleting its revenues further from incessant disruptions in the economic activities occasioned by insecurity, stressing that the development would be compounded by the threats from the IPOB.
The IPOB had threatened that every Monday from August 9, would be “total lockdown” in the region until the Federal Government releases Kanu.
It’s Spokesperson, Emma Powerful had said: “We declare every Monday sit- at- home throughout Biafra land until our leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, regains his freedom. The Federal Government must allow him access to his personal physicians, and allow him to sign documents given to him by the British Government to provide him consular assistance. This peaceful protest will continue ones every week until our demands are met.
“Consequently, all institutions public and private, transport companies, schools, banks, markets, airports and sea ports in Biafra land must shut down every Monday beginning from August 9. People are to remain indoors to register their concern over the fate of our Leader and the rest of all agitators languishing in various security detentions.”
Orjiakor, who spoke further on the implication of the threat to the “shaky” economy of the zone, stated that it would further deplete the realization of the N898 billion budget of year 2021 of the five states, which he added was abysmal compared to the over one trillion naira budgeted by Lagos state alone.
An Economist, Dr. Gergory Onyeije, from the Nnamdi Azikiwe University, stated that the threat if carried out would certainly inflict more injuries to the economy of the zone.
Referring to the lockdown in certain places, during the July 28 failed trial of Kanu, where according to him, several millions of naira were lost, he stated that, some businesses affected by the order were yet to recover.
He told The Guardian: “In Imo state, they locked down a market in solidarity and the soldiers who occupied the place refused to reopen the market. When they lock down, it affects revenue and when people don’t make money, the tendency of going into other crimes will be there. These people woke up and start issuing all manner of statements without looking at its overall implication on the zone and its economy.
“Are they saying that should Kanu remain in custody for two years that the lockdown will continue in those years? That will be a great economic loss on the zone. I really do not think it is in our interests for anybody to contemplate doing that.
“I have said on a number of occasions that we are losing focus in the direction of growing development and economy of the region. This is a region that has the least productive capacity; this is a region with high rate unemployment of its youths; this is a region that basically relies on others for survival, among others. The region has suffered enough pressure from the endSARS protests, to COVID-19 and now the insecurity that has threatened most businesses. I don’t think, we will continue to manage this economy the way we are going,” he said.
An Investor, Henry Chibuzo, stated that the Southeast region was fast gaining the toga of hazy realities, stressing that such dimension was dangerous for any business to thrive and uncomfortable for people to live in.
Insisting that the recent call by IPOB was not necessary, Chibuzo added that agitations should be moderate such that would not affect negatively the fortunes of the people meant to benefit from it.
“It is not right at the moment and anybody who loves Igboland should not contemplate it. The economy of the Southeast is already suffering and anything on the negative added to it will create more havoc on families. There will be more loss of jobs; there will be more deaths among other discomforts. I think the authors of that threat should rethink their strategy. It is also a call on the authorities to listen to their demands in the interest of the Southeast region,” he said.
Former National Chairman of the United Progressives Party (UPP), Chief Chekwas Okorie, while deploring the move, said it may attract invasion of the geo political zone by security agencies and on the long run, extrajudicial killing of residents.
He said: “I am sad and concerned that somebody issued the threat, on behalf of the leadership of the IPOB, to lock down the Southeast every Monday if the Federal Government failed to release Mazi Nnamdi Kanu within a certain time frame.
“It will amount to a transferred aggression and indeed a double tragedy for Ndigbo, if the hapless and long suffering people of the Southeast are subjected to further suffering and danger by their own people. I am aware that many well-meaning leaders from the Southeast are making frantic efforts to convince the Federal Government to consider diplomatic and political engagements to resolve the matter of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and his colleagues who are being tried. I am worried that any forceful lock down of the Southeast may attract the invasion of the geopolitical zone by security agencies with avoidable consequences. I appeal to the leadership of the IPOB to reconsider their planned action.”
His appeal was not far from that of the Director General of the Voice of Nigeria (VON), Osita Okechukwu, who stated that it would be ‘a big error” to lock down the Southeast as it would amount to punishing Ndigbo, degrade Southeast economy, starve Ndigbo and akin to the obnoxious doctrine of hunger as the best weapon against Ndigbo.
Okechukwu warned: “Let me for the umpteenth time appeal to my brothers in IPOB to sheath their sword, for to lock down the Southeast is simply waging atrocious war against Ndigbo – for our elders admonish us that, “Don’t Cut Off Your Nose to Spite Your Face”.
“I sincerely share IPOB’s grief over Ndigbo marginalisation, especially in appointments, it is a big challenge, but I sincerely differ with their strategy. Appointments for me are transient and what we got in infrastructure compensates, as infrastructure is more enduring than appointments.
“I have gone round our dear country and could finger palpable hunger, insecurity, anguish and despondency in the land; therefore for anybody to think anguish is limited to Ndigbo is a farce and blatant lie. Truth is bitter, but I owe my brothers the truth”
He added: “Accordingly, it will be very big error for IPOB to lock down the Southeast and think they are tough, strategic and will achieve any meaningful result, Capital No. IPOB should not cut off Ndigbo’s Nose to Spite Buhari’s Face, for Buhari is compensating with infrastructure.
“Appointments are transient, and infrastructure is permanent. The Standard Gauge Railroads, which will soon cover the entire Southeast will demonstrate the efficacy of infrastructure. IPOB hold on please.
“My brothers of IPOB clan, put on your thinking cap and be pragmatic, introspect and remember our brothers and sisters who are living in all the towns and villages nationwide, doing well and investing happily and prospering with other ethnic nationalities”.
Apex Igbo organisation in its reaction however stated that Kanu’s issue was no longer that of the IPOB alone. It’s National Publicity Secretary, Chief Chiedozie Ogbonnia said: “Nnamdi kanu is no longer an issue for a segment of Igbo, it has become an issue for the whole Igbo and Ohanaeze has demonstrated it and therefore, if any decision is to be taken in respect of Nnamani Kanu, it is better a wider consultation is made”.
But the National President of International Solidarity for Peace and Human Rights Initiative, Leader of Mass Movement for True Democracy, Integral Development and Good Governance and Convener, Coalition of Civil Society, Workers and Human Rights Defenders, Comrade, Osmond Ugwu, stated that the call by the IPOB was a sign of solidarity in favour of “justice, condemnation of unjust treatment of Kanu by the government by abducting him, unjustly detaining him and denial of access to judicial trial, Medicare, lawyers, family and friends”
He therefore, advised that Kanu, Igboho and others on the frontline of demand for justice, equity, real peace and justice in Nigeria to be treated as freedom fighters and human rights defenders.
“As such the government should engage them in dialogue and negotiation, which is the most modest way of resolving issues bothering on social and national questions in democracy in the contemporary world.
“I also call on the government and security agents not to apply use of force against the IPOB leaders and members on this call for boycott because it is a veritable legitimate tool used in a democracy for civic engagement and at the same time, I call on the leaders of IPOB to try as much as possible to monitor the process and ensure that it is not hijacked and turned into violence by people with ulterior agenda to discredit the cause and criminalise the process as was done during the EndSARS protests,” he added.