By Olisemeka Obeche, Ostar Eze, Uzoh Ugwueze, Phil Okose & Joe Akwarandu
The Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) have vowed to resist efforts by security agencies to derail their struggle for the emergence of a Biafra state.
While MASSOB accused police of killing two of its members and arresting about 10 others during a controversial shooting at Upper Iweka, Onitsha last Wednesday, IPOB alleged that over 150 of its members had been picked up by police in parts of Anambra and Enugu states during the week. Both groups, in their separate statements, denied fomenting trouble and vowed to continue their agitations.
According to Mr. Amadi Ifeanyi of MASSOB in Ogbaru, Anambra state, the commemoration of the 19th year of the Biafra struggle under the MASSOB-BIM banner, turned bloody when police operatives attacked MASSOB members at Upper Iweka axis of the commercial nerve city of Onitsha.
“We were hoisting our flag at about 2am on Wednesday, at Upper Iweka axis in preparation for our 19th anniversary, when police operatives stormed the place, shooting at us and, in the process, killed two members. They also arrested ten of our members while others escaped with bullet wounds. We are a non-violent organisation struggling for a Biafran state,” he said.
Amadi, who spoke through another officer, Ezeaka Martins, gave the names of the slain MASSOB members as Innocent Okoye and Uche Ezinwanne. Another MASSOB member in Onitsha North, Christian Umeaka, added that one of the MASSOB members had not been seen since after the police arrest.
IPOB also raised alarm over the purported arrest of over 140 of their members at Nike area of Enugu state. They were reportedly heading for Nsukka to campaign ahead of their May 30 sit-at-home order when the police struck.
The IPOB national publicity secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful, made the disclosure in a statement and alleged that they had been moved to an unknown location.
He declared: “It was reported that they have now been moved to an unknown location for possible execution. We are placing all diplomatic missions to Nigeria, especially the United States, European Union and African Union, on notice with regard to their obligation to report these levels of unimaginable atrocity by the Nigerian state against Biafrans to their home countries and relevant agencies”, he said while calling for release of the arrested members.
However, when contacted, the Enugu state police public relations officer, SP Ebere Amaraizu, said the command was not aware of such arrest.
Orient Weekend recalls that the Anambra police command, last Wednesday, said it arrested some suspected Biafra agitators with some Biafra insignia. According to the state’s police public relations officer, SP Haruna Muhammad, the command, last Tuesday, received reports that members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and MASSOB were moving around in their numbers with dangerous weapons, hoisting the group’s flag on poles and billboards along Asaba-Onitsha Expressway in Onitsha.
“Following the report, police operatives rushed to the scene in order to prevent them from mounting the flags, but they engaged the police with catapults and stones. However, 12 suspects were arrested and over fifty flags with different inscriptions of IPOB, MASSOB/ BIM recovered as exhibits”, the statement read in parts.
Muhammad added that, last Wednesday, there was another intelligence report that some “misguided elements,” suspected to be IPOB members, were sighted mounting Biafra flags along Ekwulobia-Uga Road in Aguata local government area of Anambra state. He said the police arrested 12 of the people involved. He insisted that IPOB remained proscribed and its activities unlawful, vowing that the police would ensure that the group did not cause breakdown of law and order in parts of the state.
In Abia state, the police CP Ene Okon, warned that anyone or group of persons associated with IPOB would be termed a terrorist and dealt with severely.
No retreat, no surrender:
“We are urging all Biafrans, no matter where you reside in the world, to adhere to this clarion call to observe this historic event in a solemn and befitting manner. No public gathering, human or vehicular movement, ceremony or lectures of any kind are allowed on that day.
The group insisted that it would not allow any other activities on May 30, saying, “We are not against any person organising any activity outside May 30 but that day is special and shall remain so for eternity. No lectures, creative discussions or politically motivated and sponsored event on the 30th of May because Biafrans cannot allow quislings to make a mockery of our dead heroes on that particular day”, Powerful said.
MASSOB/BIM leader, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, described the Upper Iweka Onitsha incident as an act of cowardice. Uwazuruike, who was reacting to the police claim that it arrested 12 IPOB/MASSOB members in Onitsha, said: “if they were IPOB members I should not have been asking for their release”.
He spoke through his personal assistant on media and publicity, Mazi Chris Mocha, expressing regrets about shooting of agitators. According to him, “even when the force is unable to withstand the onslaught of the Boko Haram terrorists and Fulani herdsmen, it is the non-violent and unarmed MASSOB-BIM that they have power to kill.”
Uwazurike called for the immediate release of arrested members adding that they are innocent of the offence for which they were arrested.