Two operatives of the Department of State Services (DSS) and three members of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) died in Emene, Enugu State, on Sunday after a clash.
“The Service lost two personnel in what was clearly an unprovoked violent attack launched by IPOB on the team,” said DSS spokesperson, Peter Afunanya, some hours after the event.
“The Service hereby condoles with families of the departed officers and also prays for the repose of their souls,” he said.
Afunanya said that measures had been put in place to apprehend those involved in the attack and to investigate the incident.
“We lost two of our men and that is because they were not given instructions to fire at the group when they got there.
“When instructions came for them to defend themselves, it was already late as the two officials were already dead,” the Guardian Newspaper quoted a security source as saying.
The source said the operatives had gone on a raid on Sunday morning and accused IPOB members of wielding “machetes and other dangerous objects” to attack them.
IPOB, however, insisted it was holding a peaceful meeting at St. Patrick’s Community School, the venue of the attack.
“We are peaceful and not fighting any war,” a chieftain of the group, Nzekwe Ugonna, told The Guardian.
“We have recovered three dead bodies and many sustained injuries while trying to escape from security men,” Ugonna said.
He added that over 15 IPOB members had been arrested.
The newspaper reported that an altercation ensued between the parties which led to a “free-for-all”.
Meanwhile, The POB spokesperson, Emma Powerful, has however said up to 21 members lost their lives in the incident while 47 others were arrested and insisted there was no provocation.
“This rampant killing of innocent members of IPOB will be reciprocated in due cause. IPOB members have been laughtered and arrested in their numbers across different locations in Enugu State today Sunday 23rd August 2020,” he said.
“We must warn and put the whole world on notice that [the] Nigerian Government and her security operatives should stop killing our people because we are [a] peaceful organisation with the mandate of restoring Biafra sovereignty within [the] shortest period.”
He said, “It is laughable for DSS to be claiming that they lost five personnel in the hands of unarmed and peaceful people. It is clear to all that IPOB doesn’t indulge or carry arm or involve with any object. IPOB is a
peaceful movement and we must remain so till Biafra is totally achieved.”
In one video from the event, the sounds of gunshot and firing of teargas canisters could be heard while IPOB members, some of whom were holding sticks, scampered for safety.
The Federal High Court in Abuja in 2017 granted an application to outlaw the group and described its activities as amounting to terrorism.
The court also restrained members of the group from “participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intention [of IPOB] under any other name or platform however called or described is granted”.
The group is fighting for a state of Biafra out of Nigeria based on feelings of discontent over alleged discrimination and marginalisation by the Federal Government of Nigeria.
Reacting to the incident on Monday, many Nigerians condemned the security forces for being high-handed in handling activities of IPOB.
Former presidential aspirant and Convener of the Revolution Now campaign, Omoyele Sowore, said the Federal Fovernment has no regard for the lives of Nigerians.
“IPOB members engaging in peaceful assembly have been killed again in Enugu, Nigeria’s South East region, they are spending mindlessly to change the narrative in the media. @MBuhari regime got no respect for human rights, to the regime your life is worth nothing!” he tweeted.
Another Twitter user, Mazi J.Obioma (@MJO08611583) wrote, “There is no justification for the recent killings of IPOB members in Enugu. There must be retaliation if not the killings will continue. In the north, the military and police do not kill their youths like that why in Igbo land. Enough is enough.”
Here are other tweets from the conversation:
We will never forgive, we will never forget. The day we will march, the sun shall never set.Nigerian police killing the innocent ipob,biafran. pic.twitter.com/1GDP0pOXe6
— Ubaku (@Ubaku2) August 23, 2020
The Nigerian Police are always in a hurry to "clash" with IPOB members, Shiites and unarmed demonstrators but have never clashed with the deadly Fulani herdsmen or bandits holding sway in the North.
They have active collaborators in the Nigerian media.- clash my foot.
— Malachy Odo II (@MalachyOdo1) August 23, 2020
— Oduduwa Republic (@OduduwaR) August 24, 2020
So, the lawless regime killed over 21 IPOB members just like that yesterday? Their only crime was protesting peacefully & unarned. Buhari hates democracy.
— Comrade Deji Adeyanju (@adeyanjudeji) August 24, 2020
Why is the Nigerian Police using live ammunition & assault riffles to disperse crowds? What is wrong with men of the Nigerian Police Force? Why do security Forces in Nigeria keep provoking citizens? When will this madness end? Two IPOB members shot dead in Enugu. pic.twitter.com/YlTwwHWAOk
— Unu Amaro Kam Siri Kwado (@AfamDeluxo) August 23, 2020
2 DSS operatives killed, arms taken by IPOB members. Turns out the operatives are all Igbos from SE. Law enforcement need to do a reshuffle of their operatives/operations in the SE, a lot are sympathizers.
— Chief Ojukwu (@ChiefOjukwu) August 24, 2020
There is NO JUSTIFICATION for the murder of unarmed, peacefully protesting, IPOB members.
None. Zero. Nil.
— Ikenna Ronald Nzimora (@ronaldnzimora) August 23, 2020
See the way they security agents killed our people Enugu , yet silence from other parts of the country, but they always want us to contribute in fighting there injustice but will never for once; even a single tweet. SE are alone n hated ! #IPOB https://t.co/xoWqE3gEiX
— Ugochịmere (@omalichajp) August 23, 2020