Army defends role in pro-Biafra protest
• Senate seeks inquiry into S’East killings
• IGP says arrested protesters to be charged for murder
• 88 arraigned in Ebonyi, 13 in Enugu
In stout defence of its role in Monday’s protests by pro-Biafra groups, the Nigeria Army declared yesterday that its intervention was to ensure peace, stability and security of lives and property.
Scores of lives were said to have been lost, especially in Onitsha, Anambra State following a clash between soldiers drafted to quell the unrest and protesters who were marking the anniversary of Biafra.
But perturbed by the clash, the Senate yesterday asked all the states in the South East and South South where protesting youths and security agents were killed to investigate the causes of those deaths.
The resolution followed the adoption of a request by Deputy President, Ike Ekweremadu, which drew the attention of senators to the tragedy.
Citing Rule 43 of the Senate Standing Rule, Ekweremadu noted that the killing of young men and women was disastrous to the future of the country, pointing out that the youths represented the future of the Nigerian nation.
Meanwhile, following the reported killing of two policemen by protesting members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) on Monday, the leadership of the police has said the arrested suspects would be charged to court for murder.
Also, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), Solomon Arase has directed his men in the Southeast to disarm and arrest every armed member of the group.
A statement in Enugu by the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, 82 Division, Nigerian Army Enugu, Col. H.A Gambo, stated that the intervention of the army followed a fierce attack launched on security operatives who were carrying out their legitimate duties. He said that the attack came from protesters who included members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and IPOB.
Contrary to a notion that the protest march was in remembrance of Biafra, the army said that it was actually organised to disrupt the “first anniversary of the present democratic government.’’
The statement said: “The attention of the general public is hereby drawn to the unwarranted attack that was launched by combined members of the Movement for Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) against the peace-loving populace as well as security agencies at about 0415 hours on 30 May 2016.
“This attack was purported to have been orchestrated in order to mar the first anniversary of the present democratic government as part of the activities earmarked to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of Biafra. Due to the widespread panic, tension and apprehension that generated from the activities of the MASSOB and IPOB members, security agencies which comprised of detachment of Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police, Department of State Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency were compelled to intervene in consonance with constitutional provisions of aid to civil authority where and when such occasion demands…(and)… overarching imperative to ensure a reign of peace, security and stability in this circumstance …
“However, the MASSOB and IPOB members who had earlier assembled at a school location on Ataa Road near Saint Edmunds’ Catholic Parish Maryland Nkpor-Agu in Anambra State resorted to fierce attack against the security agencies who were carrying out their legitimate mandate. The nature of this attack involved brazen employment of various types of firearms and all sorts of crude weapons, volatile cocktail such as acid and dynamites. Instructively, troops of 82 Division Nigerian Army as the lead agency of the security agencies had to invoke the extant Rules of Engagement (ROE) to resort to self-defence, protection of the strategic Niger Bridge, prevent re-enforcement of the pro-Biafra members apparently surging ahead from the far side of the strategic Niger Bridge at Onitsha. All these efforts were in order to de-escalate the palpable tension as well as ward off the apparent threats to lives and property in the general area.”
Gambo continued: “In the aftermath of the fire fight that ensued, many of our own troops sustained varying degrees of injury. Those injured troops are currently receiving treatment at our medical centre while five MASSOB/IPOB were killed, eight wounded while nine were arrested.”
He said that despite the unfortunate incident, the 82 Division of the Nigerian army would continue to protect lives and property in Anambra State and indeed across the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Calling the attention of the upper chamber to the tragedy in the South East, Ekweremadu urged security agencies to apply caution in seeking to quell protests in any part of the country.
“I will like to use this opportunity under Order 43 to say that the security agencies must apply caution in trying to quell disturbances.
“We have had so much of blood bath in this country under different circumstances and we cannot continue to lose young men and women because the future of this country belongs to them.
“It is important that this Senate rise to condemn any act of killing in any part of this country especially with the one that concerns the major part of our future which remains the young men and women of this country.
“We are now in a democracy and people should be entitled to speak their mind, to assemble under responsible circumstances and security agencies must also be responsible in dealing with those circumstances to ensure that lives are not lost unnecessarily.
“So I just wish to bring to the notice of the Senate for us to take note and possibly ask the states involved to set up enquiry to find out what led to these clashes and the number of people lost and to ensure that this doesn’t happen in future.”
In his ruling, Senate President, Abubakar Bukola Saraki, said necessary action should be taken to address the matter.
A statement issued in Abuja yesterday by the Force Public Relations Officer (FPRO) Olabisi Kolawole said the decision to send the arrested suspects to face murder charges is predicated on the fact that the action to throw the two police officers, who were on official duty, into the River Niger, was premeditated.
The IGP condemned the killing of his men, saying “the targeted attacks on police personnel, who have been performing their statutory functions in the most professional and civil manner since the latest resurgence disorder, portrays the IPOB activists who are orchestrating the insurrection as having crossed the threshold in their misguided attempt to test the common will of the nation.
“The IGP therefore directed the arrest of any member of the group found in possession of firearm and bring him or her to deserved justice, while all IPOB activists arrested in connection with the killing of the policemen should be charged to court for murder.”
The statement assured law-abiding citizens in the country of the resolve of the police to ensure the preservation of internal security despite threats.
The Ebonyi State Police Command yesterday arraigned 88 out of 92 members of MASSOB arrested by the command during this year’s Biafra day celebration before an Abakaliki magistrate.
The court presided over by Mrs. Stella Ogoke granted them bail.
They were arraigned on a four-count charge of conspiracy, belonging to unlawful society, membership of unlawful group and possession of items calling for the declaration of Biafra.