The state of insecurity in the country has assumed a worrisome dimension with many lives lost, properties worth millions destroyed, many living in palpable fear and most worrisome of all, crumbled businesses.
The South Eastern part of the country, which before now has been regarded as a safe haven due to the insurgence in the North, has had its fare share of insecurity.
The silence was broken when allegations of herdsmen entering the South East spread into the region. Pockets of clashes between the killer herdsmen and the preyed communities led to breakdown of law and order in the region.
In a swift move, Governors of the region met in Owerri, Imo State capital and launched a joint security outfit named ‘Ebube Agu’ to curb the menace.
Many hailed the move while many saw the decision as a strategic replica of the Western Nigeria Security Network otherwise called ‘Amotekun’, launched in the South West a year before.
Critics had, in response to the emergence of these regional security outfits, berated the government for failing in its constitutional role of protecting the masses.
The age-long saying, “A stitch in time saves nine” failed in the East as a stitch in time lost nine. This was with the murder of uniformed personnel who were sent to the east to restore peace.
The dreaded killers took over the scene and dominated the social media and headlines as they sent shivers to many including business owners.
The killing spree continued notwithstanding, sending shops to early closures. This further plunged the once peaceful region into deeper woes.
Away from the cheers and jeers trailing the formation of the security outfits, economic misfortunes became the aftermath.
It became difficult for businessmen and women to move in freely into the region.States like Imo, Enugu,Anambra and Ebonyi became warzones between security outfits of varying interests especially political and ethnical.
A major setback to the epileptic business in the South East was the recent sit-at-home order by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
This order, according to the group, was set aside to remember the fallen heroes of the Biafra War, which many see as one wound in the annals of the history of the South East that has refused to heal.
Supermarkets, banks, malls and all business outfits went under lock and keys. Defaulters were dealt with by the group.
In Owerri, the Imo State Capital for example, the ever busy Douglas Road became like a ghost town.
Olisaemeka Udeh is a spare parts dealer in Owerri and recounts an experience he had in an interview with KaftanPost.
“That day was a bad day for me as I had slept on the road from Lagos and entered Onitsha early in the morning. We had bribed our way through checkpoints until we got to Upper Iweka in Onitsha.
“Some heavily armed men stopped our vehicle and told us to come down including a woman who was just discharged from the hospital.
“We pleaded with them but they refused as they told our bus driver to drop us on the road and turn back. It took hours of pleading before we were allowed to proceed. Infact, the drama of begging continued until we reached Owerri. At some checkpoints, we didn’t understand wether they were the Army or IPOB or even robbers.
“Where it was painful was that I was supposed to deliver some tractor parts to a client in Okigwe,Abia State which I bought with almost N300,000 but he had gotten another supplier before I managed to survive the challenges.I felt very bad”,Udeh lamented.
Another respondent who spoke to KaftanPost on condition of anonymity was a 46-year-old trader, Justus Amadi (real names withheld) at Computer Village, Ikeja. He shared his experience.
“I sent some goods through waybill from Oshodi and it got missing at a bus terminus on the day of the sit-at-home order.
“According to the manager of the transport company, the store of the terminus was burgled a day before the order and the security men on Monday began taking stock of the remaining waybills.
“In the process of doing the checking right inside the office, suspected IPOB task force broke the gate and pounced on all the men doing the check. As I speak, my goods haven’t been found.”
The situation was the same in Abia State as several towns with huge markets went deserted in compliance to the order even while they were still swallowing the bitter pills of the insecurity situation in the region.
An Enugu based market research practitioner, who prefered to be anonymous, shared his view on the development.
“I feel for business people in the state. So many markets with perishable goods lost millions which I can’t even quantify.
“There was a woman I saw at Umuahia. She lamented that since the killings by gunmen started, she hasn’t opened her palm oil shop, which supplies retailers from Lagos and other parts of the country.
“She said before the killings in the region, she hosted over 20 buyers of her palm oil and crayfish from across Nigeria. She said she made almost four hundred thousand weekly but now she is afraid of her life and has decided to remain indoors until peace returns.
“Imagine such a scenario and others we don’t know, it’s saddening,” the researcher concluded.
Reports say, in Umuahia, the everbusy capital of Abia State, and other villages, there was full compliance as residents stayed back at home.
Another case was reported in Asaga in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State, where traders were chased away from the market by suspected IPOB members, sending traders, including the old, scampering for safety.
This led to tension in the town as there have been agelong mutual coexistence between the Hausa traders and the locals. This development, many feel, will have dampening effects on the status quo of the region as commercially vibrant.
While business experts say the revenue lost over the period is hitting hundreds of millions of Naira, others feel it may increase beyond that if immediate solutions are not proffered.
While the country grapples with seccessionist calls and clamours for regional controls, the future of businesses may be hampered as the clock ticks away.