Fifty-two members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and three policeman were feared killed in Anambra, Rivers, Delta and Abia states, during the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the declaration of the Republic of Biafra.
Biafra was declared by Col. Chukwuemeka Ojukwu on May 30, 1967.
Some reports, however, said casualties are much higher. Some eyewitnesses told Daily Sun that 32 people were killed in Onitsha while another set of eyewitnesses insisted 20 people were killed.
In the same breath, IPOB Media and Publicity officer, Mr. Emma Powerful insisted 40 members were killed yesterday, bringing the casualty figure to 72.
It was also gathered that three policemen were killed during the protest while one soldier attached to the Onitsha 302 military regiment was stabbed and seriously wounded.
Nnewi South Regional Administrator of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Anthony Nwodo and 14 others were arrested by the Joint Security Task Force. He was said to have been arrested at Ezinifite, on his way to his town from Onitsha.
Sources also said of the 32 people who died, two were killed at the Niger Bridge Head while moving into Onitsha from Asaba in Delta State and another two people were killed at Nkpor while the rest died at various locations in Onitsha.
Daily Sun gathered that on getting to the bridge, protesters met stiff resistance from members of Joint Task Force (JTF) resulting in a bloody clash which also led to the death of a policeman and the stabbing of a soldier.
Powerful alleged the army went to St Edmond Church at Nkpor where members who came in the midnight of Sunday from far places had camped for the Monday programme. He said the soldiers shot some of them and injured many and insisted that over 40 persons were shot dead and many injured on Monday even before the commencement of the programme at Nkpor-Umuoji Road, venue of the programme. He added that the army opened fire on the pro-Biafran agitators who gathered in various places for the ceremony in remembrance of dead Biafrans.
“Army/Navy men killed over 40 members of IPOB and MASSOB at Nkpor Uno, Eke Nkpor, New Parts, Building materials market, Ogbunike, St. Edmond Church Nkpor.
“They killed about 25 of our members at Nkpor without any cause. They just opened fire on us as we were having a peaceful procession. They shot and killed them and took away their corpses. Many other people sustained bullet wounds and could not be treated because when we took them to hospitals they demanded police report before they will commence treatment, more people who sustained injuries will still die because there was no treatment to control the bleeding.”
Our correspondent, who monitored the situation in Onitsha and Nkpor, reported that a combined team of army and naval officers, with four Hilux vans carried corpses to the military cantonment. They shot sporadically and made a U-turn at People’s Club bus stop when they met a bonfire made of tyres and subsequently diverted to Onitsha Expressway.
At Nkpor junction, some policemen and civil defence officers, who were stationed there, used teargas to disperse people who gathered while pro-Biafran agitators set bonfires along the roads.
But, a statement by Captain Jonah Unuakhalu, spokesman of the 4 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, said only two people died while “three persons, including a man performing rituals and incantations on the highway during the incident were injured.”
Meanwhile, two police officers were allegedly killed while several others were injured yesterday in Asaba during a confrontation with pro-Biafra demonstrators who marched through the streets of the Delta State capital.
The pro-Biafra agitators, under the aegis of Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) and MASSOB allegedly dumped the corpses of the late police officers into the River Niger and continued with the demonstration.
BIM-MASSOB agitators, who were decked in red and black attires, took to various streets in Asaba and its environs after their efforts to march towards the Head Bridge was thwarted by policemen who sprayed them with teargas.
Trouble however, started when some policemen allegedly sprayed teargas on the pro-Biafra group at Abraka, a suburb of the town. The agitators swooped on the police team, disarmed and attacked them with weapons. This led to the death of two officers while others were injured. The situation created pandemonium in the metropolis as motorists and travelers en-route Benin-Asaba-Onitsha expressway were held hostage, while business outfits hurriedly closed shops for fear of the unknown.
But, coordinator of MASSOB in Delta North, Mr. Emeka Okafor and the administrator of BIM in Oshimili region, Chief Isaac Onwuamaeze dissociated the agitators from the killings and said they were celebrating Biafra.
Yesterday night, Delta State Police Command confirmed that two of its officers were killed while two others were injured during an encounter with the pro-Biafra agitators in Asaba. Acting Public Relations Officer of the command, Charles Muka confirmed the deaths.(Daily Sun)