Five people were shot dead while seven others sustained various injuries at the Niger Bridge Head, when members of the Indigenous people of Biafra, IPOB, and Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, clashed with the Joint Task Force, JTF, which comprised of the Army and the Police, yesterday.
Four of the victims shot dead were members of both IPOB and MASSOB, while one person is said to be a soldier, who was grabbed by the mob, angry with the way soldiers opened fire on the jubilating crowd that included non pro-Biafra agitators, and fell four of them before they ran, leaving the victims behind.
All the markets around the Niger Bridge Head, including the Bridge Head Market, Onitsha Patent and Propitiatory Medicine Dealers Market (Ogbo Ogwu Market) and other markets located around the bridge, including Abada Market were quickly shut down, following sporadic shooting by the military to scare the jubilant crowd away.
An eye-witness at the Onitsha Head Bridge, who was coming from Asaba end of the bridge, said the Biafra agitators were said to be marching on the road near the River Niger Bridge, chanting solidarity songs in jubilation of the release of Nnamdi Kanu, when they were accosted by the soldiers, who ordered them to go back, an altercation occurred which made the soldiers allegedly open fire on them.
Another version of the story was that, the pro-Biafra agitators and those sympathetic to their cause, were jubilating, singing and dancing near the bridge, the soldiers who had been guiding the bridge since the last shooting, got incensed by the jubilation and opened fire on the protesters which caused the death of unarmed protesters.
The Police Public Relations Officer, PPRO, Mr. Ali Okechukwu confirmed the clash and accused the pro-Biafra agitators of mobilizing over I00 of their members to launch attack on the soldiers at the Niger Bridge Head and even tried to dispossess them of their guns.
Speaking on the incident, leader of MASSOB, Mr. Uchenna Madu said the news of the release of Mr. Kanu elicited singing, dancing and jubilation in Onitsha and other ‘Biafran’ lands and those in Onitsha took their dance to Chukwemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu plaque at the Niger Bridge Head and out of envy, and because of the singing and dancing, and banters they were throwing with one another, the soldiers, who mounted a road-block there, opened fire on the dancing protesters and killed four.
He said that no amount of intimidation, harassment and killing of their members will make them resort to violence, adding that “the military is doing all sorts of things to push us into violence, but we will never do that because that is what has been setting us free in all the harassment and intimidation we have been going through.”