No fewer than 101 members of Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Independent People of Biafra (IPOB), and Biafra Independence Movement (BIM) have been arraigned in states of the South East following the bloody clash with security agents on Monday. Thirty members of these groups were reportedly killed while two security officials also lost their lives when the commemoration of the 49th anniversary of declaration of Biafra Republic by Late Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu.
In Ebonyi, the state police command arraigned 88 members of MASSOB arrested during the celebration before a state Magistrate court in Abakaliki on a four-count charge of conspiracy, belonging to unlawful society, membership of unlawful group and possession of items calling for the declaration of Biafra. The police command had at Nkaliki primary School, Abakaliki local government area of the state arrested about 92 members of MASSOB at prayer session to commemorate the 2016 Biafra Day. However, after the charges were read to the 88 suspects, they all pleaded not guilty.
Their lead counsel, Jerry Ezenyi made application for their bail, saying that their offence was bailable. But in his own argument, the prosecution counsel Adeola Elumaru opposed the bail application and said that the accused persons had been arrested in the past for same offence. In her ruling, the trial Magistrate, Stella Ogoke granted the accused persons bail in the sum of N500,000 and seven sureties who must be within the magisterial jurisdiction. She said the sureties must be civil servants or businessmen and adjourned the matter to July, 18, 2016 for definite hearing. In Enugu, the State Police Command on Tuesday arraigned 13 persons suspected to be members of MASSOB and BIM who were arrested in Enugu before the Enugu North Magistrate court.
According to the charge sheet No 245c/2016, the alleged suspects were charged with belonging to unlawful society called Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign state of Biafra (MASSOB) and thereby committed an offence punishable under section 495(a) of the criminal code cap 30 vol.11 laws of Enugu state of Nigeria 2004 and also by taking part in an unlawful Assembly on the said date and place to wit; Assemble of Movement for Actualization of the sovereign state of BIAFRA (MASSOB) and thereby committing an offence punishable under section 106 of the criminal code cap 30 vol.11 laws of Enugu state of Nigeria amongst other charges. Suspects after listening to their counts, pleaded not guilty to each of the charges, as the Magistrate, E.N Alukwu adjourned the case to June 23, 2016 for hearing while bail application was granted with condition.
Reacting to the mayhem of Monday, IPOB on Tuesday claimed that 53 people were killed, over 200 people were injured and more than 400 were arrested. IPOB also alleged that Hausa/Fulani terrorists group who were not on uniforms attacked its members with the army, Navy and police who killed and the carried dead bodies with them in their Hilux vans. A statement jointly signed by the media and publicity officer, Mr Emma Powerful and spokespersons of IPOB, Dr Clifford Iroanya and Mr Emma Mmezu condemned the killings of unarmed members at Nkpor near Onitsha and other places.
The group said it had earlier raised alarm before the event that Federal government and security agents had perfected plans to kill and maim the unarmed civilians without provocation. They noted that the members of IPOB who traveled from far away moved into a Catholic church along Nkpor-Umuoji road to seek the consent of Chukwuokikike Abiama (God Almighty) who has been guiding them in the noble project where the combined security agents moved into the church and killed so many and a lot were wounded. IPOB said: “The worst side of it was that the members who were coming to honour the Biafra fallen heroes and heroines have not reached to the venue for the ceremony before they met their untimely death.”
IPOB further stated that “…we are non-violent group and we were not doing any protest or demostrations and had not started the event when the security agents opened fire and rained bullets on our people without minding that they are human beings not animals. Again we are calling on all the world leaders to come for our rescue because they have perfected plans to kill all Biafrans” the group stated. A credible source in the camp of IPOB, who preferred to remain anonymous, told Daily Times that the it was perfecting papers to be filed at the United Nations against the Federal Government for act of genocide and desecration of place of worship.
Also on Tuesday, the Nigerian Army said its troops, alongside other security agencies, acted in self-defence as well as in defence of lives and property of peaceloving Nigerians when it shot dead at least five members of MASSOB and IPOB on Monday. This explanation was contained in a statement made available by the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations. According to the statement, eight other members of the separatist organisations were wounded while nine were arrested for due legal actions.
The statement said, “Due to the wide spread panic, tension and apprehension that generated from the activities of the MASSOB and IPOB members, security agencies which comprised of detachment of Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police, Department of State Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency were compelled to intervene in consonance with constitutional provisions of aid to civil authority where and when such occasion demands.
The overarching imperative to ensure a reign of peace, security and stability in this circumstance was most starring. “However, the MASSOB/ IPOB members who had earlier assembled at a school location on Ataa Road near Saint Edmunds’ Catholic Parish Maryland Nkpor-Agu in Anambra State resorted to fierce attack against the in tervening security agencies that were carrying out their legitimate mandate. “The nature of this attack involved brazen employment of various types of fire arms and all sorts of crude weapons, volatile cocktail such as acid and dynamites.
“Instructively, troops of 82 Division Nigerian Army as the lead agency of the security agencies had to invoke the extant Rules of Engagement (ROE) to resort to self defence, protection of the strategic Niger Bridge, prevent re-enforcement of the pro-Biafra members apparently surging ahead from the far side of the strategic Niger Bridge at Onitsha. All these efforts were in order to de-escalate the palpable tension as well as ward off the apparent threats to lives and property in the general area. “In the aftermath of the fire fight that ensued, many of own troops sustained varying degrees of injury. These injured troops are currently receiving treatment at own medical centre. Similarly, 5 members of MASSOB/ IPOB were killed, 8 wounded while 9 were arrested for due legal actions.”
Further on Tuesday, the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase, directed that members of IPOB who were arrested in connection with the killing of three policemen on Monday be charged with murder. He also ordered the Assistant Inspectors General of Police (AIG) and the Commissioners of Police in the affected areas to immediately disarm members of the group. Arase while condemning the killing by IPOB members also directed that any member found in possession of firearm be arrested and brought to justice. The Force Spokesperson, Olabisi Kolawole, stated these in a statement issued in Abuja on Tuesday.
The statement said: “IGP Arase also directed the arrest of any member of the group found in possession of firearm and bring him or her to deserved justice, while all IPOB activists arrested in connection with the killing of the policemen should be charged to court for murder Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday met behind closed doors with some politicians from the South Eastern part of the country. The meeting was held inside the President’s office at the Presidential Villa, Abuja. The politicians who visited under the aegis of the South East Group for Change were led by a former President of the Senate, Ken Nnamani.
The meeting came barely 24 hours after up to 30 persons and a soldier were allegedly killed in Onitsha, the Anambra State capital, after some pro-Biafran protesters, said to be celebrating the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the defunct Biafra Republic, engaged soldiers and policemen in a bloody clash. Some of the prominent politicians in the delegation are Senators Ifeanyi Ararume and Osita Izunaso; former member of the House of Representatives, Sharon Ikeazor; former Executive Vice-Charman of Nigeria Communications Commission, Ernest Ndukwe; National Vice-Chairman, South East, All Progressives Congress, Mr. Emma Eneukwu; a member of the APC Board of Trustees, Chief Austin Edeze; Dr. Uzoma Obiyo; and Chris Akomas.
The Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari, and some other top government officials joined Buhari to receive the group. The President’s guests were conveyed to the Presidential Villa in a bus belonging to the Ken Nnamani Leadership Institute based in Abuja. They did not speak with State House correspondents at the end of the meeting which lasted about 30 minutes. Shortly before he met with them, Buhari had also granted an audience to some state governors.