Police clashed with pro-Biafra agitators in some states in the South-east yesterday during marches to commemorate the declaration of Biafra by the late Chukwuemeka Odimegwu Ojukwu on May 30, 1967.
The marches resulted in arrests and injuries with some reported deaths.
In Enugu, at least 13 members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) were arrested by the police.
Our correspondent gathered that the agitators carrying Biafra flags and other insignia of the defunct republic, had assembled in the morning near Edinburgh-Obiagu Roundabout at Ogui New Layout, Enugu.
State police spokesman, Ebere Amaraizu, who confirmed the arrests in a statement, said the agitators were picked up based on information gathered on them.
He said those arrested maintained that they were members of MASSOB and BIM who had converged to pray before marching with their flags to commemorate their “independence”.
Amaraizu recalled that the state command had earlier warned against such activities by any under any guise, maintaining that “no iota of lawlessness would be entertained from any individual or group in the state”.
Police said in Owerri, Imo State, that 17 MASSOB members were arrested in the city.
Police spokesman, DSP Andrew Enwerem, confirmed the arrests which took place during a road show at the Waterside Primary School Owerri, from where they moved to Rotibi Street and Oguamana Street before linking Douglas Road where heavily armed security men threw teargas at them at the Ama JK end.
The state leader of MASSOB, Mr. Okechukwu Nwogu, regretted the arrests, saying they were on a peaceful march.
He said:”What the Nigerian government is doing to us is very unfair. MASSOB is a non-violent group moving without arms in remembrance of our history. If Nigerian security forces are well armed and ready for war, they should go to the Sambisa forest and fight Boko Haram members who are out to fight, and not Biafra”.
The spokesman of MASSOB in Owerri zone, Chief Canice Anojuru, said the group decided to hold the road show to re-awaken the consciousness of the people on the defunct Biafra. Anojuru added that MASSOB had metamorphosed into the Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) as the apex body to further advance the cause of Biafra and bring its vision of an independent state to fruition.
Three policemen and scores of members of the MASSOB and the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPoB) were reported killed in a clash with security forces in Asaba after the reported killing of some agitators who were sleeping in a Catholic Church in Onitsha Sunday night.
The Delta State Police Command said it had deployed men to strategic locations in Asaba, sequel to rumours of the planned protest, but the protesters attacked police and army patrol teams in three locations.
According to the command’s acting spokesman, DSP Charles Muka, the protesters killed two policemen and injured two others at Cable and Abraka areas of Asaba and seized one AK.47 rifle and one smoke riot gun from the policemen.
“The callous group threw two of the injured policemen into the River Niger at Cable, while one was later rescued alive. The unlawful groups also damaged an Ibusa Division patrol van and a military patrol van.
“In the ensuing confrontation with the groups, four members of the illegal group were fatally wounded, while eight were arrested”, DSP Muka stated. According to the police spokesman, the protesters were eventually dispersed.
MASSOB also campaigned in Ikom, Cross River State, saying the state was part and parcel of Biafra. The members held a mass rally in Ikom in the central part of the state with special uniforms, waving Biafran flags.
They walked from the Ikom Stadium to the New Okomo layout in the town.
One Mr Samuel Okah, who was introduced as the zonal leader of the movement in the state, said the struggle for actualization of Biafra would no longer be violent but peaceful.
“We the Biafran Independent Movement have taken it upon ourselves that every year, the 30th of May should be remembered as a national day as Biafra will be a reality through non-violent means because with arms we annihilated ourselves and destroyed the resources God has given us which has caused for a change of tactics to peaceful means.”