Sani Usman, army’s spokesman, said in statement that the military shot protesters over “unwarranted attack, breach of peace and creation of wide spread panic, tension and apprehension”.
The Biafra group said that at least 30 protesters commemorating the 49th anniversary of the declaration of the defunct Biafra Republic by Odumegwu Ojukwu, were killed.
At the same time police said that five activists were shot dead while many others arrested.
Army spokesperson justified the action, adding that the security agents resorted to rules of engagement as a result of the violent attacks from the pro-Biafra supporters.
The statement reads in part: “Due to the wide spread panic, tension and apprehension that generated from the activities of the MASSOB and IPOB members, security agencies which comprised of detachment of Nigerian Navy, Nigeria Police, Department of State Service, National Drug Law Enforcement Agency were compelled to intervene in consonance with constitutional provisions of aid to civil authority where and when such occasion demands,” the statement read.
“The overarching imperative to ensure a reign of peace, security and stability in this circumstance was most starring.
“The nature of this attack involved brazen employment of various types of fire arms and all sorts of crude weapons, volatile cocktail such as acid and dynamites.
“Instructively, troops of 82 division Nigerian army as the lead agency of the security agents had to invoke the extant Rules of Engagement (ROE) to resort to self defence, protection of the strategic Niger Bridge, prevent re-enforcement of the pro-Biafra members apparently surging ahead from the far side of the strategic Niger Bridge at Onitsha. All these efforts were in order to de-escalate the palpable tension as well as ward off the apparent threats to lives and property in the general area.
“In the aftermath of the fire fight that ensued, many of own troops sustained varying degrees of injury. These injured troops are currently receiving treatment at own medical centre. Similarly, 5 members of MASSOB/IPOB were killed, 8 wounded while 9 were arrested for due legal actions.”
On this day in 1967 the late General Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra, after suffering through years of suppression under Nigeria’s military government.