Ben Ezechime, Enugu
There is palpable anger in Enugu, the capital of Enugu State, following the sealing of over 106 shops by Governor Peter Mbah over his ban on Mondays sit-at-home.
The ban since it was announced in early June had caused a lot of disaffection in the city with traders and the business community refusing to obey the directive for fear of the unknown.
Ikengaonline reports that before the directive by the governor, residents of the city were already gradually coming to terms with the situation by coming out to do their businesses but with utmost caution.
However, the ban and the threat by the self exiled IPOB factional leader, Simon Ekpa, to make Enugu State ungovernable for Mbah has heightened tension in the state.
Mbah further threatened to close down any businesses, schools and other commercial entities that failed to comply with his ban.
The governor on Monday July 24 went ahead to carryout his threat by sealing over 106 businesses including banks.
The exercise was carried out by officials of the State Government and Enugu Capital Territory Development Authority (ECTDA) on the directive of the governor.
The Secretary to the State Government (SSG), Prof. Chidiebere Onyia, who led the exercise, said the action was in line with the governor’s warning.
Onyia said the governor’s intention was not to punish businesses but encourage and inculcate the spirit of ‘no sit-at-home’ in traders.
“It is not a punitive but ownership culture, where all of us come together to fight the menace of illegal sit-at-home in the state.
“We are taking it up not because Mbah is in the business of stopping economic growth but to fight those that think they can intimidate us,” he said.
Onyia further said that the Task Force created by the State Government would be in the markets next Monday to continue to monitor the situation.
“We have been to ShopRite, Celebrity – a shopping mall – SPAR and others, we saw shops that were not opened and we sealed them.
“That is why ECTDA is here and the owners should go through a process to get them reopened,” he said.
The SSG said that the governor had made a commitment by providing security and buses at specific places to convey workers to the state Secretariat.
He said the measure became necessary because the state was tired of losing significant revenue by working for only four days a week.
Speaking with newsmen at the end of the exercise, the Head of ECTDA, Mr Gideon Onyia, said that the affected shops were both corporate and privately owned.
He said that 78 shops were sealed at the Ogbete Market, plus two new generation banks, five shops at SPAR and 24 shops at the Old Artisan Market.
“So if you failed to obey our rules and directives, we can revoke them or withdraw your approvals and give them to people who are eager to do business in the state.
“Those whose shops are sealed, we will tell them the penalty but the governor was magnanimous for saying that the exercise was not punitive,” Onyia said.
However, a civil rights lawyer, Olu Omotayo, said that Mbah’s action was a contravention of the law based on human rights
“The governor’s action portrayed him as a novice in law. As a lawyer he was supposed to know better. His actions violated the fundamental rights of those business owners and we are waiting for them to approach us with complaint,” he said.
Also Speaking, a public affairs commentator, Mr Steve Offili, said that Mbah’s action was a violation of the fundamental human rights of the traders.
“Someone rented a shop and he/she is paying you as and when due what is your concern if he/she decides to close the shop,” he said.
A trader, who identified himself simply as Nnamdi, said he usually wasted his transport fares to and fro his shop on Mondays without making any sales.
Also, Mrs Ngozi Oji, attributed the traders absence from the markets to fear of being attacked by gunmen.