Following the three-week long protests embarked upon by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, over continued incarceration of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu which led to the alleged killing of its members by members of Joint Military Task Force, markets, banks and schools in Onitsha and its environs remained closed, yesterday, in apparent solidarity with the protesters.
The Building Materials International Market at Ogidi, near Onitsha, New Auto Spare Parts market at Nkpor and other major markets remained closed, just as banks and schools remained under lock and key.
A detachment of stern-looking soldiers and mobile policemen were seen in their numbers standing on the roads and stopping all vehicles, a situation which led to a traffic gridlock from the former toll gate at Ogbunike to Bridge-head end of the Enugu/Awka/Onitsha express way.
Meanwhile, a coalition of civil society groups had called for immediate resignation of the Inspector General of Police, IGP, Mr. Solomon Arase for his alleged shoot-at-sight order and roles in the Onitsha killings of protesting IPOB members.
Extra judicial killings
In a press statement released, yesterday, and signed by Emeka Umeagbalasi, the coordinating principal of the coalition said it was equally important to inform that the Nigeria Police Force under Arase was already under the jurisdictional watch of the International Criminal Court as compilation and computation of cases of all police and military related extra judicial killings in the country were steadily in progress, adding, “for failing to heed our warning of 13th November 2015, we will be glad to ensure that IGP Arase and his named sub-commanders are handcuffed and flown to The Hague for the purpose of making them face international trial for crimes against humanity.”
According to the coalition: “We call on the IPOB and its teeming followers to remain peaceful, non- violent and law-abiding at all times, not minding the violence recently visited and unleashed on them.
“They must also watch their back and be extremely vigilant so as to ward off sustained efforts of some commissioned elements within the Federal Government, particularly its security establishments and stooges within the South East Governors Forum to implant elements of violence into their fold so as to destroy their globally -approved method of non- violence and peaceful means of agitation.
IPOB blames APC
Still wallowing in the confusion that followed the killing of nine of its members, Wednesday, in Onitsha, the IPOB, also yesterday alleged that the All Progressives Congress, APC, was behind the crisis that led to shooting to death of nine people and injuring of over 18 people that sustained various degrees of injuries at the Niger Bridge Head Onitsha and other parts of Onitsha and its environs.
Spokesman of IPOB in Anambra State, Mr. Emma Powerful disclosed this while addressing newsmen in Onitsha, saying that it was a calculated plan by the APC government in the country which became unsettled with their peaceful and non- violent protests in South East, and had been looking for a way to provoke violence in their protests to justify the continued detention and incarceration of their leader, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu.
The IPOB spokesman gave the names of some of the IPOB members that were shot dead, Wednesday, morning as Chima Onoh, from Enugu state, Kenneth Ogadinma from Abia State, Angus Chikwado and Felicia Egwuatu from Anambra State, including another, he said they got information was killed in Idemili side of Anambra State late Wednesday evening.
He also said that the JTF killed a young lady that was later identified as Nkiruka and tried to take her corpse away.
An eye witness, who took some photographs told Vanguard that he was in his office watching as JTF men were shooting sporadically at Obodoukwu Road by Nigerian Customs Service Onitsha.
He said Nkiruka is from Adazi Nnukwu in Anaocha Local Government Area of Anambra State, a 200 level student of Federal College of Education Technical, Umunze and the only daughter of the family.
“Nkiruka was coming from Nigerian Customs Service by Asaba Onitsha Enugu expressway towards Obodoukwu Road and on hearing gun-shots, she ran into a restaurant and one of the JTF members shot her dead and was about taking her corpse away when her family came with an ambulance and spoke with the JTF men who later released the corpse to them.”
However, the police from Anambra State had denied any killing by the JTF through the Police Public Relations Officer in the state, Mr. Ali Okechukwu.
MASSOB disassociates self
Meanwhile, the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, yesterday, dissociated itself from the violence being perpetrated by IPOB, which had resulted in the killings and destruction of property.
Speaking to newsmen in Asaba, zonal leader of MASSOB in Delta North, Mr. Chinedu Amaifeobu, said MASSOB was not a violent group and condemned the acts of violence being perpetrated by the IPOB.
Amaifeobu said: “MASSOB is not in support of the killings and destruction of property. We are not against any group in Igbo land but would not support killing of innocent people and destruction of property. “
Disclosing that there was no faction in MASSOB as allegedly being speculated by one Uchenna Madu, he said Mr. Raph Uwazuruike remained the founder and leader of the group worldwide, alleging that the said Uchenna Madu was sacked from MASSOB since last year for misconduct and his group was the one terrorizing Onitsha.
Amaifeobu expressed confidence that they would actualize Biafra without violence and urged the media to reach out to them in any of their offices for verification of information concerning MASSOB before going to press.
Insisting the group had offices in all parts of the Biafra zone, he held that MASSOB under the leadership of Uwazuruike was committed to the Biafra struggle.
Meeting of North, S/E monarchs
However, at the IPOB’s media briefing, Mr. Powerful dismissed the meeting said to have been held on the directive of the Sultan of Sokoto with Governor Rochas Okorocha as host and some South East traditional rulers in attendance as meeting of APC members, adding that some South East traditional rulers must have been disappointed with the outcome of the meeting.
“How can anybody be holding a meeting concerning IPOB, MASSOB and issue of Biafra in Imo State instead of Enugu State or Anambra State, the home of our spiritual leader Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu without any IPOB and MASSOB member, even one person from the groups being present.
“We therefore maintain that it was an APC meeting and its outcome does not have any binding on IPOB or MASSOB,” he said.
Call for dialogue
Speaking further, the IPOB spokesman berated the Inspector General of Police, Mr. Solomon Arase, for reading a riot act to armless, defenseless and non-violent IPOB and MASSOB members when he should be apologizing and sympathizing with the families of the people his men and their JTF counterpart killed during their indiscriminate shooting of protesting people.
“We are demanding that IGP Arase should resign voluntarily or be removed by Buhari if he is not using him to do a hatchet job. He is not a competent and intelligent police officer, let alone being IGP, or he should have consoled the bereaved families whether it was his men that did it or not.
“Every killing that happened, Wednesday, constitutionally falls on the Police, because they invited the Army and the Navy to help them because of their incompetence.“
The APC government through their youths had been looking for a way to destroy our peaceful protests, but they could not see. They bribed market leaders to accuse us of shutting the markets and breaking into stores and shops and that did not work. They now decided to send their youths to start making bonfire on the roads in Onitsha and other parts of the state to disrupt economic, social and commercial activities in the state and give an impression that we are violent.
“This was after they had ordered the Joint Military Task Force to shoot five of our members, who were observing our three days ‘Sit at the Niger Head Bridge’ protest as directed by our leaders to press home our demand for the release of Mr. Kanu. Yet, we did not react.
“We are demanding for the release of our leader and the actualization of the sovereign state of Biafra. We are determined to have Biafra and detention of Mr. Kanu and other members of IPOB and MASSOB will not deter us. Since the end of the civil war, we have not been treated as part of Nigeria and now, we want to go and nobody will stop us because we have exhausted our patience in Nigeria,” he said.
Appeal for peace
Calling for calm, Chief Rommy Ezeonwuka, the Ogirishi Igbo has appealed to IPOB and MASSOB to maintain the peace that they had been known for even in the face of the killing of their members and the attack by the APC-sponsored youths in the state.
Ezeonwuka urged the youths to keep calm as their anger had been established.
“ I want them to know that IPOB, known for peaceful protest is being infiltrated by criminals sponsored by politicians from inside and outside the state to involve in violent activities to destroy their name.”