By Vincent Ujumadu

FOR weeks, members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, looked forward to this year’s celebration of the Biafra Day. Over the years, the ceremony had rotated among the Igbo-speaking states and it was the turn of Anambra State to host the event this year. The organizers had chosen Nkpor, a suburb of the commercial city of Onitsha for the celebration. As it was customary, they usually assemble in a church and keep vigil the night before 30th  of May every year and then march through some streets in the host city, after which they would return to their home states.

Biafra protesters

For this year’s celebration, many IPOB members had arrived Nkpor from Abia, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Delta, Rivers, among other states in the country and were putting finishing touches to the arrangements for 30th  May before the bubble burst. Before selecting Nkpor as the venue for this year’s anniversary, it was gathered that other venues in Anambra State were also considered, among which was Rogeny Stadium, Oba. Nkpor was eventually chosen because of the closeness of a church which the group wanted to use for the anniversary service to the busy area.

Members of IPOB also directed all markets in Onitsha to remain closed on May 30th  and this directive was religiously obeyed. Traders coming into Onitsha for their purchases were unaware of the closure of the markets and by the time they reached Anambra borders from Delta, Imo, Enugu and Abia, they discovered that all roads leading to the state were blocked. Surprisingly, markets in Nnewi and Awka remained open for business, although there were sporadic shots at Nnewi from unknown quarters while Onitsha was burning.

For this year’s celebration, the leadership of MASSOB said it would not be involved in the protest and, indeed, directed its members to celebrate the day quietly in their homes in view of the security situation in the country.

MASSOB leader, Mr.   b said though his organization was not involved in the protest, there was no justification for security operatives to open fire on unarmed pro-Biafra groups. He said: “Security operatives of the Federal Government arrested and killed people who are non-violent. Is it because we are not armed? It appears the only language the Nigerian security understands is violence. This issue is not about MASSOB or IPOB. It is about Ndigbo generally. In the killings, innocent people were also targets.”

He wondered why the government, which is negotiating with Niger Delta militants and faceless Boko Haram, could not call pro-Biafra groups to a round table, but threatened to wipe out pro-Biafra agitators.

After the shootout, the state police command spent the better part of the day removing the obstacles created by the protesters. Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, in the state, Mr. Alli Okechukwu said the Police were very busy clearing all the blocked roads in Onitsha and therefore had not time to start counting the number of casualties. As at Thursday, the police were yet to release the official figure of the casualties.

There had been conflicting stories concerning the shootout that took place at Nkpor and other parts of Onitsha, but what was certain was the clash between the pro –Biafra groups and security operatives, leading to loss of many lives and injuries on others.

While IPOB leaders said over 30 people were killed, the Nigerian Army said only five IPOB members lost their lives. Those wounded were admitted in various hospitals around Onitsha, but 24 hours after the mayhem, most of them had been discharged, not because they had recovered from the injuries but because their relations were afraid that security operatives might invade the hospitals with a view to arresting those on admission.

IPOB even accused the Anambra State government of directing security operatives to shoot its members at sight, an allegation that was denied by the commissioner for information and communication strategy, Ogbuefi Tony Nnachetta.  According to Nnachetta, most of the people who caused the mayhem in Onitsha and its environs came from outside Anambra State, gong by a report by the state police command.    IPOB also claimed that it raised alarm that security operatives were going to attack them during the Biafra Day, but no action was taken to stop the attack on people who were not armed in any way.

Media and Publicity officer of IPOB, Mr. Emma Powerful said the Nigerian security agencies, particularly the Army and the Police were economical with the truth by saying that they killed in self defence as the pro-Biafra agitators were not armed.

Powerful said:”IPOB under the leadership of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu does not carry any weapon, whether dangerous or not. That is why even the clergy, doctors, lawyers and people of diverse professions can identify and show solidarity with us. We therefore condemn the killing of unarmed IPOB members and other Biafra agitators at Nkpor and Onitsha.

“The members of IPOB who traveled from outside Anambra State, on arrival, moved into St Edmund Catholic Church along Nkpor -Umuoji road to seek the consent of God Almighty who has been guiding us in this noble project. The worst side of the attack was that our members who were coming to honour the Biafran fallen heroes and heroines had not reached the venue of the ceremony before they met their untimely death. That was why nobody could say that IPOB flag was being waved, unlike before.”

Stating the government side of the story, Nnachetta wondered why people should leave their states to come into Anambra to make trouble. He said: “All the people involved came into the state a night before the demonstration from states outside Anambra. We are willing to welcome visitors to Anambra, but we don’t want such visitors to bring violence. After dealing with issues of kidnapping and armed robbery, people came from other states to cause mayhem here. Also, the report that there was shooting in a church at Nkpor was incorrect. What we can say for sure was that two cars and a motorcycles were burnt at Nkpor.

“It will be difficult for government to announce the figures of casualties when the full report has not been received. It is however regrettable that our youths are being killed in such senseless manner and I want our people to understand the danger of illegally carrying firearms. It is also regrettable that a peaceful demonstration organized by the agitators was high jacked by miscreants and that was why there were casualties.”

Also, the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army reacted to the clash, saying that that troops, 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 Biafran members, apparently surging ahead from the far side of the strategic Niger Bridge at Onitsha.

Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, Colonel HA Gambo accused IPOB and MASSOB of launching a combined attack on the peace- loving populace, as well as security agencies on 30th  May 2016, to mar the first anniversary of the present democratic government.

His statement read: “The attention of the general public is hereby drawn to the unwarranted attack that was launched by combined members of the Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB and the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB against the peace- loving populace as well as security agencies at about 0415 hours on 30 May 2016.

“This attack was purported to have been orchestrated in order to mar the first anniversary of the present democratic government as part of the activities earmarked to celebrate the 50th  Anniversary of Biafra.

“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 need 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 intervening 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 defense, protection of the strategic Niger Bridge, prevent re-enforcement of the pro Biafran 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.

“This unfortunate incident notwithstanding, 82 Division Nigerian Army wishes to assure all of its professional commitment to the protection of lives and property of the good people of Anambra State and indeed across its entire Area of Responsibility in tandem with the recent directive of the President and Commander-in-Chief of the Armed Forces of the Federal Republic of Nigeria through the Chief of Defense Staff to the Chief of Army Staff to avert occurrences of such unwarranted and uncivilized attacks against the good and law abiding people of   the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

Secretary general of Igbo Improvement Union, Chief Edozie Njoku, while reacting on the clash, urged the federal government to address the issue of MASSOB and IPOB carefully and without bias. Njoku said IPOB did not do more harm than the herdsmen who have been ravaging parts of the country and yet security operatives have not reacted the way they did to IPOB.

He said: I contested for House of Representatives in 2007 on the platform of the defunct ANPP for Onitsha federal constituency and I worked for Buhari as an agent during his presidential bid then.I also supported him in 2015 and I am in support of his disciplined character, but I am becoming very disappointed on how issues involving Igbo are being handled by his administration.

“The Fulani herdsmen are committing more harm than the IPOB and MASOB and there has not been any reprisal from the federal government. Those of us who supported the president during election must now start crying out and we want to say that enough is enough.There is no justification for soldiers to kill innocent protesters. The president is supposed to be father to all Nigerians and my advice is that he and his advisers should re-strategize on how to deal with issues of this nature.”

states outside Anambra. We are willing to welcome visitors to Anambra, but we don’t want such visitors to bring violence. After dealing with issues of kidnapping and armed robbery, people came from other states to cause mayhem here. Also, the report that there was shooting in a church at Nkpor was incorrect. What we can say for sure was that two cars and a motorcycles were burnt at Nkpor.

“It will be difficult for government to announce the figures of casualties when the full report has not been received. It is however regrettable that our youths are being killed in such senseless manner and I want our people to understand the danger of illegally carrying firearms. It is also regrettable that a peaceful demonstration organized by the agitators was high jacked by miscreants and that was why there were casualties.”

Also, the 82 Division of the Nigerian Army reacted to the clash, saying that that troops, 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 Biafran members, apparently surging ahead from the far side of the strategic Niger Bridge at Onitsha.

Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, Colonel HA Gambo accused IPOB and MASSOB of launching a combined attack on the peace- loving populace, as well as security agencies on 30th  May 2016, to mar the first anniversary of the present democratic government.

His statement read: “The attention of the general public is hereby drawn to the unwarranted attack that was launched by combined members of the Movement for Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB and the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB against the peace- loving populace as well as security agencies at about 0415 hours on 30 May 2016. “This attack was purported to have been orchestrated in order to mar the first anniversary of the present democratic government as part of the activities earmarked to celebrate the 50th  Anniversary of Biafra.

“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 need 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 intervening 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 defense, protection of the strategic Niger Bridge, prevent re-enforcement of the pro Biafran 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.

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