John Nwodo, the leader of Ohaneze, the pan-Igbo socio-cultural organisation has bared his mind on the proposed sit-at-home protest by Biafra separatist groups: the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB.
The IPOB group plans a sit-at-home protest in the south-east and south-south regions of the country on May 30 to coincide with the annual ‘Biafra Remembrance Day,’ as well as honour the memory of pro-Biafra activists killed by security agencies over the years.
The group called for the closure of all markets within “Biafran territory” on May 30, and a halt of all vehicular movements in the area from 12 a.m. on May 29 till midnight of May 30.
“They have been very law-abiding. In fact, they say everybody should stay at home. They didn’t ask everybody to come and demonstrate on the road.
They say stay at home to prayerfully and sorrowfully mourn the dead,” Mr. Nwodo said in an interview with newsmen Festus Owete and Ebuka Onyeji.
“People died on both sides… About 1.5 million people on the Biafran side died.
When I talk about Biafrans I am not talking about the Igbos. Philip Effiong was from the present Akwa Ibom. He was deputy to Ojukwu. Kogbara from Rivers was administrator in Biafra.
Achuzia was GOC. So, Biafra was beyond the confines of what you call Igbo land today? The feeling is still in all those places.”
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Police Force has warned IPOB and other separatist groups not to embark on protests on May 30.
In a statement issued by the police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, on Friday, the police said it would not hesitate to deal decisively with any attempt to cause disturbance or carry out any unlawful procession or assembly.
The Enugu State Police Command, through its spokesperson, Ebere Amaraizu, also warned it would resist any attempt by the separatist groups to force people to stay indoors on May 30.
The IPOB and Nigeria security agencies have a history of violence confrontations over the past few years.
At least 150 peaceful pro-Biafra protesters were killed between August 2015 and August 2016 as Nigerian security forces embarked on – what Amnesty International described as – a chilling campaign of extrajudicial executions and violence in the Southeast.
During last year’s Biafra Remembrance Day march, at least 60 people were killed as hundreds of protesters clashed with security forces across the Southeast region, according to Amnesty International.
In announcing this year’s protest, the IPOB had said it would resist any attempt to deter it from going ahead with its plan.
“The saboteurs and agents cannot stop us from honouring our fallen heroes because it is our inalienable right to remember and honour those who died in the struggle for Biafra independence,” the group had said.
The Nigerian Civil War, better known as the Biafra war (July 6, 1967 – January 15, 1970), was a war fought between the government of Nigeria and the secessionist state of Biafra. Immediate causes of the war in 1966 included a military coup, a counter-coup, and persecution of Igbos living in Northern Nigeria.
In a related development, the 82 Division Nigerian Army on Monday denied an allegation supposedly made by IPOB in a statement released on Monday that “there was sporadic shootings by the Army in Aba and Umuahia axis” and that soldiers opened fire on IPOB members in Aba during a procession in honour of those who died during the Biafra civil war.
“The Division wishes to state there was no soldier at the venue or vicinity where the procession took place. Also, there was no crisis or breakdown of law and order in Aba, Umuahia and in the whole of South Eastern part of Nigeria as to warrant/justify ‘use of firearms’ as falsely and mischievously alleged by IPOB propagandists,” an army spokesperson, Sagir Musa, a colonel, said.
“What is obvious, however, is an increase in the presence of security agencies on routine patrols in different locations in the region, particularly areas that are regarded as real or potential flash points. The aim is to pro-actively checkmate possible security breaches in view of sordid/divisive utterances and in some cases blatant actions by secessionist agitators.”