The jubilation by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) in Onitsha, Anambra State, over the decision of a Federal High Court in Abuja to unconditionally release the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, turned soar yesterday, when soldiers attached to the 302 Artillery Regiment in the commercial town allegedly shot at them, killing five instantly and injuring 25 others.
The soldiers, THISDAY learnt, erroneously thought the IPOB supporters had trooped out to protest against the detention of their leader, Kanu, not knowing that they were celebrating his release.
The incident happened at the Onitsha end of the River Niger Bridge and immediately caused panic among motorists and commuters who scampered for safety as tension pervaded the city.
THISDAY gathered that the IPOB members had on hearing the court’s ruling ordering Kanu’s release, trooped out in their numbers and converged around the statue of the late Biafran leader, Chief Chukwuemeka Odumewu Ojukwu.
They were singing and jubilating preparatory to a procession but were stopped by policemen and soldiers who were around the area.
Trouble for the IPOB members, an eyewitness who identified himself as Jimmy Okechukwu, said started when the IPOB members were accosted by the soldiers and asked to stop their march towards the bridge, an order the group allegedly defied.
An argument, he said, ensued between the soldiers and the group which later degenerated into violence.
At this point, the soldiers, he said, started shooting sporadically to scare the swarming crowd of IPOB members, but unfortunately, they shot at five of them who died on the spot with about 25 others wounded.
During the shooting, people ran for their lives but some IPOB members who mustered the courage threw pebbles at the soldiers who retaliated by shooting at the defenseless people.
Reacting to the incident, Chairman of the Fundamental Rights League International (FRLI), Mr. Mike Umezulike, told THISDAY that the procession by IPOB members was peaceful and wondered why the soldiers shot at harmless people.
When contacted, the divisional police officer in charge of the area, Mr. Rabiu Garba, said he was not in town, though he was told of the procession. (Thisday)