Hundreds of members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) who trooped to the streets on Tuesday to mark the 17th anniversary of the group had a rough time with security agents in Anambra State.
Although the street marches to commemorate the day observed in other states in the South East zone were generally peaceful, the event in Anambra turned sour when a team of soldiers, police and other security agents swooped on the agitators.
Unofficial sources alleged that 10 MASSOB members were shot by the security agents, who also arrested 200 agitators drawn from MASSOB and Biafra Independent Movement (BIM).
They were arrested by the Joint Security Task Force setup by Governor Willie Obiano of Anambra State.
The arrest of the agitators occurred at a time President Muhammadu Buhari, in his hometown of Daura, Katsina State, called on them to forget their struggle for an independent Biafra Republic.
Buhari said that Nigeria is big enough for everyone to have a fair share of its resources.
The taskforce comprises men of the Nigerian Army, the Nigeria Police, Nigerian Navy and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).
They had cordoned off parts of Onitsha-Owerri Road, Nnewi-Ihiala Road, Onitsha-Awka Road and Awka-Igbokwu-Ekwulobia-Umunze-Isuochi Road, which were routes slated for the solidarity protest.
MASSOB-BIM Director of Information in Anambra North Zone, Charles Igbokwe, confirmed that some of the group’s members marching towards Amazo Oil along Onitsha-Owerri Road were arrested by the taskforce.
He claimed that some of them were shot. Igbokwe who said that they were making frantic efforts to ascertain the casualty level wondered why they remain as objects of killings and brutality in the hands of security agents without any provocation.
The State Police Command Public Relations Officer, Nkeiruka Nwode, said that only 14 people were arrested while nobody was shot.
Nwode said: “Yes, we arrested some members, 14 in number, 13 males and one female and they conducted themselves in a manner likely to breach the peace…there were no casualties, nobody was shot please…’’
MASSOB had dedicated the day to stage mega rallies in different parts of the state to mark the 17th anniversary of its non-violent struggle for a Biafra Republic. Members loyal to Chief Ralph Uwazurike and other factions participated in the rally.
The Anambra North Zonal Leader, Emmanuel Omenka, who led the mega rally in Okpoko, Ogbaru Local Government Area and other parts of Onitsha, urged the supporters of Biafra to be patient because “the day of our freedom is near.”
He said the ongoing calls for the restructuring of Nigeria are prompted by the fear for Biafra independence by those who have tied the country down.
Omenka threatened that going by the continued unprovoked attacks on the agitators by the security forces, MASSOB may resort to violence, reiterating the fact that they chose not to be violent was not borne out of cowardice but to maintain the pact Uwazurike signed with the United Nations (UN).
He declared that no amount of restructuring gimmick can make MASSOB and BIM to derail from their agitation for a sovereign Biafra State.
He clarified the confusion over the relationship between BIM and MASSOB.
According to him, MASSOB, led by Mr. Solomon Chukwu is the youth wing of BIM headed by Uwazurike, adding that both leaders were working together irrespective of the splinter group led by Uchenna Madu.
The Anambra Central Zonal Leader of BIM, Chief Vincent Iloh, asked the Federal Government to allow the agitators have their independent state since the amalgamation of Nigeria in 1914 had expired in 2014.
“Let the whole world know that we are resolute in our stand for a Biafra Republic. It is not compulsory that we should remain one indivisible nation, so they should allow us to go to our Promised Land,” he said.
Iloh praised the resilience of Uwazuirike who started the struggle on September 13, 1999 and reminded those working to destabilise the struggle that they can never succeed because “17 years is not 17 days.”
He advised Ndigbo to support MASSOB-BIM and appealed to the international community to help in actualising the Biafra struggle.
Meanwhile, Buhari has asked Nigerian youths from the southern part of the country to forget the agitation for Biafra and rather strive to promote national unity through the pursuit of knowledge and patriotism.
The President made the call when he received over 100 National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members serving in Daura Local Government Area of Katsina State who visited him at his private residence, where he is spending the Eid-el-Kabir holidays.
Buhari assured his guests that any sympathiser for the break-up of the country should bear in mind that a united Nigeria has enough resources to accommodate everyone.
He pledged his unalloyed commitment to the unity and prosperity of Nigeria and urged the youths to remain focused in life, pursue their dreams and reject those fanning the embers of discord and the disintegration of Nigeria.
The President praised former head of state, Gen. Yakubu Gowon, for setting up the NYSC in 1973, noting that the scheme had creditably promoted national unity and cohesion by exposing young people to the uniqueness and cultural diversity of Nigeria.
He specially recognised corps members from the Niger Delta and South Eastern states serving in Daura, saying: “I asked for those from the other extreme of Nigeria because I very much appreciate the NYSC scheme and whenever I see Gen. Gowon, I always thank him for that.
“Tell your colleagues who want Biafra to forget about it. As a military commander, I walked from Degem, a border town between the North and the East, to the border between the Cameroons and Nigeria.
“I walked on my foot for most of the 30 months that we fought the Nigeria-Biafra civil war, in which at least two million Nigerians were killed. We were made by our leaders to go and fight Biafra not because of money or oil, because oil was not a critical factor then, but because of one Nigeria.
“So if leadership at various levels failed, it was not the fault of the rest of Nigerians who have no quarrel with one another. So, please tell your colleagues that we must be together to build this country. It is big enough for us and potentially big enough in terms of resources. Those who work hard will earn a respectable living.
“I have seen this country, I fought for this country and I will continue to work for the unity of this country,” he said.
In his remarks, the Corps Liaison Officer for Daura, Mr. Egbewumi Adebolu, thanked the President for the honour of receiving them and making their stay in Daura memorable.
He said the youths strongly believe in the programme of the President to reduce unemployment and create jobs for more Nigerians.