Nigeria arrest dozens of pro-Biafran protesters

Calls for a sit-in mark 51st anniversary of Biafra declaration of independence

Nigeria arrest dozens of pro-Biafran protesters

By Rafiu Ajakaye

LAGOS, Nigeria

Dozens of pro-Biafran protesters were arrested on Wednesday across Nigeria’s southeastern region,, as authorities tried to frustrate calls for a sit-in to mark the 51st anniversary of the country's civil war.

A police spokesman Ebere Amaraizu said at least 21 pro-Biafran protesters were rounded up in the southeastern town of Enugu because they hoisted the outlawed flag of Biafra, a breakaway republic of ethnic Igbo whose unilateral declaration on May 30, 1967 touched off the 30-month civil war in which nearly 2 million lives were lost. The victims were mostly ethnic Igbo.

“The Enugu State command of the Nigeria Police Force through its operatives today nabbed the leader of the Biafran Zionist Movement identified as one Benjamin Onwuka alongside with some of his members numbering about 21,” Amaraizu told reporters.

At least 11 other pro-Biafran protesters were also arrested in other towns where businesses were completely shut down as residents complied with the sit-at-home directive of the secessionist Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and the Movement for the Actualization of Biafra (MASSOB).

The two groups, backed by a motley of others, want a separate homeland for Nigeria’s ethnic Igbo -- a bid that has pitted them against the government.

Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB chief who is standing trial for treason, has not been seen in the past year following a military raid on his residence in response to his alleged raising of an army and other activities the government considered unlawful.

Banks and schools were also shut in various parts of the region to mourn people killed in the war that followed the Biafra declaration of independence.

But the sit-in failed in other parts of the region especially in the Abakaliki and Awka towns where businesses opened.

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