A man lost his life on Friday in Onitsha after a protest by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) got out of control in the commercial city.
Commercial and social activities were disrupted for much of the day in Onitsha and environs, Asaba,Delta State, and Owerri, where protesters demanding an independent Biafra and release of Biafran agitator Nnamdi Kanu from detention clashed with security agents.
The Police warned against violence, vowing to resist violence by the agitators, who they said planned to embark on “ ill-advised protests using dangerous weapon across some South Eastern States.”
The protests disrupted vehicular movement along the Onitsha-Enugu Expressway, Onitsha-Owerri Road, and roads in Uga-Atani-Ogaru Local Government area, Nsugbe, Nkwelle Ezunaka Roads, Old and New Market Roads, Nkpor, Ogidi, Obosi Roads all in Anambra state.
The result was a massive traffic jam within and outside Onitsha.
The circumstances of the death of the victim were not immediately clear.
Some sources said he was shot by the police, an allegation denied by the police.
The Onitsha Police Area Commander Philip Ezekiel said emphatically that the police were not responsible for the man’s death as there was no clash whatsoever between the protesters and the police anywhere in the state.
Another source said the man was killed by members of a vigilance group.
Three persons were allegedly injured.
Markets were shut between 7am and 2.30pm.
While some traders loitered around to see if the situation might allow them open their shops for business, others stayed back at home for fear of being attacked.
The Anambra State government had announced asked market leaders to ensure that the markets were opened for business.
Shut were the Onitsha Main Market, Ochanja Central Market Onitsha, New Tyre Market Nkpor, New Auto Spare Parts Market Nkpor, Building Materials Market Ogidi, Ugwuagba Market Obosi, Electronics Market Onitsha, Bridge Head Market Onitsha.
Thousands of IPOB supporters had gathered round the Emeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu Statue by the Niger Bridge Head chanting and dancing Pro Ojukwu and Biafran songs.
From that spot they marched to the Upper Iweka Flyover denouncing the Federal Government, Police and the Army in their songs.
They also asked for the immediate release of Kanu and other Biafran activists from security custody.
Kanu, one of the brains behind Radio Biafra, was arrested over three weeks ago and charged with acts prejudicial to national security.
A large number of armed soldiers and policemen were deployed on the streets
The situation was not different in nearby Asaba, the Delta State capital and Agbor.
It was gathered that the protesters took off from Agbor and moved to Asaba in a motorcade causing a gridlock on the Benin-Onitsha.
The protesters wore no shirts and adorned their heads and left arms with palm fronds while chanting solidarity songs.
They described Kanu’s continued detention as uncalled for and totally unacceptable.
It was gathered that security operatives fired canisters of tear gas at the protesters at the Summit Junction with a view to disbanding the gathering.’Some of them were arrested.
A protester, Chineye Udeoba said : “we are Biafrans. My father is 72 years old and he is older than Nigeria. He is a Biafran, I am a Biafran and we all here are Biafrans. We the indigenous people of Biafra are ready to go. We want to be on our own.
Mrs. Judith Ihebiehi told journalists that the detained Kanu was the voice of Biafra, insisting that it was wrong for the Federal Government to detain him as he did nothing to deserve any punishment.
The protesters were however, denied access into the Government House by security operatives who were on guard. No official of the state government addressed them.
A combined team of security operatives disrupted the protest by IPOB) in Owerri,the Imo state capital.
The security operatives who were made up of the Army, Police and Civil Defence Corps, dispersed the over 500 IPOB members who were stationed at strategic locations in the state capital.
Some of the protesters had hoisted the Biafra flag and other insignia of the group on electric poles and residential buildings before the heavily armed security men took over the streets.
When contacted, the state Police Public Relation Officer, Andrew Enwerem, said the action of the police was a normal security patrol.
He said “each situation determines action. What you saw them doing is not unusual, it is called visibility policing, it is okay”
Enugu, on the contrary was generally calm, with residents going about their normal business.
People with engagements associated with weekends were on course preparing for such engagements like burial, wedding an birthday etc.
But earlier in the day, a detachment of the Nigerian Army in full combat outfit drove round some major roads ostensibly to warn trouble makers to be wary of their presence.
Although no official statement was given for the military exercise, residents saw it as normal regimental exercise.º
Police Inspector General Solomon Arase, warned IPOB to discontinue its plans to embark on a violent protest.
The Police, in a statement yesterday by its Spokesperson, Olabisi Kolawole said that information available to it suggested plan by the group to embark on ill-advised protest using dangerous weapon across some South Eastern States.
The Police said that the law prohibiting unlawful possession of firearms is still in place adding that attempt by the group to embark on the protest will be met with stiff resistance from the police and other security agencies.
The Police said: “any attempt to unleash mayhem on innocent and law abiding Nigerians under any guise by this group will be met with stiff resistance from the Police and other security agencies, the actors will be brought to justice in line with extant criminal laws”.
The police boss however assured citizens in the South-Eastern States of adequate protection, as appropriate Police deployment has been emplaced to deal with any group or persons who might be bent on breaching public peace and threatening national security.
The police in Yenagoa confirmed yesterday that they arrested more than 80 pro-Biafra agitators during one of a series of protests across the Southeast against the detention of the group’s leader.
The 78 men and five women were detained in a motorpark in Yenagoa, the capital of Bayelsa state, “because they want to foment troubles and unleash mayhem” said Bayelsa police spokesman Anisim Butswat.
Witnesses reported other rallies in at least four other areas, and one activist said police fired tear gas at marchers from Imo state walking to Bayelsa state border, though there was no independent confirmation.