Sunday, August 28, 2011

Police arrests MASSOB leader Uwazuruike, 250 others, in Enugu


On 24 August, police arrested the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, along with over 250 members of the organization, in Enugu, capital of Enugu State.

Arrest of MASSOB members

Uwazulike’s arrest followed the earlier arrest of about 200 MASSOB members by the police. The members were arrested as their buses drove into Enugu from different parts of Igboland for the 12th anniversary ceremony of an Igbo youth organization, the Igbo Youth Movement (IYM). The highpoint of the ceremony was to be the conferment of an honour on the ailing ex-Biafran leader, Dim Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, currently in a London hospital after suffering a stroke in December 2010.

The MASSOB youth were apprehended on the highways leading into Enugu, by soldiers who said they were instructed to stop them from entering the city. The soldiers first took the arrested youths to the headquarters of 82 Division, Nigerian Army, there in Enugu, before handing them over to the police.

Thereafter, the soldiers raided the venue of the ceremony, the Hotel Presidential, carrying away about 50 members they found outside, in five Hilux patrol jeeps. Apparently suspecting that some of the MASSOB youths may have gathered at Ojukwu’s residence in the former Government Reserved Area (GRA), the soldiers proceeded to search the house, but found none of the youths there.

Arrest of MASSOB leader Uwazuruike

Sources say after he learnt of the arrests, Uwazuruike went to the Police Commissioner’s office, accompanied by the National Chairman of the All Progressives Grand Alliance (APGA), Chief Victor Umeh, and some other leaders. His mission was to ascertain why members of his movement were arrested and to possibly negotiate their release. However, while at the police headquarters, the MASSOB leader was himself arrested and detained around 7.00pm.

Police explanation of the arrests

The State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu, had said the MASSOB members were arrested based on an intelligence report which said they were coming into Enugu to disrupt the peace. He said: “We arrested the MASSOB members who are up to 200, because we don’t know their mission to Enugu. We were informed that they were coming to cause havoc. We have commenced investigation to ascertain their true mission to the state”. Police authorities reportedly said Uwazurike was arrested and detained for “treasonable felony”.

Reactions from MASSOB members

MASSOB activists, however, view the arrests as a further incident of official repression of their group. One member said: “This arrest clearly demonstrates the double standards and injustice applied by Nigerian rulers. Niger Delta militants destroy heavy oil installations and they are rewarded with scholarships to study abroad. Boko Haram fighters bomb police headquarters and the government is begging them to come for peace talks. But MASSOB, which has chosen to be non-violent, is constantly harassed and brutalized by the police”.

At the ceremony which the MASSOB youth were going to attend, IYM honoured Ojukwu with an award as the Igbo Icon of All Time. His wife, Bianca, who came back from London for the ceremony, received the award on his behalf.

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