Pro-Biafra protest is snowballing, spreading fast across the states especially in the South East and South South geo-political zones. Between last Wednesday and Tuesday this week, protests were recorded in five states within the zones. The protesters are protesting against the arrest and detention of the Director of Radio Biafra, one Nnamdi Kanu. The radio itself has reportedly been closed down for alleged inciting and provocative broadcast against the Nigerian sovereignty.
Friday Magazine recalls that Kanu was arrested and arraigned secretly at the Magistrate Court, Wuse 11 by the Department of State Services, DSS, and later granted bail on October 19, but weeks later he is held in detention.
This has led to protests in some states like Anambra, Abia, Enugu, Imo, Delta and Lagos. Whereas in some areas law enforcement officers watched keenly as they carried out peaceful protests, in others it turned sour as some casualties were recorded. Unconfirmed reports said one died in Enugu and Delta respectively but the police authority debunked such claims but admitted that some arrests were made.
In the light of this, pro-Biafra supporters, under the aegis of Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, early in the week shut down Port Harcourt, Rivers State capital and also in Awka, Anambra State capital, as they protested against alleged marginalisation of the Igbo by the Federal Government as well as the recent arrest of the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
As they marched from Rumuola junction along Aba road to Ikoku and Mile 3 market where majority of Igbo traders dominate, the protesters numbering hundreds and mostly women, were denied access to Government House in Port Harcourt, as security personnel barricaded the entrance with armoured vehicles.
One Jeremiah Nwachukwu Ibe, who claimed to be the spokesman of the protesters, said it was disheartening that the Igbo have no position in the political space of this administration.
“We are not satisfied; we are angry with the Federal Government because right now, there is no voice for the Igbo people in the centre; the Igbo have no position in the political market place of this administration and we are pained by that.”
Anambra State Police Command, it was reported, arrested several people in Awka, the state capital, for protesting against the trial of Radio Biafra director, Kanu.
The Coordinator for Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, in Anambra State, Ikechukwu Okoye, who was quoted by The Guardian newspaper said that they were not protesting to cause any form of trouble but for the release of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu.
He said further that they were pleading with the Anambra state government to prevail on President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene in the matter and ensure that their leader was released forthwith. The protesters insisted that they were law abiding, stressing that they as citizens and under a democratic dispensation have freedom of association and the right to pursue their self identity as prescribed by the present prevailing constitution.
“We have freedom of speech, movement, association and the right to choose who should lead us. We should be allowed to enjoy democracy as well as the freedom to agitate for their rights under a democratic setting,” stated Dozie Ikenna who says his sympathy for Biafran protesters has nothing against the sovereignty of Nigeria.
Eze Ugwu therefore believes that denying the protesters their freedom to express their legitimate views and demands is crass suppression of their democratic rights. “No, it is wrong to arrest protesters who are demanding something legitimate which in this case is the release of a leader that was wrongly arrested. Kanu represents a symbol of the yearning of a people for self- actualization.
“Is it wrong for us to ask for an independent entity under a democratic setting using democratic means? The protesters are demanding for the independence of the South East or rather excision of the present Igbo speaking states from Nigeria. To arrest Kanu, who speaks for us and do not us violent means is wicked, harsh and undemocratic. That’s why we are calling on the state governments, especially those in the South East to prevail on President Buhari to call in his security operatives that have been highhanded in the handling the issue of Biafra protesters,” he said.
Friday Magazine recalls that the Anambra state Police Commissioner, Hosea Karma, had confirmed the arrest of some persons along the Enugu-Onitsha Expressway, said: “There is nothing like Indigenous People of Biafra. Those people constituted nuisance on the highway and they were picked.
“Right now, I do not know the numbers that were picked, but I want to assure you that anybody who wants to disturb the peace that exists here will not go unpunished. We do not have any group that goes by such name; they were causing obstruction on the federal highway.”
While decrying the arrest of Kanu, Ibe, however, demanded that he (Kanu) be allowed to return and anchor the Radio Biafra, stressing that the Biafran people are eager to hear him speak.
Many of the protesters said they opted to demand for the freedom of Biafra because since the end of the civil war in 1970, there has no evidence to show that the Igbos have been integrated into the Nigerian society. “The Igbo are united and we will not relent in our efforts to actualize the course. We know we have legitimate demand.”
Some of the protesters carried placards that read “Biafra or death”, “Biafra must stand”, “Biafra my home”, “We need Biafra”, “Zoo must fall, Biafra will stand”, “Biafra for life”, among others.
Unlike what transpired in Anambra where they were arrested but yet to be prosecuted in Rivers state, some pro-Biafran supporters who were arrested for protesting in major roads of Port Harcourt appeared before a Chief Magistrate court in Port Harcourt.
The accused persons were charged for treasonable felony for agitating for secession and trying to pull down Nigeria flag, an offence punishable under section 451 of the Criminal Code, Cap C38 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
The 20 men ranging from 20 to 50 years, who were arrested during the protest, could not take their plea in court as the Chief magistrate S.D Andrew-Jaja could not hear the matter because of the nature of the charge.
The Magistrate, however, adjourned the care till 27th of this month for counsels to address the court on its jurisdiction to grant bail to the accused persons.
The courts said the adjourned date will also allow the court ascertain the gravity of the offence of the accused persons, having in mind that the accused have been charged for treason, an offence that carries death penalty.
Ten of the protesters were represented by their counsel, Damiabo Davies, who claimed that the Police cannot justify why his clients were arrested.
“This kind of thing keeps happening in this country. I think the masses should rise up against these illegal arrests. The police just go about picking people in their shops”, he said.
In the meantime, the accused persons have been remanded in prison custody.
The accused persons were charged for treasonable felony for agitating for secession and trying to pull down Nigeria flag, an offence punishable under section 451 of the Criminal Code, Cap C38 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 2004.
Johnson Ibeji believes the Federal Government should take more than casual interest in the ongoing protests and the manner it is handle because it of its potential to escalate. He states that it was the poor manner the Boko Haram sect was handled that led to the state it later grew to.
“Boko Haram started like an innocent child’s play some 10 years ago in Niger state. First as an itinerant Islamists sect until they blossomed into terrorists sect causing breach of peace especially following the murder of their leader Muhammad Yusuf.
“The Federal Government under President Olusegun Obasanjo treated the issue with kid gloves, allowing the police in particular to apply undue force where dialogue would have sufficed to arrest the situation. Now, another situation is playing out and the federal Government is sitting idle lending support to the police to brutalise these protesters,” he said, stressing that rather than prosecute, the government should address their demands.

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