By Raphael Ede
The anniversary for the Biafra nation yesterday turned bloody as soldiers and protesters clashed at Nkpor, Anambra state, with about 37 members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra and the Independent People of Biafran , allegedly shot dead by the soldiers, a claim denied by the Army .
Similarly, in Enugu state, scores of the agitators were also arrested by the police, having owned up to being members of the groups.
However, the 82Div of the Nigeria Army, in a statement issued last night by the Deputy Director Army Public Relations, Col. HA Gambo, said contrary to the allegation, only five members of MASSOB/IPOB were killed, eight wounded while nine were arrested for due legal actions.
Enugu East Zonal leader of both MASSOB and Biafran Independent Movement, Comrade Eugene Eze and several others, were whisked away after addressing the press at Edinburgh Roundabout, Ogui, Enugu, where the protesters gathered in their numbers, brandishing Biafran flags and caps.
MASSOB’s National Director of Publicity, Comrade Edeson, who disclosed this to Blueprint on telephone, claimed that about 37 people were feared killed at Nkpor, Anambra state by armed soldiers.
“My prayer is that the Federal Government of Nigeria should let us be. We are non-violent and I don’t see why they should harass and kill innocent people.
“One thing is certain, no matter the amount of intimidation and threat of death, nothing will stop Biafra,” said the MASSOB spokesman.
“We are not afraid because we are a non-violent organisation. We have no weapon. The only defence we have is God and the world.
“We fought a war and the worst is still happening. There is no hope for the Igbo man in Nigeria. Since the end of the Nigeria-Biafran war, nothing has changed,” he said pointing out that they were not fighting specifically for themselves, but for their children and those yet to be born.
Also speaking, another MASSOB chieftain, Onyema Marshall, said the actualisation of Biafra was not negotiable.
“Today is our Biafra Day. It is an annual event. It is being celebrated on the 30th May of every year to show the world that Biafra lives forever and that the actualisation of Biafra is not negotiable.”
Another pro-Biafra group, the Independent People of Biafra, had earlier intimated that security
agencies were put on alert to stop Biafran agitators from commemorating alleged killing of their loved ones in the 60’s, as well as others in different parts of Igbo land in recent time.
Commenting on the development, the Enugu state Police Command, yesterday confirmed that the demonstrators were arrested for illegal demonstration.
The Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Ebere Amaraizu, in a statement made available to newsmen, disclosed that the suspects were nabbed by security operatives of the command
in the early hours at Edinburgh axis of Ogui Enugu.
The suspects, according to the police, in their reactions, maintained that they were MASSOB and BIM members.
Meanwhile, the Army has debunked the agitators claims, saying only five members of the groups were killed in the ensuing fracas.
Deputy Director Army Public Relations, 82Div, Enugu, Col. HA Gambo , made the clarifications in a statement.
He said: “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 over arching imperative 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 who 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 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 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,” the statement added.