Tension is mounting in the South East of Nigeria following reports of the killing of no fewer than 10 persons and injuring many others in a pro-Biafra protest by the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) in Aba, Abia State.
They were killed when a combined team of security agencies opened fire at the unarmed protesters as they gathered for prayers.
Also, in Enugu, the Police in the state dispersed IPOB members who had gathered in preparation for a protest march.
In Aba, a yet to be confirmed report indicates that over 30 members are receiving treatment in various hospitals in the city while another 20 are in custody.
According a source the protesters gathered at Ibo National High School for prayers before their plan was aborted by gun shots.
“In the morning, we gathered at Ibo National High School for prayers and address by the Aba coordinator
“While the prayers were on, we noticed police patrol vans and because we locked the gate, they could not enter.
“They attempted to scale the fence, but could not. Shortly after, soldiers came in Hilux vans and scaled the fence.
“When they entered, they asked for our coordinator but we resisted them.
“The next thing we heard was gunshot. I can’t say how many died because there was a stampede as people tried to escape.”
He added that no amount of killings or intimidation would discourage the group from pursuing its cause as the protest would continue on Friday.
Sources in Enugu disclosed that that the pro-Biafra protesters in the state had, as early as 9a.m., converged at National High School, along Port Harcourt-Aba Road, from where they usually march to other areas of the city when security agents swooped on them.
Eyewitnesses told Vanguard that the casualty figure would have been higher had some of the protesters not escaped.
According to them,“the protesters as usual, gathered at the school to pray before taking off, but soldiers and policemen invade the area.
There was heavy shooting. I saw more than three dead people. Many others were injured.”
The situation caused tension in the area as shop owners and residents scampered to safety.
Motorists avoided the stretch between Crystal Park Hotel junction and National High School in order not to be caught in the crossfire.
An IPOB official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the security agents arrested the group’s Aba Coordinator identified as Ikechukwu and some of his assistants.
The official, who disclosed that 20 IPOB members were being detained by the Police, insisted that they would not relent until their detained leader is released as well as the actualization of an independent state of Biafra, adding that the protest would continue until Friday.
Contacted on phone, spokesman of the Abia State Police command, DSP Ezekiel Onyeke, told Vanguard that he was yet to be briefed on the incident.
The protest march, in Enugu, which they had tagged “mother of all protest marches” was nipped in the bud by security agents who stormed the venue where they were trooping in numbers.
The Naira Triangle was almost covered with a sea of heads when the security operatives struck and dispersed them.
Canisters of tear gas were shot at the gathering which snowballed into physical show of strength between the IPOB members and security agents. But for the application of extreme professional caution by the security agents, the fracas could have resulted in many loss of lives.
Although many of the IPOB members sustained injuries, many took to their heels as the police released shots of tear gas into the crowd.
The media and publicity officer of IPOB, Emma Powerful decried the attitude of the security agents towards its members, saying the group is not a violent group and were assembling for a peaceful protest march.
Groups Condemn Killing Unarmed Pro-Biafra Protesters
Civil society organizations in Abia State under the auspices of Abia Human Rights Agenda yesterday condemned what it described as the killing of defenceless protesters in Aba.
The group called on the Chief of Army Staff, Major General Tukur Buratai and the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase to cause investigation into the dastardly acts and prosecute those found culpable, to serve as a deterrent to others.
Addressing newsmen in Aba, the group; Foundation for Environmental Rights and Advocacy, FENRAD; Society for Economic Rights and Social Justice, SERSJ; Human Rights, Justice and Peace Foundation, HRJPF; among others; contended that over 15 persons have lost their lives in pro-Biafra protests in the city, describing the situation as unacceptable and called on security agents to respect the rules of their engagements.
Spokesmen for the groups, Nelson Nwafor, Innocent Nwokocha, and Cassius Ukwugbe, described the killings as the height of human rights violations by those who are paid to protect lives and properties, asserting that the killing of unarmed citizens is a heinous crime against God and humanity.
According to the CSOs, “Over 10 people lost their lives during the protest against the detention of the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu. Several others sustained various degrees of injuries as security agents clashed with protesters. Security agents must restrict themselves to the rules of their engagements in crisis situation.”
In the same vein, the leadership of International Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law (Intersociety) has written to Abdulrahman Bello Dambazzzau, Nigeria’s Minister of Interior, and Major General Abayomi Gabriel Olonisakin, the Chief of Defense Staff, concerning the matter.
“This letter is also adopted and supported by other nine group-members of the Southeast Based Coalition of Human Rights Organizations (SBCHROs); comprising: Anambra State Branch of the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Center for Human Rights & Peace Advocacy (CHRPA), Human Rights Club (a project of LRRDC)(HRC), Forum for Justice, Equity & Defense of Human Rights (FJEDHR), Society Advocacy Watch Project (SPAW), Anambra Human Rights Forum (AHRF), Southeast Good Governance Forum (SGGF), International Solidarity for Peace & Human Rights Initiative (ITERSOLIDARITY) and Igbo Ekunie Initiative (pan Igbo rights advocacy group).
“Government Announcement Of Violent Crackdown On Pro-Biafran Agitators: We wish to recall, Sirs that the Nigerian Army had on November 16, 2015 announced a violent crackdown on those who are peacefully and nonviolently agitating for their constitutional and treaty rights to self determination, development, existence, peaceful assembly, association, personal liberty, movement, life, dignity of human person, expression and fair hearing.
“These rights are fully guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution in its Chapter Four (Fundamental Human Rights) as well as by various international human rights treaties particularly the African Charter on Human & Peoples Rights of 1981, ratified and domesticated by Nigeria in 1983 and the International Covenant on Civil & Political Rights of 1976, ratified by Nigeria in 1993. These rights are constitutionally and conventionally exercisable by all citizens provided they are exercised peacefully and nonviolently.
“They are also mandatorily protected and safeguarded by the State, African Union and the United Nations. The leading group in this context is the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and millions of its supporters in Nigeria and overseas. The Army’s announcement, which was restated by your office (CDS) on behalf of the Nigerian Military.”, the letter signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, the Board Chairman and Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program.
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