The Catholic Diocese of Owerri was yesterday forced to postpone the planned nationwide protest/prayer rally called by the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria to protest herdsmen killings across the country.
Nigeria Newspoint gathered that the postponement was not unconnected with the tension that gripped Owerri the state capital and its environ Tuesday morning due to the 18th year anniversary parade of new Biafra organized by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike MASSOB and Biafra Independent Movement BIM, although the Catholic Archbishop of Owerri Archbishop Anthony Obinna cited security concerns as reason for the shelving of the rally.
Meanwhile, the police in Imo State have arrested no fewer than 84 members of Chief Ralph Uwazuruike-led Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Biafra Independent Movement (BIM) were, Tuesday, arrested by the police across Imo state.
The members of the group were arrested during their 18th anniversary celebration parade in Owerri, the Imo State capital.
According to the Owerri zonal leader of MASSOB/BIM, Mr Samuel Njoku, some members of the group are arrested at the Old Ogbo Osisi market on Wetheral Road, Owerri, while others were arrested on their way to the rally from Orlu, Mgbidi, Ngor Okpala, Mbaise and Okigwe.
He told Newspoint during the rally that the arrest of his members would not deter them from being nonviolent in their approach towards restoring Biafra independence.
“If you look around you see agents of Nigerian government surrounding us despite the fact that we’re maintaining nonviolent posture. But we want to insist that we’ll not be provoked into any irresponsible action because we’re focused in our goal of achieving independence for the suffering people of Biafra”, he said.
On the reason for their rally, Njoku explained that “since the end of the civil war in 1970, no Igbo was courageous enough to mention Biafra until Chief Uwazuruike launched MASSOB on September 13, 1999 and on May 22, 2000 declared and hoisted the flag for the new Biafra”.
He added that the uniqueness of May 22 anchored on its historic importance makes the day a big event for the struggle for emancipation of Biafra people, “that’s why what is happening here is equally happening in part of the world where Biafrans are.
“What July 4 is to Americans is what May 22 is to Biafran people because without the event of that day, the clamour for Biafra would not have been mentioned anywhere in the world”, he said.
Imo State Police spokesman, Andrew Enwerem who confirmed the arrests, said arrested members of BIM/MASSOB were separatists who were nabbed by security operatives of the command from various parts of Imo Tuesday morning.
He said the arrests were based on intelligence information that MASSOB/BIM members were about to conduct themselves in a manner likely to cause breach of the peace.
MASSOB/BIM had announced a celebration of the 18years of re-declaration of the Biafra Republic by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike on May 22, 2000.
But as early as 7.30am, Tuesday, security men were stationed at various entry points of Owerri, to stop MASSOB members from joining the demonstration while others were also stationed at various local government areas of the state.
In spite of the heavy security presence, the demonstrators were able to arrive in buses from some nearby local government areas of the state with Biafra flags and placards bearing various inscriptions depicting commitment to Biafran state, wearing military uniforms and chanting Biafran songs and solidarity slogans.