FG Yet to Assuage Victims of Asaba Massacre 52 years After, Says Prof Azinge

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Epiphany Azinge

Omon-Julius Onabu in Asaba

Legal luminary and President-General of the Asaba Development Union (ADU), Prof. Epiphany Azinge (SAN), has given more insight into why the people of Asaba would continue to shed tears for their kith-and-kin massacred 52 years ago in the wake of the Nigerian Civil War.

 He said that the people would not be consoled because the federal government had not taken steps to give Asaba people justice in the form of an official apology and compensation, in view of the enormity of the genocidal killings. 

 Azinge told THISDAY yesterday that the state capital, would be practically shut down when the indigenous people of the city commemorate the 52nd anniversary of the massacre of residents of Asaba by troops of the Nigerian Army on October 7, 1967 during the Biafran War or Nigerian Civil War.

 He stressed that Asaba community would never stop the ”annual ritual” or series of memorial activities to honour the memory of hundreds of men, women and children slain in cold blood by troops of the Nigerian Army that fateful day 52 years ago.

 The Asaba Massacre Day is marked annually on 7th of October.

 Most of the activities for this year, the 52nd anniversary, would be held at the Oshimili Arcade on Nnebisi Road Asaba, including interdenominational prayer services, tributes and laying of wreath by an appointee of the HRM Prof. Chike Edozien, the Asagba of Asaba.

 ”At exactly 12noon on Monday, October 7th, Asaba people all over the world will stand where ever they are to observe a minute silence in honour of our people who were massacred on that day 52 years ago,”Azinge said.

 These activities would be preceded by a public candlelight procession from the site of the Massacre at Ogbe-Sowe, where troops of the Nigerian Army gathered hapless Asaba men, women and children and executed them in cold blood on October 7, 1967, the ADU leader disclosed, adding that adequate security arrangement was being made.

 At the memorial site, names of over 400 persons identified among the massacred would be read out one-by-one amid tolling bell as a memorial to the victims, he further said, while noting that the objective was to unite the people, young or old, in saying ”Never again!”

 Ogbe-Ogonogo, the main market in the Delta State capital, would be shut October 7, 2019, for the event as the Omu of Asaba, who has jurisdiction over markets in Asaba, has given due approval for the market to be under lock-and-key to draw the world’s attention to the Day, he said.

 He stressed that the least the Nigerian Government could do was meet two demands of the Asaba people, namely an official apology and compensation to the families or relations of hundreds of unarmed and helpless people killed by the Nigerian troops in cold blood between October 5th and 7th, 1967.

The demand for a formal apology  and compensation or reparation were not meant to shut up the people of Asaba or put an end to the annual events in memory of the victims of the genocidal killings of 1967 as no amount of compensation could ever stop the memorial, Azinge emphasised.

He warned that appropriate authorities in Nigeria should do the needful, noting that although Asaba people tabled the matter at the Oputa Panel several years ago, the Asaba people were not constrained by time to take the matter before the international court for redress as the weighty issue was not status-barred or too late to be so pushed.

Azinge, who holds the traditional title of Okilolo of Asaba Kingdom, stressed that the least the Nigerian Government could do was meet two demands of the Asaba people, namely an official apology and compensation to the families or relations of hundreds of unarmed and helpless people killed by the Nigerian troops in cold blood between October 5th and 7th, 1967.

“The demand for a formal apology and compensation or reparation are not meant to shut up the people of Asaba or put an end to the annual events in memory of the victims of the genocidal killings of 1967 as no amount of compensation could ever stop the memorial, Azinge emphasised.

“The respect we have for our departed ones is way beyond money, the annual rituals will continue, it is not going to abate. People killed in the first and second World Wars are still being remembered, let alone the ones who were criminally massacred in 1967. We cannot stop the rituals irrespective of any reparation or compensation.

“The issue of compensation can help us do many things, like having a much more befitting resting place for our departed ones. But that is not to say that we will stop the rituals of commemorating that day, October 7.”

He warned that appropriate authorities in Nigeria should do the needful, noting that although Asaba people tabled the matter at the Oputa Panel several years ago, the Asaba people are not constrained by time to take the matter before the international court for redress as the weighty issue was not status-barred or too late to be so pushed.  

Azinge was joined at the press briefing, held at the Ogbe-Ilo Ogwa (town hall) Asaba, by officers of the ADU and members of the Committee on Asaba Massacre, including Chief (Mrs) Ezinne Theodora Giwa-Amu (Vice-President of ADU,

Hon. (Mrs) Ezinwa Azinge (Vice-president of ADU Women League), Dr. Stephen Eboka (President, ADU Asaba Branch),

as well as Ms Perpetua Chukwurah, Mrs Queen Odiachi, Ms Mary-Jane Ideke, Mr. Kanayo Odiachi and Mr Ogosi Ogugua, all members, Committee on Asaba Massacre.