Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital, was literarily shut down for several hours yesterday by members of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), who now preferred to be known as the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Members of the group defied the early morning rain to protest the arrest, detention and trial of the Director of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
This is even as the protest in Onitsha, Anambra State, turned bloody, four people were shot and 15 were injured by policemen.
Kanu was arrested in Lagos last Wednesday by the Department of the State Security (DSS), arraigned in Abuja court and granted bail.
The protesters, drawn from different parts of Rivers State, assembled as early as 7am before they took over the major streets of Port Harcourt, causing heavy vehicular and human traffic in Aba, Azikiwe, Ikwerre, Rumuola roads, among others.
The protest was said to have also been replicated in Oyingbo and Ogoni areas of the state.
The group had on Monday warned residents and traders to stay at home yesterday or risked incurring the wrath of the group.
At the popular Ikoku junction, along the Ikwerre Road, policemen fired teargas to disperse them at about 12:27 pm; but it seemed not to have effect on the number of protesters.
The protesters, who were non-violent, alleged that the Federal Government was determined to relegate Igbos to the background, vowing that no amount of intimidation and harassment could dampen their spirits.
Security operatives were seen in patrol vans and Armoured Personnel Carriers (APCs) behind the protesters to avert possible breakdown of law and order
In Asaba, chanting songs of solidarity, the placard-bearing protesters described Kanu’s arrest as uncalled for and totally unacceptable, insisting that they were no longer comfortable with the Nigerian government.
Secretary of the group, Nnenna Nwaoha, said, “we have suffered enough in the hands of the Nigerian government and we are no more comfortable with it.
“We want our freedom, that is why we are here. We are not comfortable with the Nigerian government, the intimidation, killing and all that; that is why we want our freedom. We feel very bad about his detention and it is affecting each and every one of us. We are not comfortable, we want to go,”he said.
The protesters were, however, denied access into the Government House by security operatives who were on guard. No official of the state government addressed them.
In Onitsha, Anambra State, a similar protest was dispersed with teargas when police swooped on them. The IPOB members numbering about 500, mainly women, marched from Amawbia junction with placards and were getting close to the Government House gate in Awka when police mounting guards fired shots in the air and teargased them.
Speaking on the incident, the IPOB Coordinator in Anambra, Ikechukwu Okoye, told Newsmen that they were marching along Government House, Awka when police attacked their members, shooting four and arrested about 15 others who are being detained at the State Criminal Investigation Department (SCID), Awka.
He said they were on a peaceful protest, noting that the police have seized two of their vehicles.
He said one of their members, a pregnant woman, fell into the gutter during the attack and sustained injury with her two-year-old baby.
Okoye noted that they were dissatisfied over the treatment meted on their leader Dr. Kanu and had wanted to call on Anambra State Governor, Chief Willie Obiano to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to intervene on the matter.
According to him, “we are only freedom agitators who obey the laws of the land, this is democracy and there is freedom of speech, freedom of movement etc.”