October 21, 2021


documenting the nigerian story…

The dangerous South-East shutdown

The tension from the ongoing insecurity and general disorder in the South-East flowed at a high current into the May 30 anniversary of the declaration of the defunct Biafra Republic in 1967. With over three million Nigerians of South-East origin killed in the Police Action that metamorphosed into the three-year Nigerian Civil War, Biafra enthusiasts have, over the years, declared May 30 as a solemn, near sacred, date in the South-East calendar in remembrance of the ‘heroes’ of that war. Concerted efforts by the political authorities in the South-East and the Federal government to frustrate and capsize the commemoration of Biafra Day have ended in chaotic test of will and supremacy between government and non-state actors.

This year the situation took a more grievous, deplorable and oppressive turn with a heightened face-off between the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), South-East governors and the federal security architecture. For fear of IPOB, residents of major cities in the South-East – Aba, Owerri, Awka, Ebonyi and Enugu – stayed in-doors. Cities where social and economic activities defied insecurity in the region in recent months changed to ghost towns on May 30, 2021, not exactly to observe Biafra Day, but for fear of being assaulted or killed by IPOB militia or becoming victims of cross-fire between federal security operatives and IPOB forces. Hence, the region was effectively shut down on that day.

From all indications, the social and political situation in the South-East is taking a dangerous turn, and could descend into anarchy. Not because of May 30 ‘Biafra Day’, but because of the steady and apparent loss of legitimacy by so-called elected political leaders. Due to their alienation from the people through inaction and corruption, political leaders in the South-East seem to have lost their rhythm, and not in tune with the people. Therefore, IPOB and associated non-state actors are taking the sail off the ship, and commanding illegitimate authority in the region.

Carried away by the game of chess being played on the political scene in Abuja and how they could fill their silos of greed from its fallout, South-East political leaders abandoned their people, creating the space for IPOB to sow bad seed.  While they played the ostrich, IPOB stepped in, set up the obnoxious Eastern Security Network (ESN). This proscribed group has now turned the once peaceful region into a theatre of war, where residents move about with fear. Even the security operatives sent to the region cannot carry out their duty of protecting lives and property of persons in the region due to attacks.  The group attacks innocent citizens, security operatives, cart away arms and burn down police stations. We condemn their activities in its entirety. There was no justification for shutting down the South-east region on May 30. It is not out of place for the South-East to designate May 30 as a day to commemorate the ‘heroes of Biafra,’. Similar commemoration of heroes and victims of wars is done in several countries, however, it must be legitimately done. If at all such a day is to be declared, it should be spearheaded by authourities in that region, not non-state actors.

Whatever any group is demanding, it must be done within the dictates of the law, as anything other than that is unacceptable.

We call on political leaders of the South-East to wake up from their slumber and take charge of their region. They need to take over the space which was hitherto left for the proscribed group. The governors claim to have set up Ebube-Agu, seen as a rival of ESN, yet that security unit is not seen to be doing much to change the narrative.  They need to do something about that urgently. They must rein in IPOB and come up with a workable and effective security arrangement to deal with the besetting challenges facing the people.  Enough of the impunity in that region. The federal government, state governments and other stakeholders must come together to stop the emerging anarchy.