Monday, May 30, 2016

Biafra Anniversary Turns Bloody in Southeast Nigeria
Nigeria National Mirror

The 50th anniversary celebration of the declaration of independent state of Biafra turned bloody yesterday with over 52 members of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, killed across the South East.

Onitsha, the commercial nerve centre of Anambra State recorded the highest casualty figure of 45, according to IPOB, while seven were killed in Asaba, Delta State. Already, tension is high in the region, following the killings.

Our correspondent in Onitsha gathered that a policeman was also killed in the shootout between police. All markets in Onitsha and environs were shut despite the state government’s order on the eve of the celebration that no market should be closed.

The Onitsha clash started at Bridge Head as IPOB members troop out en-mass to join their colleagues in the celebration. It was gathered also that a soldier attached to the 302 Regiment was stabbed.

Nnewi South Regional Administrator of The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, Chief Anthony Nwodo and 14 others were arrested by the Joint Security Taskforce at Ezinifite on their way back home after observation of the celebration, according to the Area Administrator of the region, Sonny Chukwuebuka, Two IPOB members were killed at the Niger Bridge Head as they were coming from Asaba, with others to join their Anambra State counterparts for the celebration.

On getting to the Bridge they met a stiff resistance from the JTF and it resulted in a bloody clash and consequently a policeman died while the soldier was stabbed. IPOB spokesman, Emma Powerful said 45 members of the group were killed at Nkpor.

“They just opened fire on us as we are having peaceful procession,” he said. Emmanuel Omenka, Personal assistant to MASSOB leader, Chief Ralph Uwazurike, said: “No amount of killing of Biafra agitators will deter us from fighting to actualise a sovereign state of Biafra. “The celebration was a success and this shows that Biafra is strong and firm in its determination.” Also speaking, Ogbaru Regional administrator, Mrs Virginia Ubazuonu condemned the killings and described the celebration as very successful, adding that there is no going back in the actualisation of a Biafra Republic.

In Asaba, seven persons were confirmed dead. Acting Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, in Delta State, Charles Muka, who confirmed this in a statement, added that the police recorded two casualties. He said in the statement that five members of MASSOB were killed by military officers who had confrontations with the group along the Asaba-Onitsha Expressway in Asaba.

It stated that the military arrested and brought eight members of MASOB to the police and “are now in custody in Asaba.” According to him, the protesters turned violent and attacked policemen deployed to monitor the protest, killed two and injured two others.

“We had to deploy our officers to ensure that the protest was peaceful but we were surprised that the people turned violent. “To our surprise, they started attacking our men and at Okwe Junction in Abraka area of Asaba, the group killed a police corporal and took his AK47 riffle. “Also along the Dennis Osadeby Way in Asaba, they wounded a police officer and took his anti-riot gun. “This group also attacked and wounded two policemen, suspected to be marine police, and threw them into the River Niger at Cable Point in Asaba and in the process one died and one was rescued. “This brings the casualty number to two with two others injured on the side of the police.

“The protesters also attacked military vehicles along the Asaba-Onitsha Expressway which left four members of the group dead and eight others arrested and brought to the police headquarters.” It added that a pregnant woman was hit by a stray bullet during the fracas but now receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre, FMC, Asaba.

The statement advised parents and guardians to warn their children and wards to follow the part of peace and pursue their agenda constitutionally. Police in Enugu State apprehended over 50 members of MASSOB as well as Biafra Independent Movement, BIM. They were arrested within Edinburgh Road over alleged unlawful assembly as they marched round the state. As early as 7:30 a.m., the group had assembled along zik Avenue and Edinburgh junction roundabout before marching to the adjoining streets.

The group carried placards that read: “Biafra has come to stay”, “We want Biafra now”, “No to Nigeria government again”, “No going back from BiAafra”, Biafra is our last hope.” Speaking to journalists before their arrest, leader of the group and one of the arrested persons, Elder Eugene Eze said the peaceful rally was to celebrate and honour the fallen heroes of Biafra especially, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu and others. Eze stated that since the end of the civil war, no Igbo person had occupied sensitive position in the county. He maintained that President Muhammadu Buhari’s led Federal Government’s policies and programmes had not favoured the Igbo, especially his recent appointment, adding that the best option was to break away from Nigeria for a self-rule.

However, Enugu Police State command spokesperson, Ebere Amaraizu, in a statement said only 13 persons were arrested. He said: “They were rounded up based on intelligence/information gathered on them.

“The suspects, in the morning of 30/5/16 had converged with their bus, one Toyota hiace bus with registration number XG 265 UWN with flags and T-Shirt 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 arrested them.

“Suspects in their reactions maintained that they are members of MASSOB but of Biafran Independent Movement, B.I.M.” Amaraizu recalled that the state command had earlier warned against protest to be carried out by any group of persons under any aegis. In Umuahia, Abia State, 10 MASSOB members were arrested, while one suffered gunshot wound after confrontation with police.

The rally, which commenced at 10 a.m. from Asaba Street, was halted by the police, which resulted in confrontation. State Police Public Relation Officer, PPRO, Onyeke Udeviotu, however said only four persons were arrested, even as he refuted the allegation that one person was shot.

He said police only used tear gas to disperse the crowd. In Ebonyi State, about 320 MASSOB, including some pastors were allegedly arrested. Investigation revealed that the arrested pastors came from different churches and were invited by the group to conduct church service to commemorate the effort and struggle of Chief Ojukwu. Addressing journalists in Abakaliki, Zonal Leader of MASSOB in charge of Ebonyi North, John Nwifuru, alleged that policemen numbering over 200 stormed Nkaliki Primary School, when the church service was going-on and arrested over 320 members of the group.

He alleged that police seized items worth several millions of naira, including plantains, bananas, and other consumables which members brought as their offering during the church service. He further accused the police of carting away over 93 motorcycles and other items for offertory. His word: “We were at Nkaliki primary school field observing inter denominational church service when policemen numbering over 200 operating in over 40 hilux vans stormed the area shooting sporadically in the air before they threw canister tear gas on us and arrested our clergymen, who were conducting church service.

“They carried plantains, bananas, and other consumables which members brought as their offering during the church service” The state Police Commissioner, Peace Abdallah was yet to respond to the alleged arrest at the time of filing this report. In Imo State, the Police Command arrested 17 members of MASSOB for alleged indulgence in illegal and unauthorised procession in demand for the actualisation of a State of Biafra.

The MASSOB members arrested in various parts of Owerri, the state capital were carrying banners with MASSOB/BIM inscriptions. Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Andrew Enwerem, who paraded the protesters at the premises of the state police headquarters, Owerri ,said they not only displayed Biafran flags with caps bearing Biafra insignia, but also chanted Biafran solidarity songs and behaved in a manner capable of breaching peace and tranquility in the state.

Enwerem regretted that while security agencies in the state are doing their best to ensure uninterrupted peace and serene environment, some group of people under the canopy of illegal organisation still indulge in acts likely to frustrate this effort, warning that the police would not hesitate to deal with such culprits. He said they would be charged to court after completing investigation into the matter.

MASSOB members also rallied in Ikom Local Government Area of Cross River State. The group charged President Buhari to give a listening ear to the cry of the people and allow them to go since all indices point to the fact that Biafra state has come to stay in the minds and hearts of majority of Igbo nation.

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