We’ll take up arms to actualize Biafra — MASSOB
By Henry Umoru, Chidi Nkwopara, Vincent Ujumadu, Anayo Okoli, Joseph Erunke, Levinus Nwabughiogu, Francis Igata, Peter Okutu, Okonkwo Nwabueze & Chimaobi Nwaiwu
NNEWI — Following allegation of massacre of members of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, Monday, by security agents in Onitsha, the 82nd Division, Nigerian Army said, yesterday, it merely invoked the extant Rules of Engagement (ROE) to resort to self-defence and protect the strategic Niger Bridge.
It also said its action was borne out of the need to prevent reinforcement by the pro-Biafran members, apparently surging ahead from the far side of the strategic Niger Bridge in Onitsha.
The Army also said five members of MASSOB/IPOB were killed, eight wounded, while nine were arrested.
In a statement signed by Deputy Army Public Relations Officer, Colonel H. A. Gambo, the army accused IPOB and MASSOB of launching a combined attack on the peace-loving populace as well as security agencies at about 0415 hours on May 30, 2016, to mar the first anniversary of the present democratic government.
The statement read: “The attention of the general public is, hereby, drawn to the unwarranted attack launched by combined members of 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 May 30, 2016.
“This attack was purported to have been orchestrated 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 widespread panic, tension and apprehension that generated from the activities of MASSOB and IPOB members, security agencies which comprised detachments of the Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police, Department of State Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency, NDLEA, were compelled to intervene, in consonance with constitutional provisions of aid to civil authority where and when such occasion demands.
“The over-arching imperative to ensure a reign of peace, security and stability in this circumstance was most starring.”
How it happened
Continuing, the army said: “However, the MASSOB/IPOB members, who had earlier assembled at a school location on Ataa Road, near Saint Edmund’s 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-defence, protection of the strategic Niger Bridge, prevent re-enforcement of the pro-Biafran members apparently surging ahead from the far side of the 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 our troops sustained varying degrees of injury.
“These injured troops are currently receiving treatment at own medical centre. Similarly, five members of MASSOB/IPOB were killed, eight wounded, while nine 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 Defence 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.”
Police order disarming of IPOB activists
Meanwhile, the Inspector-General of Police, IGP Solomon Arase, has directed the Assistant Inspectors General of Police and the Commissioners of Police in the affected area to immediately disarm members of the group operating with firearms
The IGP noted that the targeted attacks on Police personnel, who had been performing their statutory functions in the most professional and civil manner since the latest resurgence disorder, portrayed the IPOB activists, who are orchestrating the insurrection, as having crossed the threshold in their misguided attempt to test the common will of the nation.
While condemning the killing by members of IPOB, Arase also directed the arrest of any member of the group found in possession of firearms and to bring him/her to deserved justice, while all IPOB activists arrested in connection with the killing of the Policemen should be charged to court for murder.
According to him, the Nigeria Police Force will continue to diligently work towards eliminating any threat to internal security and assure Nigerians of commitment to their safety and security.
26 persons arrested by police not from Anambra— Govt
Stating its side of the story, yesterday, Anambra State Government said the state police command confirmed that none of the 26 persons arrested on Monday during the clash was from Anambra State. The police could, however, not react as the command said it was still investigating the matter.
Addressing reporters in Awka to clarify government stand on the protest, the state Commissioner for Information and Communication Strategy, Ogbuefi Tony Nnacheta, said government had not ascertained the actual figure of those who died, although he argued that it was not near the figures published by some media houses.
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 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 motorcycle were burnt at Nkpor.
“It will be difficult for government to announce the figure 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 hijacked by miscreants and that was why there were casualties.”
Nnacheta said the state government would embark on mass orientation of youths to avoid a recurrence of such issue.
We raised alarm before the attack —IPOB
Meanwhile, IPOB said, yesterday, 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 Nigerian security agencies, particularly the Army and the Police, lied by saying that they were attacked by IPOB and other pro-Biafra agitators, who were not bearing arms.
The statement 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.”
Giving details of what happened on Monday, Powerful said: “Members of IPOB who travelled 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 Biafra 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.”
Pro-Biafra groups vow to take up arms
Angered by the killing of their members, the pro-Biafra groups, yesterday, vowed to take up arms towards the secession of Biafra.
This was even as MASSOB blamed Anambra State Governor, Wille Obiano, over what it described as acts of cowardice, inferiority complex, unsteadiness expressly exhibited by his administration which allowed the security agents to unleash terror on his subjects.
In a statement made available to Vanguard by MASSOB Leader,Uchenna Madu, it accused Igbo leaders of sabotaging their cause while demanding the release of all detained pro-Biafran agitators.
The statement read: “We condemn the brutality and the unprovoked killing of non-violent Biafran agitators during the annual anniversary of Biafra declaration mostly in Anambra State. The magnanimity of Nigerian soldiers and other security agents has been shown on the attack on armless Biafrans. This shows their primitiveness and unprofessionalism in discharging their duties.
“It also shows the high level of ethnic, religious and pathological hatred against the people of Biafra by the Nigerian government. The brutal onslaught against the people of Biafra is an indirect call that the non-violent Biafran agitators should start the militant way in Biafra restoration. We will, therefore, answer that call.
“Today, Nigeria economy is bleeding because of the intimidating, consistent activities of the Niger Delta Avengers. MASSOB roundly blames Willie Obiano, the Governor of Anambra State, who out of cowardice, inferiority complex and unsteadiness expressly allowed the security agents to unleash terror on his subjects.
“Anambra State is part of Biafra, and we shall continue to exist and have our programmes in Anambra State. MASSOB also noticed with disappointment the cowardly silence of key Igbo leaders, who thought that the activities of Biafran agitators do not concern them. MASSOB demands the unconditional release of all Biafra agitators arrested on Monday.
“We also demand the release of bodies of dead ones and the release of Maxi Nnamdi Kanu, Benjamin Madubugwu, David Nwawuisi, Ben Onwuka and 23 others detained at Awka and Onitsha prisons.
“These men are prisoners of conscience, who committed no criminal offence. They were only exercising their fundamental rights of existence.”
The Imo State Police Command, yesterday, said it had released all the citizens arrested in Owerri, alongside members of IPOB, and MASSOB.
Confirming this to Vanguard, yesterday, in a telephone interview, the Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Andrew Enwerem, a Deputy Superintendent of Police, said the command released non-members of the two groups.
“You will recall that suspected members of IPOB and MASSOB were arrested during that illegal procession in Owerri. There were some of them that stoutly denied membership of the two groups. The police carefully screened the suspects and quickly released all the people that had nothing to do with the procession,” the PPRO said.
Meanwhile, Mr Okechukwu Nwogu, a leader of MASSOB, who spoke to journalists in Owerri, regretted the arrest of members of the group, who, according to him, were on a peaceful march to commemorate the 49th anniversary of Biafra and 17th anniversary of MASSOB.
92 granted bail in Ebonyi
Also yesterday, Ebonyi State Police Command charged 92 members of MASSOB, to court. The suspects were arrested Monday in Abakaliki as they were about to embark on pro-Biafra protests.
The court premises was jam-packed with heavily armed policemen to ensure law and order during the prosecution.
The suspects were arraigned before the state magistrate’s court 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.
After the charges were read before them, all the accused persons pleaded not guilty.
Their lead counsel, Jerry Ezenyi, made application for their bail, saying their offence was bailable.
But in his own argument, the prosecution counsel, Adeola Elumaru, opposed the bail application, saying 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 till July 18, 2016 for definite hearing.
13 MASSOB members granted bail in Enugu
In Enugu state, the Police command through the State Criminal Intelligence and Investigations Department, yesterday, arraigned 13 persons suspected to be members of MASSOB and pro-Biafran members arrested last Monday at Edinburgh Ogui axis of Enugu State.
They were arraigned at Court 6 presided over by E. N. Alukwu in the Enugu North Magisterial District Holden at Enugu in charge No 245c/2016 for 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;and thereby committing an offence punishable under section 106 of the criminal code cap 30 vol.11 laws of Enugu State of Nigeria, among other charges.
Ohanaeze youths threaten to drag Buhari, Army to ICC
The Ohanaeze Youth Council (OYC) has threatened to drag the Nigerian Army to the International Criminal Court at The Hague for alleged genocide.
The group also threatened to join President Muhammadu Buhari in the suit if he did not urgently call the military to order over their attacks on armless protesters.
In a statement condemning the killing of unarmed pro-Biafra protesters, OYC urged President Muhammadu Buhari “to fish out the cabal in the military who are pursuing ethnic cleansing against Ndigbo.
“We also warn the Nigerian Army that it is obviously crossing the boundary by its reckless killing of unarmed pro-Biafran protesters in the East. The Nigerian Army is making itself a candidate for trial at the International criminal court at The Hague for its crime against humanity.”
Senate set to debate motion on killings
Today, the Senate is expected to debate on a motion seeking its condemnation and subsequent action on the killings of members of IPOB by security forces.
The Senate’s readiness to have heated debate on the issue is coming at the instance of the Deputy Senate President,Ike Ekweremadu, who drew the attention of the red chamber to the tragedies arising from the unfortunate anniversary celebration of the organisation, during yesterday’s plenary.
Ekweremadu, who urged the Senate to treat the issue under matter of urgent national importance, condemned in strong terms, the killing of young men and women by security operatives in parts of the South-East, “all in the name of quelling disturbances.”
He noted that the country had recorded so much bloodshed in various parts of the country in the past and as such, security agencies must apply caution in quelling perceived disturbances in any part of country, whatsoever, to prevent young men and women from being sent to their untimely graves.
Nnamani leads Igbo delegation to meet Buhari
Apparently agitated by the killings, notable Igbo leaders, yesterday, convened a high powered meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
The meeting, which held behind closed doors, had mostly politicians, technocrats and chieftains of the ruling All Progressives Congress, APC, as members.
Coming under the aegis of South-East Group for Change, the group paraded former Senate President, Chief Ken Nnamani and Governor Rochas Okorocha of Imo State as leaders.
Members of the delegation arrived in a bus belonging to the Ken Nnamani Leadership Institute to the villa.
They included National Auditor, George Moghalu; former Senators Ifeanyi Ararume and Osita Izunaso; former House of Reps member, Sharon Ikeazor; and former Executive Vice-Charman of Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), Ernest Ndukwe.
Others were APC National Vice-Chairman (South East), Hon. Emma Eneukwu; member of the APC Board of Trustees, Chief Austin Edeze; Dr. Uzoma Obiyo; and Chris Akomas.
Nnamani, like any other member of the delegation, refused to speak on what transpired at the meeting when approached by State House correspondents after the meeting.
Asked if the issue of Biafra came up for discussion, the former Senate President replied: “No, no, not now.”
However, there were feelings that Biafra may not be the issue that brought the people to the villa as Nnamani visited the President with Governor of Katsina State, Bello Masari, who is also a former Speaker of the House of Representatives.
It is expected that the State House would issue an official statement on the outcome of the meeting.