No fewer than 30 members of Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) were yesterday arrested by operatives of the Enugu State Police Command at a rally to mark Biafra Day. The police confirmed the arrest, while warning that it would not allow anybody or group to disrupt the peace in the state.
Police public relations officer in the state, Ebere Amaraizu, told Daily Sun that, contrary to allegations that the command arrested 30 pro-Biafra agitators, only 15 of them were arrested within the state, because they were disrupting the peace of the state.
Also, over 50 members of the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) were yesterday arrested by the police in Owerri, Imo State. It was gathered that they were arrested along Wetheral Road, Owerri, while coming in from neighbouring Abia State.
Most of the arrested MASSOB members, who belong to the camp of Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, were said to be displaying Biafra insignia and singing anti-Nigeria songs when they were arrested. The group was celebrating the 18th anniversary of the hoisting of the Biafran flag in the South East, which they refer to as Biafra Day.
However, one of the leaders of the separatist group, Uchenna Madu, disagreed with the other faction on the actual date for the celebration of Biafra Day. While the group loyal to Uwazuruike claimed that Biafra Day is celebrated on May 22, the Madu-led MASSOB insists that Biafra Day should be celebrated on May 30. The celebration, according to Madu, would mark the 51st anniversary of the Republic of Biafra. Madu said that all Igbo groups were expected to join the celebration on May 30.
Meanwhile, the commissioner of police in the state, Dasuki Galadanchi, who had earlier planned to parade the arres MASSOB members arrested by the police before newsmen yesterday, later postponed the programme, stating the absence of other sister security agencies as reason.
Similarly, security operatives yesterday arrested at least 10 members of the MASSOB/BIM when they staged an anniversary rally in Port Harcourt, the capital of Rivers State. It was gathered that the arrested persons were among hundreds of pro-Biafra agitators who converged on Port Harcourt to mark the 18th anniversary of MASSOB/BIM.
The pro-Biafra agitators commenced the procession at Mile Market in Port Harcourt and were heading towards Eleme Junction before they were intercepted at Garrison Junction. The security men shot teargas canisters at the procession to disperse them and arrested 10 of them, especially those wearing military and Nigerian Security and Civil Defence Corps camouflages.
MASSOB leader in the state, Solomon Chukwu, in his speech during the protest, said: “I am not happy about the development. I met the security people and told them what we are doing that we are not violent. But they asked us to close and go. They did not give us a chance to go.
“They arrested our people on uniform. Our coming out is not that we took them unawares. They are aware. We were meant to go to Eleme Junction. But because of their action, we stopped at Garrison. We will follow up the people they have arrested to secure their release. MASSOB is a non-violent and registered organisation. We are shocked that they decided to treat us like this.”
In the same vein, operatives of the Delta State Police Command yesterday dislodged members of MASSOB/BIM who had gathered at Oko, near Asaba, to celebrate the 18th anniversary of the group. The event was a combined celebration by Delta north and south followers of the group. They had barely gathered to perform the rites when a police team arrived in seven pickup trucks, searching for the peaceful agitators. One of the leaders of the group, Joseph Odikpo, flayed the dangerous dimension of the occasion, wondering why security operatives hijacked the event to give it a violent colouration.