By Nwabueze Okonkwo, Onitsha
Days after Igbos, and indeed many Nigerians, continue to lament and condemn the unfortunate killings at the popular Nkpor Junction in Idemili North Local Government Area, near the commercial city of Onitsha in Anambra State on Monday, May 30, 2016 during the remembrance day of Biafran heroes and heroines who died during the 1967 civil war. It has, however, emerged that this was the second of a major blood spill at Nkpor Junction which is an intersection of roads linking Onitsha, Obosi, Umuoji, Ogidi and the expressway leading to Awka and Enugu.
The first blood spill occurred at the same spot in 1983 during the Second Republic second term presidential campaign of the then President Shehu Shagari. Supporters of the late Biafran warlord, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu who joined the ruling National Party of Nigeria, NPN, soon after returning from exile had clashed with those of the then Governor of old Anambra State, Chief Jim Nwobodo of the Nigeria Peoples Party, NPP. Nwobodo was then campaigning for second term while Ojukwu who was granted presidential pardon by Shagari was jostling to take over from him.
During the 1983 episode, guns, cutlasses and acid were freely used between the two rival political groups, with Ojukwu himself leading the NPN to justify his presidential pardon, while Nwobodo led his own campaign train.
The latest blood spill was the tragic climax of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, members insistence on going ahead with their proposed 49th remembrance day ceremony scheduled for May 30. However, the Nigerian security forces which described IPOB as an outlawed group vowed to stop any such gathering.
From Saturday, May 28, the security forces started mounting surveillance at the Nkpor Junction, waiting to intercept and disperse any gathering of either the IPOB, Biafra Independence Movement, BIM or Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB.
In one of their protests, the IPOB members smashed a pillar erected at the Nkpor junction during the commissioning ceremony of Nkpor/Ogidi/Abagana/Enugwu-Ukwu/Awka old road. The pillar has on it this inscription: “This road was commissioned by His Excellency, Governor Willie Obiano on this day”.
Onitsha military cantonment
Hostilities erupted at about 3 am on May 30 when the security forces got an information that some IPOB members had camped at a nearby St. Edmund’s Catholic Church, swooped on them in the process of which some were either killed or injured some, while others were arrested. They also allegedly took the corpses of those killed to Onitsha military cantonment.
The onslaught continued in the morning as the security forces launched another attack and killed more persons, bringing the death toll to an estimated 40 which IPOB said included persons going about their normal and lawful businesses.
Also on the evening of Saturday, May 28, five chartered 18-seater buses occupied by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike-led MASSOB were intercepted by soldiers at a military check-point along Onitsha/Owerri dual carriageway by Azia Junction in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra state. The MASSOB’s National Director of Information, Chris Mocha had told newsmen on phone that he did not know where the soldiers took all the occupants of the buses who are their members to.
Mocha added that three of the buses carrying their members who were returning to Anambra and Delta states from Owerri where they had attended their national convention were intercepted first, while two others carrying Biafran veteran soldiers returning from the same Owerri meeting were intercepted about 30 minutes later.
Mocha noted that he had communicated the ugly situation to the MASSOB leader, Uwazuruike who in turn instructed him to issue a press statement to that effect.
He however stated that in spite of all odds, MASSOB had concluded arrangements to celebrate Biafra day, remembrance of Biafra fallen heroes and the 49th anniversary of the outbreak of the genocidal civil war arising from the declaration of Biafra Republic, which claimed lives of millions of Igbo sons and daughters.
He also called on military authorities to leave their members alone as they were neither armed nor exhibited any act of violence as they were returning to Anambra State and parts of Delta State from Owerri where they had attended a meeting presided over by Uwazuruike himself.
But by the next day, Mocha confirmed to newsmen that the arrested members had been spotted at the State Criminal Investigations Department, CID, where they were detained, adding that out of 92 members arrested, 23 were old Biafran soldiers.
Joint military and security forces
Bishop Dr. Abraham Chris Udeh, the High Priest and Founder of Mount Zion Faith Global Liberation Ministries (a.k.a. By Fire By Fire), Nnewi, had condemned the invasion of St. Edmund’s Catholic Church, Nkpor-Agu and Eke market, Nkpor-Uno by the joint military and security forces to attack IPOB members. Bishop Udeh also condemned the alleged invasion of Nnamdi Azikiwe University Teaching Hospital, NAUTH, Nnewi by the forces to whisk away IPOB members who were injured in the process and taken to the hospital for medical attention.
In an interview with newsmen his Uruagu-Nnewi country home, Udeh described such invasions as sacrilege, because according to him, under the United Nation’s Charter on Human Rights, churches, markets and hospitals are regarded as sacred place and as such, war mongers are forbidden from launching attacks against their enemies in these sacred places since it is not only their opposition that go to churches, markets and hospitals.
Meantime, a human rights group, International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law, Intersociety, has made a solemn appeal to the general public to check the whereabouts of their loved ones particularly those who passed through Owerri Road, Asaba-Onitsha Head Bridge, Onitsha-Upper Iweka, Onitsha-Nkpor Expressway, Oba-Nnewi Road, Ojoto-Umuoji Road, Nkpor-Ogidi-Old Road, between May 29 and 30, 2016.
Intersociety said the solemn appeal became imperative as further updates and comprehensive compilation of casualty figures of IPOB, MASSOB and other innocent citizens massacred by a combine security forces during the May 30, during the Biafra remembrance day protest, are being awaited from credible independent sources including Intersociety.
In a press statement issued in Onitsha, entitled: “International Igbo Heroes Remembrance Day Massacre: Buhari & Obiano at it again”, the group noted that dozens of those coming Onitsha from Port Harcourt, Aba, Owerri, Enugu, Asaba were shot and killed by members of Anambra State Joint Security Taskforce, constituted by Governor Willie Obiano in his capacity as the Chief Security Officer of Anambra State, who are answerable to Gen Muhammadu Buhari in his capacity as the Commander-in-Chief of the Nigerian Armed Forces. “We are also aware that a number of passersby, artisans and traders nearby were either shot and wounded, or shot and killed or arrested and taken away by soldiers. For the purpose of any information from any member of the public regarding their missing loved ones linked to the massacre, we urge such persons to contact Intersociety,” the group said.
The statement added: “As usual, those shot, killed or wounded were dumped in the military Hilux vans and taken to Onitsha Army Barracks. As if these were not enough, the military and police personnel with dozens of security trucks stormed the proposed venue of IPOB’s prayer rally and opened fire with live bullets on hundreds who had gathered for the prayer session. The police and soldiers later went on rampage shooting indiscriminately in all directions. Those who came through Ifite-Dunu and Ogbunike to Nkpor were ambushed and shot at in their large numbers; likewise those coming through Ojoto-Umuoji Road as well as those coming through Onitsha-Owerri Road.
“The soldiers and police in their Hilux vans later traced those shot dead and critically injured ones and picked them from the scenes and headed towards the Onitsha Army Barracks. Two eyewitnesses (one journalist and one IPOB member) told Intersociety that they saw soldiers with three Hilux vans with scores of slain citizens. The journalist said he counted six dead bodies in a military Hilux, while the IPOB member said he saw two military Hilux vans filled with dead bodies.
“Efforts made by sympathizers and IPOB members to take the critically shot victims to hospital were rebuffed by soldiers and police who got them arrested. For now, three hospitals: Nnamdi Azikiwe Teaching Hospital, Uzondu Hospital and Multicare Hospital are said to be treating some gun-shot victims and the urgency of this statement is to put the records straight and disabuse the sacred minds of Nigerians from unpardonable and serial lies of the authorities of the Nigerian security forces particularly the Nigerian Army who have already started dishing out tissue of lies over the massacre”.