Two policemen feared killed in Asaba as pro-Biafra protests rock S’East
• 10 agitators die in Anambra, four in Delta
• Govt warns troublemakers, 92 held in Ebonyi
As pro-Biafra protests rocked the South East states of Enugu, Imo, Abia , Ebonyi and Anambra, two policemen were feared killed in Asaba, the state capital of neighbouring Delta State yesterday .
The tragedy occurred when a protest by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB and Biafra Independence Movement (BIM) turned violent.Unconfirmed reports say 10 of the protesters were killed in the Nkpor area of Anambra State.
Following rumours of the planned protest, the Delta State Police Command had deployed officers in strategic locations in Asaba where they came under attack by irate groups .
Two policemen were killed and two others injured at Cable and Abraka areas and pro-Biafra agitators allegedly made away with one AK 47 assault rifle and one smoke riot gun from the killed and injured policemen.
The Acting Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Charles Muka said that the secessionist groups threw two of the injured policemen into the River Niger at Cable, while one was later rescued alive.
Muka said: “The unlawful groups also damaged Ibusa Division patrol van and a military patrol van. In the ensuing confrontation with the groups, four members of the illegal group were fatally wounded, while eight were arrested. The groups were successfully dispersed and Benin/Onitsha express way and the town made free for people to go about their businesses.”
He advised parents and guardians to warn their children and embrace peace, assuring that the security agencies would not fold their arms and watch a few persons take laws into their hands and cause mayhem in the pursuit of whatever agenda.
In Anambra , especially around the commercial centre of Onitsha and its neighbouring towns, there was palpable tension as pro-Biafra protesters blocked major roads.
The Onitsha Main Market, other major markets, shops and stalls were all shut following the ‘stay at home order’ by MASSOB and IPOB.
But a combined team of security agencies battled to prevent the pro-Biafra members from carrying out their scheduled 50 years anniversary of the declaration of Biafra in the sprawling city.
Meanwhile, unconfirmed reports said that heavy gunshots were heard around Nkpor area where 10 persons were allegedly killed in a gunbattle between the pro-Biafra groups and security forces including combined team of Army, Navy and Police .
In reaction to the violence, the Government of Anambra State yesterday warned those it described as hoodlums who tried to hijack a peaceful demonstration by some youths in Nkpor, Idemili Local Council to mark the Democracy Day earlier yesterday.
A statement signed by the Commissioner for Information and Strategy, Ogbuefi Tony Nnacheta, said some “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,” he said.
According to Nnacheta, “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.
“Ndi Anambra are advised to go about their lawful businesses peacefully as the law enforcement agents have assured of safety and protection for all.”
The commissioner further expressed deep regrets over the loss of lives and property that resulted from the exchange of gunfire between the hoodlums and the police earlier and “sincerely” condoled with the families of victims.
In Enugu State, the police broke up a rather peaceful procession of MASSOB/BIM members arresting several of their members The police, which came out in considerable strength in different parts of the metropolis had at the popular Obiagu Roundabout, in Ogui New Layout, where the members of MASSOB gathered to mark the 49th anniversary of the declaration of Biafra, picked up the leaders of the group, shortly after the main body of the group had prayed, chorused solidarity songs and marched away.
Before his arrest, the Zonal Administrator of the Enugu North Region, and leader of the group, Chief Eugene Eze had explained that their gathering was “neither a protest nor a demonstration. This is a peaceful anniversary procession. We are marking the birth of Biafra as we have done in previous years. We are also telling our members that the journey is coming to an end. Today, we are expressing joy that what we have been fighting for has been achieved.”
He lamented that despite the civil war, nothing has changed, “the things that led to the war are still there. Ndigbo are still not integrated in the larger Nigeria. How many ministers and top political appointees are from Igboland? There is still no recognition of the Igboman, there is hunger and unemployment in the land. Do we have to keep quiet?”In Ebonyi, the Police Command yesterday said it had foiled a protest by pro-Biafra groups
The command added that it had arrested 92 of them.
The protesters, The Guardian learnt, had assembled at Nkaliki Primary School ground as their takeoff point before they where swooped upon by the police.
Confirming the arrest the George Okafor, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, noted that the command got intelligence reports that pro-Biafra groups had gathered at Nkaliki Primary School in Abkaliki, the state capital but police arrived and stopped the gathering.
Okafor said that about 92 members led by one Vincent Nwamini and several other sub-leaders were arrested.In Cross River State , pro-Biafra groups held a huge rally at Ikom Stadium in Ikom , about 200kilometres from Calabar Central Senatorial district which attracted a large crowd as members came from different parts of the state.
Led by Mr. Samuel Okah, the Zonal Leader of the movement in the state the crowd walked from the Ikom Stadium to the New Okomo layout in the town and addressed a rally.
He told the large crowd that the rally was in commemoration of the 1967 declaration of the sovereign state of Biafra by then leader, Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu which could not be actulalised through violent means but which could now come through non-violence .
Amidst occasional cheers from the crowd, Okah said, “we the Biafran Independent Movement have taken it upon ourselves that every year, the 30th of May should be remembered as a national day as Biafra will be a reality through non-violent means because with arms we annihilated ourselves and destroyed the resources God has given us which has called for a change of tactics to peaceful means for the actualisation of our dream.”