A rally organised by separatist groups, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra MASSOB), to celebrate the new US President Donald Trump turned bloody in Port Harcourt yesterday.
Eyewitnesses said one person was shot dead by soldiers deployed to stop the rally while the organisers of the event claimed that 11 people were killed.
The police denied any death.
Police spokesman in Rivers State, Nnamdi Omoni, dismissed the death claim as false, saying the police only used tear gas.
Many of the protesters who carried photographs of Trump and waved Biafra, American and Russian flags, are believed to have been brought in from the commercial city of Aba in nearby Abia State.
The protest caused traffic congestion on many roads in the city.
As they marched through Aba Road towards Mile One in the Rivers State capital, they ran into some soldiers who asked them to disband.
The protesters tried to wave aside the disband order but the soldiers insisted that the rally must stop immediately.
A few shots rang out and there was pandemonium among the protesters who scampered for safety.
The marchers said they were solidarising with Trump because according to them, the new US president “loves Biafra” and will support their bid for Biafra nation.
Shop owners in the area quickly shut down and took to their heels.
IPOB in a statement yesterday claimed that 11 of the protesters were shot dead.
Spokesman for the group Emma Powerful, alleged that 27 other people had bullet wounds while 57 people were arrested.
“The dead bodies of the people killed were carried by the Nigerian soldiers,” he said, asking the international community to “prevail on the Nigerian soldiers to bring back the bodies.”
He added: “Right now, we are being chased by the Nigeria security agencies and they are going round looking and arresting anybody suspected to be IPOB members.
“But we are not relenting in our support and solidarity with Mr Trump.”
However, a security source said: “I saw the press release circulated by IPOB that 11 of their members were killed. It is not true.
“The information is misleading and should be ignored by members of the public.
“Only one person was killed, and that happened at about 10 am along Okporo Road, by Artillery junction, in Obio/Akpor Local Government Area of the state.
“The incident occurred when joint security operatives shot at the advancing demonstrating youths in an attempt to disperse them.
“The deceased and those injured were carried away by security men.”
Also speaking on the rally,the Director of Information, Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) in the State, Mr. Anuken Anthony, said: “Over 70 supporters of MASSOB and IPOB have been arrested and about 15 of them are in pains due to bullet wounds.
“Our members have taken some of them to the hospital. We are praying that nothing should happen to any of them.
“Our support for Donald Trump cannot be stopped by military intimidation and harassment.”
One of the protesters, Benson Paul, who got injured, told The Nation that he was just “dancing during the rally, and when the marchers got to St. John Junction, we saw soldiers asking us to go back. We told them that we were marching in solidarity with Donald Trump’s inauguration, but they refused to allow us go our way.
“We cannot continue to be slaves in our country, and some of us tried to push through the barricade mounted by the soldiers. They began to manhandle and brutalise us.
“Look at my head and my back.They used their guns to hit me.
“We want our own country.”
Another victim, Mr. Onyema Njoku, alleged that the soldiers broke one of his legs with gun.
He threatened to go to court to seek redress.
His words: “IPOB followed due process to ensure that this rally took place today (yesterday). Some people protested for President Buhari in Abuja yet nobody shot them.
“Today, we are carrying out a peaceful rally and the police, the military are shooting at us.
“One of the soldiers caught me while I was trying to run away. He descended on me until he broke my leg.
“As I’m sitting down here, I cannot walk. I’m waiting for my friends to take me to the hospital.
“I will get better. I know it is part of the sacrifice for freedom.
Spokesman for the 2 Brigade Command of the Army in Port Harcourt, Lt. Sokoya, could not be reached for reaction at press time.
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