DOZENS of people are feared dead in Enugu State following a brutal clash between members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) and the men of the Department of State Security (DSS) yesterday morning.
Ipob is fighting to get southeast Nigeria to secede from the country and recreate the defunct Republic of Biafra that briefly existed between July 1967 and January 1970 during the Nigerian Civil War. Yesterday, Ipob were holding a meeting in Emene, Enugu State, when DSS operatives arrived to try and break it up, leading to pandemonium.
Church services were disrupted as worshippers fled the chaotic scene to avoid being caught in the cross-fire. Eyewitnesses said trouble started at about 7am when some policemen attempted to disperse Ipob members who were meeting at the Community Secondary School, Emene and they resisted the interruption of their meeting.
After a while, the altercation turned violent when the Ipob members stood their ground. Police officers then called for reinforcements and over a dozen patrol vans filled with policemen, soldiers and DSS operatives soon arrived the scene.
Shots were fired as teargas fumes filled the area, especially between St Patrick Secondary School and St Joseph Catholic Church along the old Abakaliki Road. Many people were said to have sustained injuries while an unspecified number of Ipob members were allegedly arrested by the police.
Another account said the Ipob members met at the school for a combat training exercise for new members and the DSS stormed first the venue to stop it. During the altercation, the Biafra campaigners overpowered the DSS operatives and marched to a nearby Emene Police station, chanting solidarity songs.
Apparently, the armed DSS could not shoot at the IPOB members as they were not permitted to apply force on the group. However, it was reported that while Ipob was attempting to gain access to the police station, about a dozen patrol vans loaded with armed security agents moved into the scene.
At least two persons reportedly died during the clash. Ipob alleged that the security agencies killed 22 of its members and injured 42 others in the shooting but this could not be independently verified.
Ipob spokesman, Emma Powerful, said: “Yesterday, the Nigerian security personnel stormed an Ipob meeting ground in Enugu and started shooting sporadically, which consumed the lives of 21 members and 47 were arrested for no just cause or provocation. It is unfortunate that security operatives murdered innocent members and carried their lifeless bodies to unknown locations.
“The security in the whole world must understand that keeping quiet and following the rule of law should not be construed as weakness on the part of Ipob.”