Pro-Biafra Activists Defy Police, Stage Protests Across S’East
SCORES of pro-Biafra activists yesterday defied a warning by the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase, to desist from breaching public peace or face the consequences. They staged peaceful protests in some cities in the South East and South South to demand for the release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kalu from detention.
The IGP had in a statement yesterday morning signed by the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO), Olabisi Kolawole, said that intelligence report available to the Police indicates that there were “plans by the IPOB to embark on an ill-advised protest using dangerous weapon across some South Eastern States.”
She said the planned protests were unlawful and warned that the police would use all legal instruments available to stop the protests. “The Nigeria Police Force reminds the brains behind this security threat that the law prohibiting the unlawful possession of firearms is still in force. Therefore, any attempt to unleash mayhem on innocent and law abiding Nigerians under any guise by this group will be met with stiff resistance from the Police and other security agencies. The actors will be brought to justice in line with extant criminal laws.
“Citizens in the South-Eastern States are hereby assured of adequate protection, as appropriate Police deployment has been emplaced to deal decisively with any group or persons who might be bent on breaching public peace and threatening national security”, the statement said.
But in defiance, members of IPOB went ahead with the protest, bringing commercial and other activities to a halt for several hours in Onitsha.
The protest was largely peaceful as there was no information of any clash between the Police and the protesting IPOB members, until about 2.30 pm when it was gathered that one person was allegedly shot at the Ochanja Roundabout by the police.
Markets in Onitsha and its environs including Ochanja Central Market Onitsha, New Tire Market Nkpor, New Auto Spare Parts Market Nkpor etc, were all shut from 7am till about 2.30pm while vehicular movements were also disrupted along the Onitsha Enugu Expressway, Onitsha Owerri Road, Uga Atani Ogaru Local Government Road, Onitsha Aguleri, thereby causing traffic gridlocks on all the roads within and outside the commercial city.
It was gathered that the Anambra State Government had announced through the market leaders to ensure that the markets were open but the traders gathered early in the day on the streets discussing the protest which IPOB had declared earlier in the week.
The IPOB members, numbering over 20,000, were earlier seen gathered at Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu’s Statue by Niger Bridge Head, chanting and dancing Biafran songs, and later marched peacefully to down to Upper Iweka Flyover and the ever–busy Douglas Road, while some police officers marched behind them as they sang, “All we are saying is give us Biafra”.
The state Commissioner of Police, Taiwo Lakanu, however said the officers were at their back to ensure that they did not injure innocent persons along the road. He disclosed that the police arrested some of the protesters.
“If you come you will see those arrested. What happened is that we did not want to arrest them at the Douglas where people were. If we try such, people would have been injured,” he said.
In Yenagoa, the Bayelsa State Police Command arrested 83 members of IPOB during the protest. Amongst those arrested were 78 males and five females who carried flags agitating for the actualization of a Sovereign State of Biafra.
Spokesperson of the command, Anisim Butswat said those arrested were raising the ‘Biafra flag’ along the Mbiama -Yenago road. “Those arrested are at the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) for investigations and interrogations,” he said.