The commemoration of 49th anniversary of declaration of Biafra Republic by Late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu turned bloody on Monday in states of the South East geo-political zone as no fewer than 30 people were allegedly killed in Anambra state when the police clamped down on members of Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), Biafra Independence Movement (BIM) and the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). Several other people were also injured during the clamp down in Anambra, while over 50 members of the Biafran groups were arrested by the military and taken to their 302 cantonment in Onitsha. Following the mayhem, the commercial city of Onitsha especially Nkpor axis, was locked down on Monday with the security operatives taking over the roads.
Commercial activities were paralyzed as a result, with vehicular movements stopped with burn fires all over the roads. Speaking with reporters on Monday, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of IPOB, Emma Powerful, alleged that security operatives had killed over 30 members of the group, with over 50 others arrested and taken to an unknown destination. Also, he alleged that many others were seriously injured in the mayhem, adding that the security operatives started arresting their members from 1.30 am when they began their peaceful demonstration. According to him, “they were moving around in their hilux vehicle with a native doctor, when we are celebrating Biafra without any form of weapons. Does it mean that we have no fundamental rights?”
When the Police Public Relation’s Officer (PPRO), in the state Ali Okechukwu was contacted on Monday at about 11.55am, he said there was no room to discuss causality figures, adding that they were still busy trying to clear the roads for easy movement.
However, an eyewitness who spoke with our reporter and a MASSOB member said about 32 persons were killed by the navy and military personnel. The injured, according to him, were taken to one of the hospitals at Nkpor but they were rejected, while those killed were driven to the army barracks. The leader of MASSOB, Comrade Uchenna Madu, told reporters on Monday that federal government should look into the mayhem with a view to arresting the situation, adding that his group was not involved.
However, he warned that if Ndigbo were pushed to the wall by security personnel that they would have no other option than to take to arms, which according to him would make Nigeria be in flames. Madu, further said that the federal government was negotiating with Boko Haram and Niger Delta militants while the security continued to fight the people without arms and they were keeping quite.
He said he ordered his men to mark Ojukwu’s day by staying indoors and not march on the streets, adding that those in the streets were not MASSOB members, rather of IPOB. Daily Times also gathered from one of the eye witnesses at Nkpor that the anger of the military was that one of its men was killed during the crisis. In a swift reaction, the Anambra State government, in a statement by the Commissioner for Information and Communication Strategy, Ogbuefi Tony Nnachetta said
“The attention of the Government of Anambra State has been drawn to attempts by some hoodlums to hijack a peaceful demonstration by some youths in Nkpor, Idemili Local Government Area, to mark the Democracy Day earlier this morning. “These elements infiltrated the demonstration and unleashed a wave of violent attacks on the police, burning down a patrol van and sowed panic among the populace.
This untoward tendency runs against the culture of security and peaceful co-existence of all citizens that we have established in our beloved state in the past two years. “The Government of Anambra State shall not allow some unscrupulous elements to undermine our collective achievement as the most peaceful state in Nigeria and slow down our steady march to progress and prosperity.
“We therefore warn people who are planning to foment trouble or hide under the guise of peaceful demonstration to disturb the peace to desist from such acts with immediate effect as that will not be tolerated. “Consequently, the law enforcement agents have been directed to maintain the peace in a manner that is expected of a professional police force in a democracy without the application of excessive force that might lead to avoidable casualties.”
In Ebonyi, no fewer than 320 MASSOB members were arrested along with some clergymen who were conducting an inter-denominational service for them. It was gathered that policemen numbering over 200 stormed the Nkaliki Primary School, field, Abakaliki, venue for the 2016 Biafran Day celebration of the group, midway into the service and arrested the clergymen as well as the members. The Zonal Leader of MASSOB in charge of Ebonyi North, John Nwifuru, flanked by a member of the Elders-InCouncil in charge of Ebonyi anniversary, Moses Eze, confirmed this at a briefing in Abakaliki. According to him “over 320 members of the MASSOB were also arrested by the Command during the Biafra Day celebration”.
It was also gathered that the command also teargassed the protesters ceaselessly during the operation. “Some of those arrested were just clergymen who we invited to conduct inter-denominational church service as part of activities marking the celebration”. These policemen don’t seem to have respect for God, why would they arrest his anointed men?” He accused the police of carting away valuables belonging to members of the movement which he said included vehicles, over 93 motorcycles and other items for offertory.
He said: “We were at Nkaliki primary school field observing interdenominational church service when policemen numbering over 200 operating in over 40 hilux vans stormed the area shooting sporadically in the air before they threw tear gas canister on us before arresting our clergymen who were conducting church service. They carried plantains, bananas, and other consumables which members brought as their offering during the church service.” He called for the unconditional release of those arrested in the state and other parts of the country during the peaceful celebration which he said was in commemoration of the declaration of the state of Biafra by late warlord, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu, over 49 years ago.
The commissioner of police in the state, Peace Ibekwe Abdallah, when contacted, said she would brief the media on the matter at the appropriate time. In Enugu, MASSOB on Monday has raised alarm that about 40 of its members were arrested by men of the Nigerian Police in Nsukka. The zonal leader of Enugu North, Chief James Omeke told Daily Times that the members were arrested at the Saint Theresa’s Catholic Church premises where they were holding a thanksgiving mass in commemoration of 49th anniversary of the declaration of the State of Biafra by Chief Odimegwu Ojukwu. “Such arrest and intimidation of our members will not deter us but will spur us in our struggle to freedom; what Nigerian government is doing to us is very unfair. However, the police in Enugu on Monday said they arrested no fewer than 13 suspected persons believed to be members of MASSOB and BIM.
The Police Public Relations Officer, Ebee Amaraizu said the people were nabbed at Edinburgh axis of Ogui, Enugu based on intelligence and information gathered on them. According to Amariazu, “The suspects had converged with their Toyota hiace bus with registration number XG 265 UWN, flags and T-shirts with different inscriptions portraying MASSOB/BIM at Edinburgh axis of Ogui to commence protest march before the security operatives acting on intelligence/information closed them up and arresting them.