At least one police officer and two others died, Thursday, in Enugu, southeast Nigeria, after secessionists promoting the re-emergence of Biafra attempted to take over a broadcast station in the state.
The group known as Biafra Zionists Federation, BZF, stormed Enugu State Broadcasting Service’s office at dawn with “gallons of petrol and dangerous weapons” in an attempt to seize the station for a broadcast by its leader, Benjamin Onwuka.
Mr. Onwuka, a lawyer, had last year declared a Biafra Republic led by himself, in the region.
Sources in Enugu State governor’s office told PREMIUM TIMES the group planned to seize the government station to have its leader broadcast a speech re-affirming his declaration of the Biafra Republic last year.
A police sergeant guarding the facility was reportedly killed as the local police tried to repel the group. Two members of the group were also reportedly killed as they fled scene.
Our sources said the leader of the group has been arrested. He was arrested with some of his members as they fled the broadcast station.
Trouble in the East
The attack on the broadcast station is the second by the group in three months. In March, the group carried out a failed attack on the Enugu State government house leaving many guards injured.
Since returning to democratic rule, groups in Nigeria’s southeast have made several attempts to re-enact a secession idea that led to Nigeria’s three year civil war in 1967. The groups, infamous for their ideas, have always been contained by state forces.
The most widely known of such groups, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, has so far adopted semi-civil means of pressing its demands.
MASSOB embarks on activities such as hoisting Biafran flags in local communities, persuasions and in some instances, forcing residents of the region to observe certain rules.
In January last year, MASSOB claimed ‘50 bodies’ floated in Anambra River, near Awka, the Anambra State capital were its members killed by the police.
Discussions or activities around the Nigerian Civil War (1967-1970) are described as “delicate” and are sometimes suppressed by the government.
Recently, a widely celebrated movie, Half of a Yellow Sun, chronicling the Nigerian Civil War was stopped from premiering in Nigerian cinemas. The movie is an adaptation of a book of the same name written by Nigeria’s Chimamanda Adichie.
“Is it right to release such a film at this time with the security challenges in the country?” chairman of Nigeria’s Video and Film Censorship Board, Patricia Bala, said on Thursday.
She argued that the security challenge in Nigeria at the moment is a huge factor in approving the movie for public viewing.
Nigeria is currently battling Boko Haram insurgency, which has killed over 12,000 people; and a mix of militancy and oil theft in its oil rich Niger Delta region.
The police in Enugu are yet to make any categorical statement on the fate of the arrested secessionists.
Ebere Amaraizu, spokesperson of the state’s police command, demanded more time when PREMIUM TIMES made inquiries.
The Enugu State governor, Sullivan Chime, is also yet to make an official statement on the issue. He is away in Abuja, officials of the government house told PREMIUM TIMES.