Monday, May 30, 2016 11:03 pm
Nigerian Army has explained the circumstances leading to the killing of some protesters during the Biafra Heroes’ Day Rally held in Asaba, Delta State, by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).
The Army said two persons were shot dead while three other persons, including a soldier, were also badly wounded in the violent clash that ensued between the agitators and a combined team of soldiers and police at the Asaba end of the River Niger Bridge during the rally.
Charles Muka, the Acting Police Public Relations Officer of Delta State Police Command had however in an earlier statement put the number of death from the clash of the Biafran agitators with security operatives at seven.
Muka, a Superintendent of Police said two policemen and five members of MASSOB lost their lives during the clash. The Police spokesperson said in the statement that five members of MASSOB were killed by military officers who had confrontations with the group along the Asaba-Onitsha Expressway in Asaba.
But giving a synopsis of how the rally organized to mark the 49th anniversary of declaration of the defunct Biafra Republic turned bloody, the spokesman of the 4 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Captain Jonah Unuakhalu said in a statement issued late Monday evening that trouble started at about 8.30 am earlier in the day when some members of IPOB and MASSOB, gathered along Anwai Road and blocked the access route to the Delta State Government House, Asaba.
He added that consequently, a joint team comprising of policemen and soldiers responded and quickly dispersed the crowd from the area but the crowd however reassembled at Cable Road off Nnebisi Road around the A Division Police Station and were also dispersed by the team.
He however added that at about 9.30 am, security operatives received information that over 2000 members of the same IPOB/MASSOB had mounted a blockade at Asaba Express Way leading to a restriction of movement on the road.
The Army spokesman alleged that the agitators embarked on harassing commuters and forcing them to join them in their demonstration and procession to Onitsha, Anambra State.
He added that the protest was later hijacked by some hoodlums among the members who molested innocent citizens on the road, stripping them of their valuables.
The Policemen from the nearby B Division Police Station, according to the statement by the Army, responded and persuaded the crowd to return to their homes, a plea they initially accepted but later abandoned following their intent to cross the Niger Bridge to Onitsha at all cost.
“The crowd moved towards the Niger Bridge with hostile and violent actions. They resorted to stoning the police team and the soldiers deployed for duty at the Asaba end of the River Niger Bridge who denied them access to the Bridge. At that point, the Police again warned the crowd severally to disperse, and thereafter released the tear gas canisters to disperse the crowd.
“The action was confronted with sporadic firing from within the crowd, which followed with simultaneous attacks on the soldiers and policemen with the ulterior aim to disarm and subdue them.
“Guided by the rules of minimum force, the troops and policemen returned fire in self-defence following the attack. The encounter resulted in the death of 2 hoodlums and 2 wounded the shooting and other physical damages to one of our patrol vehicles by the mob while a soldier was badly injured.
“Three persons were arrested including a man performing rituals and incantations on the highway during the incident. However preliminary investigation of the arrested persons is on-going,” the statement said.