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Soldiers yesterday opened fire on members of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, during a peaceful march to mark the inauguration of the new President of the United States of America, Donald Trump.
During the attack at St. John’s along the ever-busy Aba Road, about 20 of the pro Biafra supporters were shot, and wounded, while about 30 others were forcefully seized by the armed soldiers who whisked them away to an undisclosed destination.
Some of the marchers fled with gunshot injuries as the soldiers started shooting after the marchers passed a barricade the soldiers had placed on the path of the marchers who were heading to Mile 1 Park through GRA Junction and St. John’s axis of Aba Road.
Women who were also part of the protest were not spared as they were brutalised by the soldiers who also kicked, punched and used the butt of their rifles to hit the protesters, just as they descended on journalists who attempted to take photos during the attack.
Some of those injured were rushed to the hospital for medical attention, while others only washed their bloody faces.
Sources also said soldiers also attacked another group, which was heading from the Artillery axis to connect with those at St John’s along the same Aba Road.
But other IPOB members who took a different route were not unlucky like those who converged on Aba Road, they sang and danced on the inauguration of Trump while chanting pro Biafra slogans.
This is coming on the heels of a statement from the IPOB, which condemned the alleged killing of 11 unarmed pro-Biafran agitators.
According to a statement signed by the group’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Comrade Emma Powerful, “the Nigerian security agencies, especially DSS and soldiers killed 11 people, left 27 people with bullets wounds and 57 people arrested”, during a rally in Port Harcourt, Rivers state.
MASSOB Director of Information, Rivers State Command, Mr. Anuken Anthony, popularly known as Tonene, said 15 pro Biafra members were seriously injured, and that 85 people had been arrested.
“For now, over 70 supporters of MASSOB and IPOB had been arrested and about 15 of them are in pains due to bullet wounds.
Our members have taken some of them to the hospital; we are praying that nothing should happen to any of them.
“I wonder why on earth the soldiers will brutalise the innocent peaceful protesters; our support for Donald Trump cannot be deterred by military intimidation and harassment.
“We were not violent during the rally we were only showing solidarity with the American President who we see as one of our own.”
The statement by IPOB, which noted that soldiers took away the corpses of those killed by the security agencies, reads: “we are calling on the international community to compel Nigerian soldiers to bring back the dead bodies of our members.
“Right now, we are being chased by Nigeria security agencies, they are going about searching and arresting anybody suspected to be IPOB member. Noting that it received invitation from the inauguration committee to witness Trump’s inauguration, the group said its Deputy National Representative for the Eastern Area USA, Mazi Chinedum Obih, would represent the Nation of Biafra at the historical event in Washington D.C. One of the protesters, Benson Paul, who got injured said he was dancing during the rally before the soldiers appeared from nowhere asking them to vacate the area.
“When we got to St. John Junction, we saw the military and they asked us to go back but we told them that we are matching for Donald Trump’s inauguration but they refused to allow us go our way.
“But we cannot continue to be slaves in our country, that was how some of us put our head on where the military barricaded. They manhandled and brutalised us.
Look at my head and my back they used their guns hitting all over my body. We want to go our own country.”Another victim, Onyema Njoku said soldiers broke his leg with gun, vowing to take legal action against the military.
“IPOB followed due process to ensure that the rally took place. Some people protested for President Buhari in Abuja yet nobody shoot at them.
We were carrying out a peaceful rally and the police and the military are shooting at us, it is bad. “One of the soldiers caught me while I was trying to run away, he descended on me until he broke my leg, I cannot walk.
“I’m waiting for my friends to take me to the hospital, I will get better, I know it is part of the sacrifice for freedom.
“ We are in support of Donald Trump the President of United State of America, this is just a solidarity as one who believe in the Biafra agenda.
“We are tired of staying in Nigeria, we want to go, this is not a country, we have been enslaved politically because Nigeria looks at us as minority group.”
One of the journalists brutalised, the Acting South South Bureau Chief of The Authority newspaper, Willie Etim, was attacked while he was trying to take pictures.
Etim, who narrated his ordeal in the hands of the soldiers, said he was on his way to the office, and noticed the demonstrators, then decided to record the event, only to be attacked by some soldiers. He said he narrowly escaped being lynched by two of the soldiers, after they had hit him with the butt of their gun, destroyed his phone and other gadgets.
“At about 10am, I was on my way to the office when I ran into a traffic jam between Waterlines and Garrison Bus Stop in Port Harcourt.
One lane was blocked and I was wondering what could have caused such massive crowd. “I got closer and discovered that it was Pro Biafra protest to draw the world attention to the Biafra situation in Nigeria.
Haven gotten a brief from some of the protesters, I went further to take a picture of the protesting youths, unknowingly, one of the soldiers detailed to quell the protest sighted me as I was taking the picture while I was driving through the crowd.
“Immediately, three of the soldiers walked up to me, asked me who authorised me to take the picture. It was then I introduced myself, that I am a journalist.
“One of them flared up and said ‘what stupid journalist’ and seized my phone which I used in snapping the picture and smashed it on the ground.
“When I attempted to plead with them, to allow me pick my Sim Card, they refused and threatened to shoot me if I step out of the car, and they pointed their guns at me from the windows of the driver and passenger sides.” However, the Rivers State Police Command said they were not aware of any killings when contacted.