Small businesses bear the brunt of Nigeria’s separatist blockade | Business and Economy


Lagos, Nigeria—— In the past three months, Newman Nwankwo heard from friends, relatives and others in southeastern Nigeria complaining that due to a stay-at-home order announced and implemented by separatists, at least every Monday and several weeks Once, life was generally disrupted. In the area.

“Sitting at home is a pain,” Nwankwo told Al Jazeera.

The 34-year-old businessman runs a small chain of point-of-sale (POS) terminal operator stores that act as informal banks throughout Onitsha (arguably the largest business nerve center outside of Lagos, Nigeria).

He said that everyone, including himself, felt the sting of the home order. “Onitsha relies heavily on its market activities [so] Lose money every Monday, from the government to tomato sellers. “

Since July, the Indigenous Peoples of Biafran (IPOB), who are instigating the division of the Igbo ethnic group in the southeast, have issued home instructions to people in the area. These restrictions were imposed after the charismatic leader of the organization Nnamdi Kanu was deported from Kenya. He will face trial on seven federal charges, including terrorism and treason.

Like Nwankwo, many residents of the area stated that the lockdown measures now have a serious economic impact on them. A survey conducted in the region by SBM Intelligence, a Lagos geopolitical consulting firm, found that two-thirds of respondents believed that their productivity was greatly affected by restrictions. Among the respondents who said their productivity remained unchanged, half were students and teachers who had already spent school holidays at home.

It was in August. By the end of October, the outgoing Anambra Governor Willie Obiano announced that the school would remain open on Saturday to make up for the suspension of business as usual on Monday. Charles Soludo, the state’s governor-elect and a former head of Nigeria’s central bank, has said the state loses an estimated 19.6 billion Nigerian naira ($47.70m) every day of lockdowns. In Ebony, the governor is more conservative and lost 100 Billion Nigerian nairas (US$ 24.34 million).

I don’t know how sustainable this is

Small business owner in Enugu

In August, IPOB claimed to have cancelled the stay-at-home order, even if the store was forcibly closed and the goods were burned or confiscated. Despite this, many people still comply, fearing reprisals from the organization, which has repeatedly denied its members’ involvement in violence.

For weeks, the streets were empty, and on Sunday night traffic jams occurred on the main routes to the two states bordering the area, Kogi and Delta. In a financial environment marked by high inflation, the fate of many people will only deteriorate.

On September 6, an unidentified gunman believed to be a member of IPOB killed a businessman and his apprentice in Ebonyi State. On the same day, a trailer containing spare parts for motorcycles was razed to the ground outside the university town of Ensuka, Enugu State.

Although the organization cancelled the one-week stay-at-home order issued last month, the suspension was intended to force a boycott of the governor election. Of the 2.5 million registered voters in Anambra, only one-tenth voted.

Bubbling under the surface

Onitsha is one of two markets in the region and one of the largest outdoor markets in West Africa. It is also a direct export of the thriving manufacturing cluster in the nearby town of Nnewi.

Together, the Onitsha and Abiriba markets accounted for two-thirds of the undisputed largest Nollywood film and Nigerian pop music distribution network in decades. Abiriba is also responsible for the export of leather products throughout West Africa and Equatorial Guinea.

Residents said that the relative entrepreneurial success was not due to federal government policy, but despite the fact.

This sentiment, as well as the argument that people are politically and economically marginalized, fueled Kanu’s speech, because he pioneered the IPOB campaign, demanding that the region be separated from Biafra.

In 2018, people visited the popular Onitza market in Nigeria [File: Afolabi Sotunde/Reuters]

The idea of ​​Biafra first sprouted about 60 years ago. After the massacre of Igbo descendants in northern Nigeria, the military chief of eastern Nigeria Emeka Odumegwu-Ojuku withdrew the Igbo majority from the country. It survived for a full 30 months, and by the end of the war in 1970, more than 1 million people had died.

For many years, until the return of democracy to Nigeria in 1999, discussions of division did not surface. Since Kanu came to the national stage about 10 years ago, the discussion of division reached its peak, and the region was once again plunged into increasingly fierce riots.

Kanu’s antics and remarks led to frequent conflicts with the government and arrests of his followers many times. He was also detained for two years and then disappeared on bail. He is currently on trial after being extradited from Kenya in June. In 2017, the organization was banned as a “terrorist organization” by an order of the Federal Court of Nigeria.

‘Pain caused by oneself’

Cheta Nwanze, the chief partner of SBM Intelligence, told Al Jazeera that IPOB is increasingly “losing support with the support of self-immolation home orders.” He said that the fear of the organization’s paramilitary organization—not the enthusiasm of separatism—appeared to ensure compliance with the stay-at-home order, and residents of the area said that the organization was unknowingly causing what it had been complaining about. Kind of economic loss. be opposed to.

A small business owner in Enugu, who asked not to be named, told Al Jazeera that the stay-at-home order may have originated from dissatisfaction with the Nigerian federal government, but ultimately hurt the wrong people.

“It’s all self-inflicted pain,” he said. “I don’t know how sustainable this is because it has caused a lot of uncertainty. A lot of compliance is due to uncertainty. Today we all have legitimate dissatisfaction in Nigeria, but this [action] Does not affect people [in government] I have complaints against you. “

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