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Saturday, 7 November 2015

Biafra agitators shut down S/East, part of Delta

Biafra protesters 
FROM PAUL OSUYI, ASABA; ALOY­SIUS ATTAH AND JEFF AMECHI AGBODO, ONITSHA; GEORGE ONYEJIUWA,OWERRI; FEMI FO­LARANMI, YENAGOA

Thousands of enthusiastic agitators for the Sovereign State of Biafra, yesterday staged peaceful protests in Agbor, Asa­ba and Onitsha protest over the contin­ued detention of the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.

This is coming barely weeks after the agitators staged a peaceful protests across major streets of Asaba, Delta State capital seeking the uncondi­tional release of Mr. Kanu.

The agitators under the aegis of Indigenous Peo­ple of Biafra (IPOB), Delta State chapter started the peaceful march at Agbor and moved to Asaba in a motorcade causing traffic gridlock in the pro­cess.

They described the continued detention of Kanu as uncalled for and totally unacceptable, insisting that they were no longer comfortable with the Ni­gerian government.

Saturday Sun gathered that at Summit Junction on the Benin-Asaba-Onitsha expressway, security operatives allegedly used tear gas to disperse the protesters and actually arrested some of them.

But a source close to the state Commissioner of the Police told our correspondent that the com­mand was averse to detaining Biafran agitators, adding that the command was exploring the best possible ways to handle the situation.

One of the protesters, Victor Nwoha, who spoke with our correspondent, said the protest became necessary to secure the release of Kanu, adding, “we have suffered enough in the hands of the Ni­gerian government and we are no more comfort­able with it.

“We want our freedom that is why we are here. We are not comfortable with the Nigerian govern­ment, the intimidation, killing and all that; that is why we want our freedom. We feel very bad about his detention, and it is affecting each and every one of us. We are not comfortable; we want to go.

“The Federal Government should release our Director, Kanu and we also want our freedom. As a nation that is due for freedom, we want to go; we are tired; the suffering is too much; it is not a crime to want our freedom; we want to go.”

One of the protesters, Chineye Udeoba, said the detention of Kanu, has brought bitterness to the people of Biafra, warning that he should be re­leased without further delay.

“We are not Nigerians, we are Biafrans. My fa­ther is 72 years old and he is older than Nigeria. He is a Biafrian, I am a Biafran and we all here are Biafrans. We the indigenous people of Biafra are ready to go. We want to be on our own.

“The British came and amalgamated us with Oduduwa and Arewa people, we are not one; we were never one, we are totally different in terms of tradition. We want to be on our own. We want our freedom,” Udeoba said.

Mrs. Judith Ihebiehi told journalists that the de­tained Kanu was the voice of Biafra, insisting that it was wrong for the Nigerian government to detain him, as he did nothing to merit the punishment.

“Have they ever asked themselves if what this man has been saying is false? Have they bothered to verify what Nnamdi Kanu has been saying? So detaining Nnamdi Kanu will bring problems.

“Our reason for coming here is to tell the people of Delta State about the suffering of our people in the hands of the Federal government,” she said.

The protesters were however, denied access into the Government House by security operatives who were on guard. No official of the state government addressed them.

In Onitsha, one person was confirmed dead, while three others sustained injuries yesterday, when more than 30,000, members and supporters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) took to the streets to protest the continued detention of their leader, Kanu and to press their demand for an independent state of Biafra.

Business activities in the commercial nerve cen­tre of Anambra State were paralysed as major mar­kets and streets were shut down completely while travellers were stranded as vehicular movements from the Onitsha –Asaba end of the Niger Bridge Head was stalled owing to traffic gridlock.

Vehicular movements were also disrupted on the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, Onitsha-Owerri Road, Uga Atani Ogaru Local Government Road, Onitsha Aguleri, Nsugbe, Nkwelle Ezunaka Roads, Old and New Market Roads, Nkpor, Ogidi, Obosi Roads.

Markets in Onitsha and its environs were all shut from 7am to 2.30pm, when some traders were seen loitering around their markets to see if they would be allowed to open, while some decided to go home for the day as they were also afraid that they may be attacked.

Although the Anambra State Government had announced through the market leaders who also exchanged text messages to ensure that their mar­kets were open, but the traders seemed to be un­willing to go to their markets as most of them who normally leave in the morning for their markets were sighted on their streets discussing the protest which IPOB declared earlier in the week they will embark on.

The protesters marching in their numbers from the Ogbunike toll gate on the Onitsha –Enugu ex­pressway trooped down to Upper Iweka before proceeding to the Bridge Head section where they were joined by their supporters from Delta State.

Initial attempts by the joint security task force set up by the Anambra State Government compris­ing soldiers, police, navy and NDLEA who had earlier patrolled major streets in Onitsha on Thurs­day to stop the protesters failed as tear gas canisters fired into the crowd could not disperse them.

The security agents later maintained a marked distance from the crowd as they continued chant­ing solidarity songs of protest and freedom as they occupied one lane of the expressway completely.

Addressing reporters at the thick of the pro­test, Mr. Collins Godfrey Okafor, who identified himself as a true son of Igbo land and IPOB com­mander said that they are holding protest of free­dom irrespective of whether the government likes it or not.

He said that they are law-abiding citizens who have decided to press for their rights in a non- vio­lent manner and to say it loud and clear that the continued detention of their leader, Kanu is unac­ceptable.

Okafor said that the closure of all markets in the state is a sign that the Igbo are one and united, not­ing that the youths are angry because all the activi­ties of the government are not favourable to them. He said that there is no going back on Biafra since Ndigbo are treated as second class citizens in the country.

However, the peaceful protest later turned bloody when a member of the Anambra Vigilante Service established by the state government al­legedly opened fire on the protesters within the Ochanja market killing one instantly and injuring two others.

At the Onitsha Main market, one other person was reportedly shot by the vigilante drafted to maintain peace in the area amid speculations that some miscreants wanted to cash in on the situation to loot shops.

When the reporter visited the Ochanja area of the Iweka Road, Onitsha, corpse of the slain pro­tester was dumped along the Zik’s Avenue near the Ochanja Roundabout.

Some policemen mounted guards at the Ochan­ja roundabout while passersby raised their hands as a sign of surrender before they could pass through the area.

Though there were conflicting reports on how the killing occurred, an eye a witness Festus Okoli, a cyclist told Saturday Sun that the security man just opened fire from the Ochanja market gate and shot his passenger on the leg before shooting the yet to be identified man killing him instantly while bullet also injured one other. Showing the reporter his blood stained trousers, Okoli said that he is also a security operative and was saved because he was fortified with charms that bullets cannot penetrate his body.

Another respondent said that the vigilante fired shots in self-defence because some miscreants wanted to set fire on the Ochanja market with the objective to engage in mass looting which was foiled by the vigilante.

Efforts to get the reaction of the Coordinator of Anambra Vigilante Services, Ikechukwu Aduba (Rtd CP) as at the time of filing the report proved abortive.

Also, in Owerri, Imo State capital, heavy pres­ence of security operatives yesterday stalled the peaceful protest, by the Biafra agitators in solidar­ity with the continued detention of Kanu

As earlier as 7.30 am, yesterday, the major streets of Owerri were effectively occupied by armed security agents apparently to forestall the peaceful protest.

Saturday Sun gathered that the security opera­tives were made up of the army, police, civil de­fence and Department of State Services.

Although, some of the protesters were said to have dared the security officials by coming out ear­lier to mount their banners and placards in strategic places, some of the protesters were seen displaying their placards on their shops and stores.

However, the Deputy National Director of In­formation, MASSOB, Chris Mocha, disclosed that the IPOB protesters were actually protesting nationwide the continued detention of the Director of Radio Biafra, by the Department State Security even after he has been granted bail by the court.

Mocha said, “there is no special programme MASSOB is observing, but the IPOB is protesting the continued detention of Kanu”.

When contacted, the state Police Public Rela­tions Officer, Mr. Andrew Enwerem (DSP), said what the police were doing was a normal security patrol, noting, “situations determine action, what you saw them doing is not unusual, it is called vis­ibility policing. It is okay.”

In Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, MASSOB members have gone into hiding after the state po­lice command arrested 100 members of the group yesterday.

The massive arrests caused pandemonium at the Ekeki motorpark, as traders and commercial drivers of Igbo origin ran to escape the armed policemen that invaded the Motor Park to effect their arrest.

Investigation revealed that 100 members of the group were arrested at Mbiama, a border town between Rivers and Bayelsa states, as they were protesting the continued detention of the Director, Kanu of Radio Biafra.

Some MASSOB members were said to have moved to the Ekeki motor park to stage another demonstration, when police acting on a tip stormed the venue.

“We were here today looking for passengers when suddenly some group of youth started trooping in to the park, but a look at the way they were dressed showed us that all is not well es­pecially their movements. Initially, we thought they were Boko Haram boys due to their shabby dressing, but when we interacted with them, we realised they were Igbo, though they did not dis­close their mission to us” an eyewitness said.

The Chairman of Ohaneze Ndigbo in Bay­elsa state, Chief Okwudilichukwu Oko said he would not want to comment on the matter not­ing that if the arrested MASSOB supporters call on him, he would definitely have a word to tell them.

Confirming the arrest, the state Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Butswat Asimini, said some persons who were suspected to be supporters of MASSOB were arrested in Yena­goa.

He said they were numbering 95 males and 5 females, and were wearing dresses with MAS­SOB inscriptions written on them, which made the police suspect they were MASSOB mem­bers entering the state capital from other states.

According to him they want to carry out an unlawful protest capable of causing crisis in Bayelsa.

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