*Says AI’s publication just meant to justify funding
By Christopher Isiguzo in Enugu
The Nigerian Army on Friday dismissed as untrue claims by Amnesty International that at least 17 unarmed members of pro-Biafra groups, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were killed by security operatives during a clash with the group in Anambra state last month.
Amnesty International had in a release on Friday claimed that investigations carried out by its officials who met with eyewitnesses and also visited morgues and hospitals, indicate that soldiers opened fire on members of IPOB and their supporters in Onitsha, Anambra State, during the build-up to a march by the group to celebrate Biafra Armed Forces Remembrance day.
But in a statement issued by the Deputy Director of Army Public Relations, 82 Division, Enugu, Colonel, H. A. Gambo, the army insisted that the report by the international body was released to undermine the military’s credibility so as to remain relevant.
The army noted that the non-governmental organization had always been in the habit of being the judge and jury in matters of our national security without recourse to fairness and objectivity, all aimed at rubbishing the Nigerian Army for reasons best known to them.
“This could not be far from trying albeit unsuccessfully to be relevant and justify funding”.
It explained: “What transpired that fateful day was that some elements of MASSOB/IPOB engaged in violent protests which led to outright breakdown of law and order. The pro-Biafra protesters who had chosen the day to mark the 50th anniversary of Biafra perpetrated a number of unimaginable atrocities to unhinge the reign of peace, security and stability in several parts of Anambra State.
“A number of persons were selected for attack, killed and burnt. Two personnel of the Nigeria Police were killed, several soldiers were wounded, a Nigeria Police vehicle was completely burnt down while another of the Nigerian Army was vandalized. The strategic Niger Bridge at Onitsha was at the verge of being captured particularly with the coordinated reinforcement of the violent protesters from the Asaba end of the Bridge. In addition, wanton destruction of lives and properties were brazenly carried out by the protesters who employed firearms, crude weapons as well as other volatile cocktails such as acid and dynamites. In consequence, law, order and security were grossly threatened across the State and beyond.
“The Nigerian Army in synergy with other security agencies under its constitutional mandates for Military Aid to Civil Authority (MACA) and Military Aid to Civil Power (MACP) acted responsively in order to de-escalate the deteriorating security situation. Instructively, the military and other security agencies exercised maximum restraints against the odds of provocative and inexplicable violence that were employed against them by the pro-Biafra protesters,” it noted.