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10 killed, 5 injured, 4 arrested in MASSOB demonstration *As group shuts Onitsha Bridge

By Suzy Oruya and Olayinka Olukoya
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OVER 10 persons were feared dead on Saturday as members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the State of Biafra (MASSOB) made good their threat to demonstrate in commemoration of 8 June in Onitsha, the Anambra State capital, a development that led to a clash with security agencies.

Apart from the persons feared dead, five others were reportedly injured, while four were arrested by security agents, consisting of policemen, men of the Nigerian Army, State Security Service (SSS) and the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps (NSCDC).

The fracas between the members of MASSOB and security agents also sent business in the commercial city into comatose.

The group reportedly shut down the Asaba end of the Niger bridge to prevent traffic from entering the city and enforce its sit-at-home order.

At least, one luxury bus coming from Lagos was vandalised with all the occupants compelled to disembark.

When Sunday Tribune visited parts of the city where the demonstration was carried out, at a spot, bodies of three suspected members MASSOB were found lying in pools of their blood. Reports had it that they were trying to escape a troop of soldiers in two patrol vans at Patrick Okolo junction, Modebe Avenue in Onitsha town, when they got involved in an accident that claimed their lives.

Also, some buses and a tanker were seen burning on Owerri and Nkpor roads.

When Sunday Tribune contacted the Information Minister of MASSOB, Comrade Uchenna Mmadu, on the telephone, he said; "we view the thousands of Army, police, SSS and civil defence personnel patrolling the streets, roads and villages of Biafraland as an act of cowardice and sign of jitters over MASSOB's activities, influence and acceptance in Igboland."

Police Public Relations Officer (PPRO) of the state police command, Mr. Emeka Chukwuemeka, who commented on the incident, said "the hoodlums" went into a nearby mechanic workshop, pushed out a vehicle which was undergoing repairs and set it ablaze, adding that some arrests were equally made.

The commander of 302 Artillery Regiment of the Nigerian Army, Onitsha, Colonel T. A. Gagariga, told journalists by telephone that he was also not aware that soldiers shot and killed MASSOB members, adding that he was aware that some MASSOB members, who were in their vehicles, had a fatal accident at Modebe Avenue junction by Iweka Road, a development that led to immediate death of two of them, while others sustained serious injuries.

However, the image maker of Anambra State traders, Dede Uzor A. Uzor, condemned the inability of the police and other security agencies to prevent MASSOB's action despite the long notice earlier given by the group, saying the failure of the security agents to protect lives and property led to the invasion of some markets in the state, especially the Old Nkpor Motor Spare Parts market, where goods worth over N15 million were destroyed by hoodlums suspected to be MASSOB members who allegedly came into the market with about 15 motorcycles to enforce the sit-at-home order.