5 killed in MASSOB protests
MOVEMENT for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) yesterday alleged that about five of its members were killed, even as 20 others were arrested in Anambra and Delta states respectively.
The group has also enjoined the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) to urgently probe the bribery allegation levelled against the Imo State Director of the State Security Services (SSS), Mr. Alex Amaechina.
These developments came as MASSOB members for several hours yesterday disrupted social and business activities in Abuja, Anambra, Ebonyi, Edo, Delta and Imo states, protesting the continued harassment of their leader Chief Ralph Uwazuruike.
The protests, Daily Champion gathered, took place simultaneously in Efurun, Warri, and Asaba all in Delta State; Benin, Edo State; Abakaliki, Ebonyi State, Owerri, Imo State as well as along the busy Onitsha-Enugu Expressway in Anambra State.
It would be recalled that the MASSOB leader has been having a running battle with security operatives, the latest being the invasion of his Okwe, Imo State home by the SSS.
Chief Uwazuruike had last week, accused the Imo State SSS director of demanding N5 million to slow down the raid in his house, an allegation Mr. Amaechina has refuted.
Following this, among other sundry accusations, the SSS has since declared Chief Uwazuruike wanted.
In Benin yesterday, hundreds of youths of the Igbo Youths Congress staged protest over the continuous harassment of Uwazuruike and other MASSOB members.
Yesterday’s protest in Benin was the first major outing of Igbo youths in the state in relation to the activities of MASSOB.
The protest which caught security operatives in Benin unawares, commenced from the Upper Mission Road end of the city and lasted for about two hours uninterrupted.
Many of the Igbo boys and girls who sell electronics and motor spareparts in the city, abandoned their stores to participate in the protest.
Speaking with newsmen, the leader of the Congress, Mr. Rufus Alozie, said the Igbo youths in the state and all over the country were disturbed with the constant molestation of Chief Uwazuruike despite the fact that he has not committed any known offence.
From Anambra State the protest which started about 9.00 am at Uga junction of Onitsha-Enugu expressway was rather peaceful, but a MASSOB chief, John C. Edison, alleged that no fewer than five of their members were killed by police.
In Asaba, 20 members of the group who arrived the capital city about 9 am were nabbed by security operatives.
In the demonstration tagged "call for justice", the demonstrators, who were in Biafra colours, said they were protesting the discriminatory and oppressive policies of the Federal Government against the Igbo.
The group’s spokesman in the state, Mr. Chiekezie Chukwu in a chat stated that it was a worldwide demonstration, positing that come rain or sunshine, Biafra Republic must be actualized.
The latest protest in the state, may not be unconnected with last months arrest of eight of their members by police in Obiarukwu Ukwuani council area for allegedly holding secret meeting.
The placard-carrying MASSOB members in Abakaliki who matched through the streets chanting Biafran slogans, however did not disrupt free flow of traffic.
Addressing newsmen after the protest, the MASSOB state co-ordinator, Dr. Linus Obrija Ogazi lamented the "various unlawful excesses, in words and actions toward MASSOB and its noble activities."
"We have organised this demonstration in a peaceful manner in line with MASSOB’s non-violent posture, primarily to drive home our grievances to the general public, Nigeria government, the international community and the unconstitutional minded Nigerian security operatives," Dr. Ogazi said.
He criticized the invasion of MASSOB Okwe headquarters by the SSS and "incessant attacks on Chief Uwazuruike.
Reports from Anara and Okigwe in Imo State also stated that Okigwe protesters comprising MASSOB members, traders and artisans, chanted anti-government songs as they moved round Douglas Road, Ekeonunwa Market and Rotabi streets.
The carried such placards as "Leave MASSOB headquarters alone, The police, SSS and the Army should stop stealing our properties," "Is Obasanjo a military head of state or civilian president," Human Right is dead in Nigeria."
Meanwhile, the group in its rally at Idu/Karmo on the outskirts of Abuja said the allegation preferred against Mr. Amaechina "ought to be investigated."
We are asking EFCC to probe Mr. Amaechina and know the extent of his involvement in the allegation. We also call on the United Nations to intervene and call the Nigerian government to order.
MASSOB rally leaves a policeman dead, others injured
AWKA - AT least a policeman was confirmed dead Tuesday in Onitsha during a procession by Igbo youths and members of Movement for Actualisation of Soveregn State of Biafra [MASSOB].
MASSOB members also claimed that the police killed five of their members when the police tried to stop the procession.
Business activities came to a halt for several hours when the youths, numbering over 5000, including women, swamp into Onitsha with placards demandingthe state of Biafra.
There was however controversy over the number of casualties on both sides. While MASSOB members who were involved in the march said that the police shot and killed five of their members, the police denied it, saying that it was the MASSOB members that shot and killed one policeman while three others were seriously wounded.
However, a senior MASSOB official told Vanguard in a telephone interview that the Movement did not lose anybody during the procession march. The official explained that the procession was not actaully organised by Igbo youths but that MASSOB supported their action.
But Anambra State Police Commissioner, Mr. Felix Ogbaudu dismissed the claim by MASSOB, saying that no body was killed by the police.
" It is not true. Rather, what happened was that they (MASSOB members) shot four policemen, one is dead while three are lying critically ill in a hospital now", the police commissioner claimed.
The youths’ procession march was heralded by Okada riders who in their scores rode through some major streets of Onitsha chanting freedom songs, asking the United Nations to give them State of Biafra.
The were closely followed by other groups, all singing songs, asking that the state of Biafra be declared for them.
Six feared dead as pro-MASSOB protests rock four states
PROTESTS by members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) simultaneously in four states of the country yesterday have reportedly left no fewer than six people dead. Ten protesters have also been arrested by the police. They are to be arraigned today.
The protests spread across Imo, Cross River, Anambra and Delta States.
The demonstrators in Anambra were however engaged in a bloody clash with the police in the commercial city of Onitsha. After the skirmishes, six people were feared dead.
The development in Onitsha also informed the hasty departure of Assistant Inspector-General of Police (AIG), Mr. Sunday Aghedo, from his scheduled visit to some of the force's formations.
Aghedo quickly headed for the commercial city of Onitsha, a police source disclosed, "perhaps to see things for himself."
But the Anambra State Police Command boss, Mr. Felix Ogbaudu, merely confirmed the death of only one police officer.
Three others, he added, were lying critically ill at an undisclosed private hospital in the troubled city.
A statement by MASSOB however contradicted Ogbaudu's claim.
Six MASSOB activists, the statement claimed, were shot dead by the police, "because we were unarmed, peaceful and law-abiding.
The organisation's Idemili North Local Government administrator, Chief J. C. Edeson, who signed the statement insisted that the rally was "a peaceful protest to tell the world that the Nigeria Police, Army, SSS sometimes ago attacked our leader, Ralph Uwazurike, at the MASSOB headquarters and destroyed all our logistic and property, including vehicles and other equipment."
Edeson declared that they were no longer interested in the Nigerian nation, and then appealed to the United Nations (UN) to come.
Policemen have since been drafted to strategic locations all over the state to forestall further clashes. The Guardian observed vehicles carrying MASSOB members in their trademark black pair of trousers and black shirts and black or red head band driving round major cities of Awka, Nkpor, Ogidi, Nnewi, Nnobi, Onitsha, Ekwulobia in convoys chanting solidarity songs yesterday to cheers from on-lookers.
Aghedo, visiting the AIG Zone 9, Umuahia headquarters, had earlier called on the Anambra State Governor, Chris Ngige.
While receiving the Zone 9 AIG, Ngige had faulted the 1999 Constitution which does not make provision for decentralisation of authority in the Nigeria Police Force.
Ngige also seized the opportunity to explain the heavy presence of anti-riot mobile policemen from units outside the state in his domain.
He said the policemen were to provide security for the state and to help in organising and holding the local government election, especially after the November 2004 mayhem."
The governor also admitted that the government and citizens of his state have enjoyed smooth and cordial relationship with the police.
He also said that the police communication equipment, which were damaged during the mayhem would soon be restored to assist the operational effectiveness of the command.
Ngige expressed regrets over what he described as the entanglement of the command in political issues, alleging that it listens more to the directives of private individuals as against those of the state governor.
Ngige further remarked that the lapses in the constitution have created a situation where a Commissioner of Police in a state waits for clearance from the headquarters, Abuja, before taking any decision or exercising his authority.
He enjoined the Federal Government to copy from the advanced nations like the United States of America (USA) where true federalism has taken deep root to avoid breakdown of order.
He pointed out that despite the fact that there had been some areas of disagreement with the state Police Command and which had been mainly on political issues, their relationship has been cordial.
Ngige insisted that his government has always co-operated with the police in areas of security.
"Government has always assisted in many areas, including provision of communication gadgets, vehicles among others," he said, stressing that government has been doing its best to complement Force Headquarters' efforts.
He, however, urged members of the police constituency to adjust their approaches in handling political matters, particularly in Anambra State.
Ngige described the AIG as a perfect gentleman and commended him for making time out to visit the state.
Earlier, Aghedo had told the governor that he came to pay his respect to him as part of his schedules while on familiarisation tour of police formations in the zone, comprising the core Igbo states except Ebonyi.
He commended Ngige for all his assistance to the police and urged the governor to sustain his efforts and assistance to the police.
Aghedo, who disclosed that he would retire in December when he would be 60, also said the visit would also afford him the opportunity to meet other principal police officers under his command.
The Delta State Police Command yesterday arrested 10 persons, including one woman for allegedly protesting and advocating the actualisation of the state of Biafra in Delta State.
Those arrested were among the over 25 placards-carrying members of the MASSOB who stormed the state capital, Asaba, yesterday.
The 10 suspects in police custody are: Rose Obi (F), Emeka Nkwor (M) Chukwu Ngene (M), William Okoro (M), Emeka Orlando (M), Dominic Idefi (M), Ogbule Stephen (M), Nwobodo Odo (M), Samuel Iko (M) and Ignatius Adiliayama (M).
The Guardian learnt that they arrived Nnebisi Road (the major road in Asaba) about noon and were heading to the Government House in the West end area of the town when anti-riot policemen from the command headquarters intercepted and arrested 10 of them.
Their presence in the town compelled securitymen to lock up the two main gates leading to the Government House and allowing only screened and cleared persons to enter.
The state police command Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Miss Okuwobi Olabisi, confirmed the incident and the arrest in an interview with The Guardian.
She pointed out that the command would not allow subversive elements to take root in the state.
Okuwobi explained that the suspects claimed to have come from Anambra State. She however queried what their business was in the state.
The PPRO warned MASSOB members and others not to come to Delta to foment trouble or cause a breach of the peace prevailing in the state.
She disclosed that the 10 persons arrested would be charged to court this morning.
The protesters in their hundreds also marched through major roads and streets in Owerri, Okigwe, Anara and Orlu, all in Imo State.
In Calabar, the capital of Cross River State, it was a similar tale. The only difference was just the number.
The Calabar protesters who chanted solidarity songs in Igbo ending with "On Biafra we stand", were mere placard-carrying youths.
The demonstration in Calabar was also peaceful.
© 2003 - 2005 @ Guardian Newspapers Limited
John Ameh and Fidelis Soriwei
No fewer than six persons, including a policeman, died on Wednesday in a clash between members of the Movement for the Sovereign State of Biafra and riot policemen in Onitsha, Anambra State.
The civilian casualties were said to be members of MASSOB shot by the riot policemen.
More than 29 others, among them, four policemen, were also injured.
A similar protest rally in Owerri, the Imo State capital, was, however, free of violence.
Our correspondent learnt that over 4,500 MASSOB members had gathered at the foot of the Niger Bridge in Onitsha to hold a protest rally against last week raiding of the home of the leader of the group, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike and its national headquarters allegedly by a combined team of the police, the army and the State Security Service.
The clash coincided with the visit of the Assistant Inspector-General of Police, Zone 9, Umuahia, Mr. Sunday Aghedo, to the state command.
But the Commissioner of Police, Anambra State Command, Mr. Felix Ogbaudu, denied the MASSOB caualties when our correspondent sought his confirmation.
Ogbaudu said that members of the group shot two policemen, killing one and injuring three others.
He said, “It is not true (the killing of MASSOB members). Instead, they shot two riot policemen, one is already dead while three other injured ones are now in critical condition in hospitals in Onitsha.”
However, MASSOB’s Idemili-North Area Administrator, Chief John Edeson, who organised the rally, told newsmen that many members of his group were killed.
He said, “Today, at Uga Junction, men of the Nigerian police killed some of our members who were holding a peaceful rally. Many others were injured.
“We call on the United Nations, world leaders and other African countries to save us from this suppression.
“The Igbo want an entity of their own. What is wrong with that? We are tired of this suffocation in Nigeria.”
Edeson said that the police took away the corpses of those killed.
It was gathered that the MASSOB members, who carried the Biafran flag, the Biafra currency and many placards, chanted anti-Federal Government slogans and asked President Olusegun Obasanjo to let the Igbo secede.
Initial attempts by the police to disperse the group, which clearly outnumbered them, reportedly failed before the two sides clashed just around the Uga Junction.
Further clashes also took place at the popular MCC Junction in the upper Iweka area of the commercial town where tear gas was used to disperse the protesters.
For several hours, the MASSOB members disrupted vehicular traffic on the Onitsha-Asaba Expressway.
As at press time, an undisclosed number of persons were said to have been arrested in connection with the clash.
Also in Owerri, MASSOB members, armed with anti-government posters, warned against the alleged harassment of their leader.
Leader of the group and the Director of Organisation of MASSOB, Mr. Nnamdi Ohiagwu, said the demonstration was to alert the public that MASSOB was running out of patience with the continual harassment and intimidation of Uwazuruike .
Ohiagwu said that the law enforcement agents flouted the order of the Federal High Court Owerri, which restrained them from raiding and arresting Uwazuruike, pending the determination of a suit in the court.
The PUNCH, Thursday September 08, 2005