PALPABLE fear has gripped the commercial city of Onitsha following the interception, by soldiers, of five chartered 18-seater buses occupied by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike-led members of the Movement for Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB). The Biafranists were intercepted at a military check-point along Onitsha/Owerri dual carriageway by Azia Junction in Ihiala Local Government Area of Anambra State.
Speaking through a telephone, MASSOB’s National Director of Information, Chris Mocha, said that he does not have any inkling of where the soldiers took all their members in the buses to.
He stressed that three of the buses was carrying MASSOB members who were returning to Anambra and Delta states from Owerri where they had attended their national convention while the other two was carrying veteran Biafran soldiers who were also returning from the same Owerri convention.
Mocha noted that he had communicated the ugly situation to the MASSOB leader, Uwazuruike who in turn instructed him to issue a press statement to that effect.
He maintained that no odds would stop MASSOB from celebrating Biafra Day in remembrance of the fallen heroes and also celebrating the 49th anniversary of the outbreak of genocidal war which arose from the declaration of Biafra Republic which claimed millions of Igbo lives.
While noting that arrangements have been concluded with regards to the celebration, Mocha called on military authorities to leave their members alone as they were neither armed nor exhibited any act of violence as they were returning to Anambra and parts of Delta states from Owerri where they had attended meeting presided over by Uwazuruike himself.
The rallies which is expected to hold today (Monday) May 30 are being organised by members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and other pro-Biafran groups.
Investigations have it that the soldiers were stopping vehicles to conduct thorough searches before the buses carrying MASSOB members arrived.
A passenger who spoke on anonymity said that the security officers conducted a thorough stop and search on the vehicles ply the route especially the full loaded ones and in the process caused a terrible grid lock.
He said: “Any bus that is loaded is stopped and the bags are removed and searched. They have been searching since Friday. They are also stopping containers carrying imported goods, breaking the keys and conduct searches inside.
“They told us they were ordered from above to search all vehicles coming to the South-East to ensure no weapons are smuggled in because of Biafra Remembrance Day.”
Commercial bus operators used the opportunity of the gridlock to make frisk business as transport fares increased spontaneously.
While some took N150, as against the usual N100 it cost to travel from Onitsha to Asaba, some charged as much as N200 and N250 especially those who knew their way around to take a short cut to their destination.
— May 30, 2016 @ 13:55 GMT