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Double trouble: Police compound terror on Onitsha in search of MASSOB members

Posted by By Nwabueze Okonkwo, Onitsha on 2006/06/12 | Views: 425 |

Double trouble: Police compound terror on Onitsha in search of MASSOB members

The present trend in Onitsha, the eastern business pivot city is to live under the terror of policemen and other security officers who have swooped on the city to arrest virtually everybody in sight in the name of a search and action to stamp out MASSOB movement and its members.

The present trend in Onitsha, the eastern business pivot city is to live under the terror of policemen and other security officers who have swooped on the city to arrest virtually everybody in sight in the name of a search and action to stamp out MASSOB movement and its members.

Today, every Onitsha resident watches his back and his shadows even while in the apartment. The terror of the security men has added to the normal siege of armed bandits who the same police had in the past not done anything to relax their stranglehold on the commercial city. As things stand today, every Onitsha resident is potential criminal given the indiscriminate arrest of just anybody by the police.

There is a ready-made excuse for every of such arrest – to tag the victim a member of MASSOB as justification. There is serious public outcry now, and the city’s peace is what nobody knows when it would return. Residents report that they have been actual killing of innocent persons by police. But police react that they only target MASSOB members while miscreants hijack the situation as usual and cause mayhem.

FG ‘s clampdown order
The federal government had ordered a total clamp down on MASSOB members, accusing them of carrying out clandestine activities, which could be said to be treasonable in nature.
Consequently, the security agencies, acting on the orders "from above", embarked on the dislodgement mission, which has so far yielded fruitful dividend for them.

MASSOB members claim that “at least no few than 5,000 suspected members of the movement have at various times been shot dead or injured in the process, while another 10,000 were arrested, detained without trial or tried and remanded in the custody”.
Not perturbed by the killings and detentions, tortures and intimidations, the group continued with their activities on the ground that they are not only pursuing a just course, but also doing it with decorum devoid of violence.

Armed to teeth
Worried by the occasional reprisal attacks against the security agents and resistance of arrests, the Police authorities dispatched an anti-MASSOB Squad to various parts of Igboland, with special emphasis on Anambra State and Onitsha in particular to flush out the group with helicopters and armoured tanks.

The anti-MASSOB team, no doubt, must have made an in-road into the assignment, with their land and air weapons but while their actions lasted, some of the MASSOB members resorted to guerilla warfare, which prompted secret reprisal attacks against the security agencies. As it stands now, the security agents, with their weapons visibly present in some strategic locations in Onitsha, go about their manhunt with caution, while the MASSOB men also carry out their secret meetings cautiously.

They kill and maim
However, the action that provoked public outcry as at the time of filing this report is that the security agents, particularly the police are alleged to have extended their so-called manhunt on non-MASSOB members and law-abiding citizens, who are merely carrying out their legitimate duties in Onitsha.
Sometimes, the team would go to places they suspect could be MASSOB hideouts, arrest and shoot everybody at sight without recourse to finding out those who are MASSOB members first and those who are not.

On the whole, a certain price-tag would be placed on the detainees as a condition for securing their freedom or else those who could not meet up would be tagged the real MASSOB members and whisked off to abuja for reprimand.
Based on this ugly development, some groups and individuals have continued to react to the on-going police/MASSOB war.

This is evil, CLO
Among those so far reacted are the Civil Liberties Organization (CLO), Anambra State chapter as a body; the member representing Onitsha North/South constituency in the House of Representatives, Hon. Gozie Agbakoba; the Police Area Commander for Onitsha, Mr. Matthew Uyanna and two community leaders, Chief Sir Robert Ozigbo and Chief Boniface Adibe.

The CLO, through its state chairman, Comrade Emeka Umeagbalasi, said it is perturbed by the incessant crackdown of suspected members of MASSOB, by various government security agencies, calling on the federal government to free all those currently being held nationwide in connection with the on-going crackdown.

Stop this
CLO also urged government to discontinue any further attacks on innocent Nigerian citizens in the name of cracking down MASSOB activists because as the trustee of various rights obligations, including the chapter four in the 1999 constitution, the All Rights Charter, International Convention on Civil and Political Rights, federal government must not fail in her hallowed duty to protect its citizens at all times.

CLO in the press release expressed deep dismay over the incessant crack down on the suspected MASSOB activists in Onitsha, Nnewi and other major cities in the state and particularly condemned the May 22, 2006 arrest and detention of one Chief Tim Egboka, former Special Adviser to former Governor Chris Ngige, by a detachment of a police team.

CLO regretted that major cities of the state were recently beclouded by horror and other homicidal activities of various coercive agencies, particularly the police, pointing out that since April 27 and 28, 2006, bloody clashes between the police/police backed armed vigilantes and some suspected MASSOB activists have beclouded many parts of Onitsha. Most of the people arrested are labeled MASSOB patrons, matrons and sponsors.

MASSOB is lawful
Hon. Agbokoba, in his comment, said there is nothing wrong in MASSOB wanting to exercise its right by way of peaceful agitation.
Agbokoba who spoke to Saturday Sun at Awka, Tuesday, during the PDP reconciliation meeting, called for a dialogue between the leaders of MASSOB and head of security agencies to avoid possible breakdown of law and order.

Echoeing Agbakoba’s view, Chief Ozigbo and Adibe, community leaders, decried indiscriminate arrest of innocent citizens in Onitsha in search of MASSOB members.
Describing the situation as part of marginalization process against Ndigbo, Ozigbo and Adibe lamented that after the arrests, the police would not be honest enough to scrutinize the suspects to discover those who are MASSOB members and those who are not.

They shoot civilians
Citing an example of where a woman working in her farm was felled by police bullets while shooting indiscriminately recently at Our Lady’s road, Nkpor, near Onitsha where the police thought was MASSOB hideout, Ozigbo who is a patron of Nigerian Union of Journalists, (NUJ) and Adibe, queried: "how can the police shoot at unarmed civilians and feel happy that they have defeated them but when they see armed robbers, they will run away".

"The police are just using MASSOB name to extort money, Ozigbo insisted, advising however that if MASSOB exists at all, it should carry out its activities with utmost maturity.

Miscreants do this - Police
Uyanna, an Assistant Commissioner of Police, told Saturday Sun at Onitsha, that some miscreants are parading in the guise of MASSOB and are harassing innocent citizens, adding that most of them were caught in the act.
According to Uyanna, "we have even recovered many arms from the miscreants who at times, shoot at the police and innocent citizens".

He therefore warned MASSOB members to steer clear of Onitsha as the Police would never condone further acts of barbarism from any quarter, no matter how highly placed.

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