How Igbo Traders Control Critical Sectors In 31 States, FCT

Traders at Aguiyi Ironsi International Market, Ladipo, Mushin Local Government Area of Lagos

Outside the five states that make up the South East geopolitical zone, traders who are of Igbo extraction are controlling critical sectors in 31 states and the Federal Capital Territory, reports by our correspondents reveal.

Reports from the South West, South South, North West, North East, North Central and the FCT, showed that investments of Igbo traders, cutting across all sectors dot the state capitals, LGAs, major towns and villages in other parts of the country.

The South East geopolitical zone is made up of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu and Imo states. At a time, agitation for secession is being spearheaded by the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Igbo traders enjoy peaceful, uninterrupted trading in other parts of the country.

'Igbos own 73% of Abuja property'

In Abuja, Igbo traders dominate the nerves of businesses in the city centre and the area councils.

Reports by our correspondents showed that the Igbo control housing and hospitality businesses just as they exclusively dominated spare parts and building materials trade in Deidei, Zone 5, Apo, Zuba and Mararraba.

During his tenure as minister of FCT, Malam Nasir El-Rufa'i, declared that the Igbo have acquired about 73 per cent of landed properties in Abuja.

"Sixty-eight per cent of the land allocations in the FCT belong to the 19 northern states, but in the actual land ownership, 73 per cent belongs to the Igbo with the most aggressive in land ownership belonging to the indigenes of Anambra State, while Ebonyi lags behind," El-Rufai said in 2007.

Sources in major markets in the FCT said most of the shops are owned by Igbo traders and investors.

An Abuja native in Kubwa, Mr Sunday Gazazhin, said no Nigerian would be comfortable with what Biafra agitators are doing to northerners in the South East.

Gazazhin, who is a youth leader, said Abuja indigenes have sacrificed their land willingly to Nigerians when the same right is being denied to other Nigerians in the eastern part of the country.

An Igbo trader who is a former chairman of Abuja Building Material Market in Deidei, Comrade Anthony Chukwuneke, told Daily Trust that he is in support of Biafra agitators and denied their involvement in attacking northerners in the South East.

When alerted about the Igbo's huge investment scattered in the North, in the event that they seceded, he replied, "The only thing that the Igbo trader should expect, is a special tax imposition against his business".

S/East traders dot 44 Kano LGAs

In Kano, the Igbo are going about their normal business with several investments in the commercial centre of northern Nigeria.

The spare parts and construction products market at Kofar Ruwa is one of the market areas in Kano where the Igbos dominate or play a significant role in the business of the market. While they are not the only tribe involved in the market, they control the highest volume of trade in it.

It was observed, however, that during the sit-at-home order of the IPOB recently, business activities in the market went on as normal.

Similarly, at the popular Sabon Gari Market (Abubakar Rimi Market) in Sabongari area of Kano, the Igbo and other non-indigenous tribes go about their day-to-day businesses peacefully with their hosts.

Daily Trust reports that aside from the major business interest, there is hardly any village in Kano's 44 local government areas that an Igbo man or woman would not be seen conducting his/her business and living amicably with their hosts.

Beyond the markets and other business interests, the Igbo are similarly heavily invested in the multi-billion Naira properties business across the state with a concentration in the Sabongari area of Kano metropolis.

While several individuals of Igbo extraction in Kano approached for comment declined on the basis of the sensitivity of the issues, Daily Trust recalls that the Eze Ndigbo of Kano, Igwe Boniface Ibekwe (Ide 1), had in a recent press release on behalf of the Association of Igbo Traditional Leaders in Diaspora, reaffirmed their "unalloyed support and commitment to the sustenance of a strong and virile Nigeria, where peace, unity, justice and equity prevail."

In Taraba, south-easterners dominate commerce

Igbo traders have dominated the building materials, spare parts, pharmaceuticals and other businesses in Jalingo, the Taraba State capital and other major towns in the state.

Findings revealed that 95 per cent of building materials, spare parts and pharmaceutical shops in Jalingo, Wukari, Takum, Gembu, Zing and MutumBiyu are owned by Igbos.

At Jalingo main mechanic village, almost 95 per cent of spare parts shops are owned by the Igbo. They also form over 65 per cent of the total motor mechanics in Jalingo and other towns in the state.

Similarly, most of the big pharmaceutical shops along Palace Way, Barde Way and other locations in Jalingo as well as in other towns and villages across the state are owned by the Igbo.

Bayelsa's economy under Igbo traders' control

Over 80% of businesses operated in Bayelsa State are owned by Nigerians from the South East region, our correspondent reports.

The Igbo traders see themselves as part and parcel of the state. Finding shows that many supermarkets, filling stations, eateries and clubs as well as other petty businesses are operated by Igbo people.

Checks at Swali Market, the biggest market in Bayelsa State, indicate that people from the South East are operating in the market peacefully with the people of the state.

A popular supermarket in Yenagoa, the state capital, belonging to an Igbo businessman is said to be the pioneer supermarket in the state.

Some Igbo traders' union leaders who spoke with Daily Trust said they have been operating in the state even before the creation of Bayelsa State.

Why we are leading in Akwa Ibom -- Eze Ndigbo

In Akwa Ibom, the Igbo are leading in the food market, household goods and supermarkets, electronics/electricals and auto/mechanical. They are in the majority in the automobile market called the mechanic village in Uyo, among other businesses.

They have continued to thrive even in the face of insecurity that is not just threatening Nigerians, the nation's territorial integrity but also the economy.

The Eze Ndigbo in Akwa Ibom, His Royal Highness, Eze Dr CYC Umeakuka JP, attributed the knack of the Igbo to thrive in business despite insecurity in the country to the peace they enjoy in the state and the hospitable nature of the people.

Umeakuka, who is also the President General of Eze Ndigbo in Nigeria and the Diaspora, said their risk-taking streak was a contributory factor to their success in business.

Igbo businesses thrive in Lagos

Despite the agitation led by the IPOB for an independent nation for the eastern region, businessmen from the area are thriving in Lagos, the commercial nerve centre of Nigeria.

A visit to major markets in the state indicated that they are doing their business without any hindrance.

Some major markets in the state, such as Alaba International, Jankara, Ladipo, Oyingbo, Computer village are dominated by people from the eastern region.

At Alaba International Market, which is the largest electronics market in Nigeria, they said there is no discrimination against them.

A visit to the Apapa ports also revealed that they are very active in clearing goods. In the hospitality business, a good number of hotels in the state are owned by Igbo businessmen.

Some of the businessmen who expressed confidence in the unity of the country claimed that the president and his men promoted the agitation in the region. They claimed that President Buhari has always shown his alleged dislike for the region through his utterances.

Collinson Oha, an electronics dealer in Alaba International Market, who has lived and traded in Lagos for over 12 years, said the people asking for separation are not happy with the way the government is handling things in the country.

Another trade, Chinozo Ebere, said the agitation in the South East has not affected his relationship with traders and customers from other regions.

However, some of them said if the agitation for Biafra succeeds, they would be willing to continue trading in Nigeria while they relocate the headquarters of their business to the new nation.

By Ismail Mudashir, Hamisu Kabir Matazu, Adamu Umar (Abuja), Clement A. Oloyede (Kano), Magaji Isa Hunkuyi (Jalingo), Bassey Willie (Yenagoa), Iniabasi Umo (Uyo) & Abiodun Alade (Lagos)

Article was first published at the Daily Trust, June 30, 2021