The protest embarked on by the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, over the prolonged detention of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, yesterday, turned bloody in Aba, Abia State, as a combined team of security agents, comprising soldiers and policemen allegedly fired shots at the protesters, killing six members of the group and arresting 20.
Also in Enugu, the Police in the state yesterday, arrested 25 members of the IPOB, who had gathered at the Naira Triangle in preparation for a protest march.
Vanguard gathered that the protesters had, as early as 9am, 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.
Sources said the IPOB members were in prayer session when the soldiers and their police counterparts invaded the area and arrested some leaders of the group.
In the confusion, several protesters were injured while 10 were feared dead. 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.
At the time of filing this report, over 30 members of the group were reportedly receiving attention at various hospitals in the city.
When Vanguard visited the area, stern looking soldiers and policemen were seen at strategic positions while a convoy over 30 patrol vans later took the arrested protesters away.
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 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 killings
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.”