…Igbo leaders react
The arrest of Biafra Radio operator and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mr. Nnamdi Kanu in Lagos last week by the Department of State Security (DSS) has continued to generate attention even as his supporters have vowed to continue protests despite series of arrests by the police.
On Tuesday, hundreds of Mr. Kanu’s supporters, including women variously stormed the streets of Onitsha, Port Harcourt, Enugu and Asaba demanding his immediate release while chanting songs in support of his Biafra cause.
It was not long however, before they were confronted by men of the Nigeria police force who arrested a number of them on allegation of disrupting public peace. In Enugu particularly, the police reportedly fired tear gas at protesting women, injuring some while arresting others. A move that drew the condemnations by the state chapter of the Nigeria Bar Association (NBA)
Their Chairman, Dr. Osita Ogbu who spoke on the development said it was inappropriate for the police to shoot canisters directly at a group of unarmed people carrying out a peaceful protest.
“This is unacceptable in a civilised society as the right to freedom of assembly has been guaranteed under the constitution. What the police did was a violation of their fundamental human rights,” Ogbu said.
However, the Anambra State police commissioner, Mr. Hosea Karma who spoke on the arrest of protesters in the state insisted that there was nothing like IPOB and that those arrested constituted nuisance.
“There is nothing like Indigenous People of Biafra. Those people constituted nuisance on the high way and that was why they were picked,” he said.
In another twist, reports also emerged that Kanu had been granted bail upon payment of N2 million or a surety in like sum, a claim that was later dismissed as untrue by the IPOB.
Reacting to the report, Mr. Emeka Umeagbalasi, Board Chairman International Society for Civil Liberties and the Rule of Law (Intersociety) explained that Kanu was not granted bail as he was still being confined in DSSS dungeon.
“Pieces of information obtained by Intersociety this evening from the top hierarchy of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), including Office of Coordinator and Directorate of the state in UK and USA clearly show that citizen Nnamdi Kanu is yet to be set free or released from the DSS dudgeon,” Umeagbalasi said.
“As we earlier demanded, citizen Nnamdi Kanu must be charged to court of superior records or competent jurisdiction strictly within constitutionally or statutorily grounded offences and clearly defined and written penalties or be released unconditionally and immediately.”
It also emerged that the DSS denied Mr. Kanu access to his lawyer, Barr Egechukwu Obetta despite a subsisting court order allowing him access to a lawyer and a physician.
Meantime, the development has been generating reactions in various quarters with individuals like former aviation minister and the spokesperson for former President Godluck Jonathan’s campaign organisation, Femi Fani-Kayode calling on President Buhari to release Kanu or charge him to court.
“I call on Buhari to release Nnamdi Kanu. It is unlawful to keep anyone in detention for more than three days without charging him to court,” he said on his Facebook post.
In his own remarks, the leader of Ndigbo APC Lagos, Chief Anselm Njoku faulted the federal government’s manner of approach, noting that it was best to dialogue rather than incarceration.
“The agitation is born out of the serious neglect of the South East, both in infrastructural and human development,” Njoku said.
“The agitators are not violent; they have not taken arms. What I think the government should do is to call them and dialogue with them.
“It is better to agitate than to carry guns, lay bombs and mines. They have not done that, so government should bring them closer,” he adds.
Also reacting, a member of Igbo Supreme Council of Elders and son of the late Biafra warlord, Dim Emeka Ojukwu, Chief Debe Odumegwu Ojukwu stated that the council of elders was still ‘appraising the situation.’
“We are still appraising the situation on ground and it is still premature for me to speak on it. I belong to the Supreme Council of Elders. At the right time, the council will come out with a reply,” he said.
Meanwhile, the governor of Imo State, Owelle Rochas Okorocha and his Rivers State counterpart, Nyesom Wike have dissociated themselves from the protests by pro-Biafra agitators. Wike emphasized that Rivers State was part of Nigeria and warned the Biafra agitators to keep off.
At the time of filing this report, the IPOB agitators were still threatening to embark on more protests, specifically to Awka, the Anambra State capital as they accused Governor Willie Obiano of allowing the police to beat up ‘Biafran women’ protesting in support of Kanu. At the same time, they have allegedly reported the federal government to Amnesty International with video evidences of brutality against their members.
Mr. Kanu came under public consciousness since he debuted with the Radio Biafra which has been critical of the President Buhari’s administration. On several occasions the federal government through the NCC has attempted to jam the radio signals without success. The broadcast is received in the South East and some states in the South-South region.