The pro-Biafran protest that crippled the commercial city of Onitsha on Tuesday, continued on Wednesday, with the protest taking a violent turn.
According to reports, the Police, in apparent heed to the order of the Inspector-General of Police, Solomon Arase to use maximum force to restrain the protesters, are said to be shooting into the air.
The protesters also allegedly burnt a truck belonging to Dangote.
Eye witness reports say people passing the bridge are raising their hand.
The protests, which have been sustained for weeks, have negatively impacted on the economy of the South East, occasioning the closure of major markets in the region, has estimatedly robbed the region of billions of naira in trade revenue.
According to financial analysts, aside the closure of major markets, the transport sector, a major subsector in the economy of the South East has suffered grave deprivation, especially with the blockage of the Niger Bridge, the gateway to major South East states and cities.
The IGP, disturbed by the sustained protests by pro-Biafran agitators in parts loft the South East, especially with the shutting down of the commercial city of Onitsha on Tuesday, ordered anti-riot policemen to use maximum force to restrain the protesters.
A statement issued by the Force Public Relations Officer, Olabisi Kolawole, in Abuja on Wednesday, said: “The Inspector-General of Police, IGP Solomon Arase has issued a stern warning to MASSOB and IPOB activists to stop threatening public peace or face the full weight of the law. The warning followed the observation by the Nigeria Police Force leadership of the increasing resort to acts of brigandage by sets of misguided individuals who apparently are hiding under the cloak of Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) and Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to threaten national security and public peace in parts of South East geopolitical Zone and some other conterminous States.
“The latest manifestation of this threat is the attempt to blockade the Onitsha end of Niger Bridge on 1st December, 2015, an action that caused major hardship to innocent and law abiding motorists, and citizens. The act also occasioned serious dislocation of business activities.
“The Inspector-General of Police notes that the increasing resort to acts of brigandage of this nature is pointing to a clear attempt by the brains behind these protests to test the will of security agencies to restore order and guarantee internal cohesion.
“For the avoidance of doubts, the IGP further notes, the restoration and maintenance of law and public order, and protection of lives and property remain sacred and statutory Mandate of the Nigeria Police. This Mandate, according to him, shall be fully executed in the overriding interests of the nation and vast majority of citizens and residents of the South East geopolitical Zone.
“Consequently, the Inspector-General of Police has directed the mobilisation and deployment of Police Mobile Force (PMF) across the country to reinforce security in the State Commands that MASSOB and IPOB are currently attempting to utilise as launching pad for their sinister intentions.
“The Assistant Inspectors – General of Police Zone 5, (Benin); Zone 6, (Calabar) and Zone 9 (Umuahia) as well as all Commissioners of Police in the affected States in the South East and neigbouring States have also been directed to henceforth maximally exercise their statutory Mandate in relation to prevention and disruption of any gathering that threatens public order and national cohesion.
“Any person or group of persons so arrested in furtherance to the enforcement of this order will be made to face the full wrath of the law.
To this end, the Inspector-General of Police advises parents and guardians to call their children and wards to order as the patience of the Force is being stretched to the limit. He firmly affirmed that no individual or group interest can override the interest of the nation and that democratic values provide for exploration of rule of law to advance any concern, not the resort to endless and misguided acts of brigandage, unless there is an ulterior motive as the extant instance tends to dictate.
“He concluded by asserting that the Nigeria Police Force will not fold its law enforcement arms to allow few misguided elements to continually force hardships on fellow Nigerians either in the South East or any other part of the nation for that matter”.