Five members of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) were killed on Monday, just as the police arrested over 358 members of the group across four states in the south-east. Charles Muka, police spokesman in Delta, said the protesters were killed during violent confrontation with security personnel.
Muka said some persons were arrested over the violence, adding that the police also recorded two casualties.
“We had to deploy our officers to ensure that the protest was peaceful but we were surprised that the people turned violent,” he said in a statement.
“To our surprise, they started attacking our men and at Okwe Junction in Abraka area of Asaba, the group killed a police corporal and took his AK47 riffle.
“Also along the Dennis Osadeby Way in Asaba, they wounded a police officer and took his anti-riot gun.
“This group also attacked and wounded two policemen, suspected to be marine police, and threw them into the River Niger at Cable Point in Asaba and in the process one died and one was rescued.
“This brings the casualty number to two with two others injured on the side of the police.
“The protesters also attacked military vehicles along the Asaba-Onitsha Expressway which left four members of the group dead and eight others arrested and brought to the police headquarters.”
Muka added that a pregnant woman was hit by a stray bullet during the fracas but now receiving treatment at the Federal Medical Centre, Asaba.
In Ebonyi, policemen swooped on the protesters who converged on Nkaliki Primary School, Abakaliki, and arrested over 320 persons, according to Moses Eze, a zonal leader of MASSOB.
Eze said clergymen, who were conducting service ahead of the rally, were also arrested.
“Over 320 of our members were arrested by the police during the Biafra Day celebration,” he said.
“Some of those arrested were just clergymen who we invited to conduct inter-denominational church service as part of activities marking the celebration. These policemen don’t seem to have respect for God, why would they arrest his people?”
Ebere Amaraizy, spokesman of the police in Enugu, told NAN that 13 members of the group were arrested in the Obiagu road axis of the coal city.
He said they were apprehended with flags of Biafra.
Amaraizu said the command had embarked on a surveillance of the state following reports of planned protests.
In Owerri, Imo state capital, Andrew Enwerem, the police public relations officer in the state, said the police arrested 17 MASSOB members for holding a road show in commemoration of 49th anniversary of Biafra.
Enwerem said they will be prosecuted.
But Okechukwu Nwogu, a leader of MASSOB, said it was regrettable that the police arrested members of the group who were on a peaceful march to commemorate the 49th anniversary of Biafra and 17th anniversary of MASSOB.
“What Nigeria government is doing to us is very unfair; MASSOB is a non-violent group moving without arms in remembrance of our history,” he said.
Nwogu called on Igbo leaders to “come out and speak for Igbo people who are being unjustly treated by security forces”.
Canice Anojuru, spokesman for MASSOB in Owerri zone, said the group decided to hold the road show to awaken the consciousness of the people of the defunct Biafra.
Anojuru said the road show was to draw the attention of international community to the plight of Biafra people.
The group asked the people of south-east to be more vigilant to forestall future attacks in the area.
“As a group, we frown at the rate at which human beings were killed and maimed, farmlands destroyed, women raped, and buildings razed by these Fulani herdsmen,” he said
“We are calling on all people of south east area to be more vigilant and extra careful over this recent development.”
The group advised people of the area to be careful in engaging people whose identity were not clear to them as security men, gardeners and house-keepers.