Recall that the group last week crippled economic and social activities in the commercial city of Aba.
The protesters were members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, demanding the release of the promoter of Radio Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, who was arrested by the Department of State Security, DSS, over alleged anti-Nigerian government comments on radio Biafra.
The march in Umuahia was part of the threat by the pro-Biafra groups to take the protest to all the states of the South East before going to Abuja if Kanu was not released.
Economic and social activities
However, economic and social activities were not disrupted as offices, markets and shops remained opened and went about their normal business, numbering about 500. The protesters peacefully marched through Isi Court in Umuahia South council through Aba and Umuwaya, as Bende and Enugu roads as they were guarded by pick-up vans filled with army personnel.
They marched around the city, carrying the portrait of Kanu and the Biafran flag while chanting songs of freedom.
Meanwhile, before the arrival of the protesters, a combined team of security agencies including police, army and civil defence had mounted surveillance in strategic locations in the city like the Government House and Isi Gate even as convoys of heavily armed security personnel patrolled the city with armoured personnel carriers.
Earlier before the protesters surfaced, Abia government had in radio announcement said that it received disturbing reports that some people under the aegis of MASSOB had planned to disrupt the peace of Umuahia, the capital city of Abia State, Monday, and alleged that it was being sponsored by an unnamed politician.
Signed by the new information Commissioner, Mr. Bonnie Iwuoha, the government said: “While appreciating the rights of citizens to air their views in a democracy, government will not condone lawless acts that could impede the progress of the state.
“More so, as it has been discovered that a disgruntled politician in the state is funding the said protest march, government therefore calls on parents to prevail on their children not to join misguided elements in acts that could destabilize the progress of our state.
“The Police and other security agencies have been directed to take lawful steps to protect the peace of the state and secure lives and properties of law abiding citizens.”
Monarchs to the rescue
Traditional rulers from Ibeku Ancient Kingdom had appealed to the Federal Government to release one of their subjects, Nnamdi Kanu, the promoter of Radio Biafra being held by the DSS.
According to the traditional rulers, their appeal was based on the fact that Kanu had the right to express his views in a democratic environment.
Only last week, Kanu’s father, an Ibeku monarch, who presides over the people of Isiama Afaraukwu community in Ibeku, Umuahia North Council of Abia State, also called for the release of his son.
Not happy with the continued detention of one of their sons, the traditional rulers from Ibeku urged the Federal Government to release Nnamdi Kanu, since he is neither a terrorist nor a criminal.
The Ibeku monarchs, who spoke through the chairman of their umbrella union of Ibeku Traditional Rulers Council, Eze Henry Ezekwe, expressed worry that they could lose an illustrious son like Nnmadi Kanu if nothing was done urgently, saying that Kanu had not committed an extra-ordinary offence to warrant his long incarceration and warned that if any harm befell him, they would react appropriately.
The monarchs lamented that the clan had lost prominent men in the past such as General Aguiyi Ironsi, saying they would not want to lose Prince Nnamdi Kanu.
In their contribution, Eze John Ibezim and Eze Chiabu Emelike urged President Muhammadu Buhari to listen to the demands of the agitators and maintaininternational best practices on such issues instead of resorting to use of force against them.
The traditional rulers called on the President to address the issues like marginalization and neglect “which are some the major reasons behind the pro-Biafra agitations.”
The 82 Division of the Nigerian Army, yesterday, warned that it will suppress insurrection and act in aid of civil authority to restore order when called upon following the spate of agitations by the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra,MASSOB,and the Indigenous People of Biafra,IPOB, for the creation of the state of Biafra.
The statement by the Army Director of Public Relations, Colonel Hamza Gambo regretted the activities of MASSOB,IPOB and other affiliate groups had led to an increased sense of insecurity across the region.
According to the statement made available by Colonel Gambo: ”The truism of freedom of expression and peaceful assembly is not contestable particularly as it is guaranteed by section 39,1, and 40 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999,as amended. Instructively, this constitutional guarantee does not allow for abuse of the other person’s freedom and safety.
“It is, however, pertinent to note that same constitution in section 217 (2) mandates the Armed Forces of Nigeria to supress insurrection and act in aid of civil authority to restore order when called upon to do so. To this end, if and when the Nigerian Army is called upon to play its legally mandated role, it shall do so with utmost sense of duty and responsibility to the nation.
“In such an instance, the Nigerian Army shall act within its Rules of Engagement accordingly. It is also important to reassure all law-abiding citizens that they have nothing to fear. The Nigerian Army remains committed to protecting democratic norms while ensuring a peacful environment for scoio-economic activities to thrive.”