By Karls Tsokar (Abuja), Uzoma Nzeagwu (Awka), Charles Ogugbuaja (Owerri) and Tife Owolabi (Yenagoa) on November 7, 2015
SCORES of pro-Biafra activists yesterday defied a warning by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, to desist from breaching public peace or face the consequences. They staged peaceful protests in some cities in the South East and South South to demand for the release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kalu from detention.
The IGP had in a statement yesterday morning signed by the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Olabisi Kolawole, said that intelligence report available to the Police indicates that there were “plans by the IPOB to embark on an ill-advised protest using dangerous weapon across some South Eastern States.”
She said the planned protests were unlawful and warned that the police would use all legal instruments available to stop the protests. “The Nigeria Police Force reminds the brains behind this security threat that the law prohibiting the unlawful possession of firearms is still in force. Therefore, any attempt to unleash mayhem on innocent and law abiding Nigerians under any guise by this group will be met with stiff resistance from the Police and other security agencies. The actors will be brought to justice in line with extant criminal laws.
“Citizens in the South-Eastern States are hereby assured of adequate protection, as appropriate Police deployment has been emplaced to deal decisively with any group or persons who might be bent on breaching public peace and threatening national security”, the statement said.
But in defiance, members of IPOB went ahead with the protest, bringing commercial and other activities to a halt for several hours in Onitsha.
The protest was largely peaceful as there was no information of any clash between the Police and the protesting IPOB members, until about 2.30 pm when it was gathered that one person was allegedly shot at the Ochanja Roundabout by the police.
Markets in Onitsha and its environs including Ochanja Central Market Onitsha, New Tire Market Nkpor, New Auto Spare Parts Market Nkpor etc, were all shut from 7am till about 2.30pm while vehicular movements were also disrupted along the Onitsha Enugu Expressway, Onitsha Owerri Road, Uga Atani Ogaru Local Government Road, Onitsha Aguleri, thereby causing traffic gridlocks on all the roads within and outside the commercial city.
It was gathered that the Anambra State Government had announced through the market leaders to ensure that the markets were open but the traders gathered early in the day on the streets discussing the protest which IPOB had declared earlier in the week.
The IPOB members, numbering over 20,000, were earlier seen gathered at Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Statue by Niger Bridge Head, chanting and dancing Biafran songs, and later marched peacefully to down to Upper Iweka Flyover and the ever–busy Douglas Road, while some police officers marched behind them as they sang, “All we are saying is give us Biafra”.
The state Commissioner of Police, Taiwo Lakanu, however said the officers were at their back to ensure that they did not injure innocent persons along the road. He disclosed that the police arrested some of the protesters.
“If you come you will see those arrested. What happened is that we did not want to arrest them at the Douglas where people were. If we try such, people would have been injured,” he said.
In Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Police Command arrested 83 members of IPOB during the protest. Amongst those arrested were 78 males and five females who carried flags agitating for the actualization of a Sovereign State of Biafra.
Spokesperson of the command, Anisim Butswat said those arrested were raising the ‘Biafra flag’ along the Mbiama -Yenago road. “Those arrested are at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for investigations and interrogations,” he said.
November 07, 2015
*One feared dead, March in PH, Asaba
By Chimaobi Nwaiwu (Nnewi), Jimitota Onoyume (Port Harcourt) & Festus Ahon (Asaba)
Activities were yesterday grounded in Onitsha, the commercial city of Anambra State and its environs by youth sympathetic to Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) who were protesting the continued detention of their leader, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu. One of the protesters was feared dead.
Vehicular movements were also disrupted along the Onitsha/Enugu Expressway, Onitsha/Owerri Road, Uga, Atani, Ogaru Local Government Roads, Onitsha/Aguleri, Nsugbe, Nkwelle/Ezunaka Roads, Old and New Market Roads, Nkpor, Ogidi, Obosi Roads, thereby causing traffic gridlock on all the roads within and outside Onitsha.
Markets in Onitsha and its environs were all shot between 7am to about 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 could be attacked.
Though the Anambra State Government had announced, through the market leaders who also exchanged text messages to ensure that their markets were open, 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.
Markets shut down included Onitsha Main Market, Ochanja Central Market, Onitsha; New Tyre Market, Nkpor; New Auto Spare Parts Market, Nkpor; Building Materials Market, Ogidi; Ugwuagba Market, Obosi; Electronics Market, Onitsha; Bridge Head Market, Onitsha that has over 21 markets attached to it and other small markets in and outside Onitsha.
Even shops along the streets of Onitsha, and its environs, including Awka Road, New Market Road, Old Market Road, Oguta Road, Limca Road, Iweka Road and Modebe Road, Sokoto Road and Haruna Street lock-up shops were also seen under lock and keys.
The IPOB supporters numbering over 30,000 were earlier seen gathered at Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu Statue by Niger Bridge Head, also known as Odumegwu Ojukwu Gateway, Niger Bridge Head Onitsha, chanting and dancing pro-Ojukwu and Biafran songs, from where they marched peacefully down to Upper Iweka Flyover.
They were seen marching from Upper Iweka Flyover to Onitsha/Owerri Road, to Nkpor Junction, Ochanja Central Market, Onitsha Main Market, Old and New Market Roads, Onitsha chanting anti-Federal Government, Police, Army and Navy songs, demanding the release of Mr. Kanu, whom they said is being incarcerated for over three weeks now, and the continued arrest and detention of their members as well as the actualization of the Biafran cause.
There was unusual presence of the police on the major roads and streets of Onitsha, but their presence did not deter the protesting IPOB supporters, who were also cautious of the behaviour of their members to road users and petty traders who wanted to cash in on the closure of markets and big stores and shops to do brisk business.
IPOB supporters who wanted to be unruly on road users were promptly shouted on and cautioned by their leaders to behave well, that molestation and dispossessing people of their property and goods, looting of people’s shops and property were not part of their agenda.
Meanwhile, in Port Harcourt, hundreds of pro-Biafra supporters made real their threat to protest in Rivers State yesterday as they marched on Okobe Community, Ahoada West Local Government Area of the East West Road.
An eyewitness who spoke to Saturday Vanguard said they were chanting solidarity songs as they marched on the road.
According to Mr Johnbull Tamunoemi, the protesters were tactical to avoid any clash with security operatives. “I saw some of them jump into the bush when they sighted a patrol vehicle belonging to the Nigerian army. The protesters were over two hundred. They were singing pro-Biafra songs as they marched on the street”, he said.
Eye witness accounts said the activities of the protesters did not disrupt free flow of traffic.
At press time, Saturday Vanguard gathered that police vehicles were seen leaving Port Harcourt to the area apparently to stop the protest. There was heavy security presence on all parts of Port Harcourt yesterday to ensure the protest did not hold.
Probably to beat the heavy security presence, the pro-Biafra supporters had to relocate their protest to the East West Road part of Ahoada West Local Government area which is less than two hours drive from the state capital.
And in Asaba, at least one thousand youths, yesterday stormed the ever busy Onitsha/Asaba/Benin Expressway to protest against the continued detention of the Director of Radio Biafra, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
The protesters who came out at 2:30pm, caused stampede and gridlock as road users made u-turn facing the direction they were coming from. While those living on the expressway down to the Onitsha Head Bridge in the Asaba metropolis fled their homes and shops for fear of being attacked by the protesters who chanted war songs as they demand for the unconditional release of Mr. Kanu.
The agitators under the aegis of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Delta State Chapter began the peaceful march at Agbor and moved to Asaba in a motorcade.
By Amos Igbebe
Multitude of Biafran youths chanting Biafran solidarity songs, Friday, held Asaba hostage, protesting the arrest of the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, and calling for the liberation of Biafra from the shackles of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The youths who marched through the streets of Asaba and later converged at the intersection between the Summit Road and the expressway connecting Onitsha with Benin, also prevented vehicular movement along the ever busy expressway.
They sang Biafran songs as “We are Biafrans, fighting for our freedom, in the name of Jesus, we shall conquer, No Biafra, no peace”. They also flew Biafran flag of green, black and red with an improvised plane built with the insignia of the Republic of Biafra.
Spokesman of the protesting group, Emeka Ndu, said the protest was at the instance of the arrest of the Director of Radio Biafra, adding that his bail conditions were too high for him to bear.
He said a section of the Biafra people had contributed a portion of the bail money but it was more for them to do, hence the protest to liberate the Biafran states from the shackles of the federal government and the British government.
He listed the states under the proposed Biafran Republic to include all Eastern states, Edo, Delta, Rivers, Bayelsa and Kogi, noting that Igbo is not Biafra but a language spoken by a group of people of the same decent and origin.
He said the Hausas whose only source of income is groundnut and cow and the Yorubas who survive only on cocoa have taken the oil which belongs to the people of Biafra, maintaining that the Hausas have taken their oil from them and thereafter abandoned the oil producing states.
He said “they are using police and soldiers to intimidate us because we don’t have power and people to speak on our behalf. The protest cannot stop today, we are telling the world that we are not happy over the arrest of our Director. They have already kidnapped our Director.
“Our Director went to Abuja as soon as he came down at the airport, they kidnapped him. They demanded N2bn for his release, Biafran people have contributed N1bn, we still have N800m to pay. That made the Biafran people to be annoyed.
“We have gone to more than 10 states in the country. We have gone to all the Biafran lands, Igbo is not Biafra, it is a language of a people. Kogi, Edo, Ebonyi, Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Imo, Abia, Enugu, Anambra are Biafran states. What we want now is for the federal government to release our Director and give us freedom to control ourselves.”
Another protester, Victor Nwobodo, said the protest became necessary to secure the release of Dr. Kanu, noting that “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, Dr. Nnamdi 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.”
Chineye Udoechnia 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 seventy-two 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 these 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 of 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 Delta State government gave them audience.
As soon as the protesters had departed the expressway heading towards Agbor in continuation of the protest, the police arrived and chased away on lookers, some of whom were passengers waiting for buses to travel and roadside petty traders by the Summit Junction.