*Mission of Onwuka and his group was to topple govt – CP Members of the Pro-Biafra group, Biafra Zionist Federation, BZF led by Barrister Benjamin Onwuka, again invaded the Enugu State Broadcasting Service, ESBS in an attempt to seize the radio and television station for a broadcast.
The group had attacked the Government House, Enugu on March 8, 2014 claiming that it had re-established the Republic of Biafra by hoisting its flag at the Government House. The police declared Onwuka wanted placing a bounty of N5 million on him.
Thursday’s move by the group to make a television and radio broadcast was however foiled by a team of policemen who were alerted by some staff of the station who arrived for the morning duty and met their premises under siege.
But a police sergeant and a member of BZF were killed in a shootout while a police inspector who led the team was seriously wounded.
The BZF leader, Benjamin Onwuka and 12 members of his group were arrested as they tried to escape from the station after the clash with the policemen and are now undergoing interrogation at the Criminal Investigations Department of the State Police Command.
Eyewitness accounts said the BZM members in an operation similar to the March 8 invasion of the Enugu Government House, stormed the premises of the station through the fence at about 5.30 am and held the security men and staff on night shift hostage.
They forcefully gained entry into the offices including the studio and made attempts to put on the equipment for a live broadcast by the BZM leader but unknown to them the television had been off air since the past two days while they were unable to have access to the radio station which was broadcasting at the time.
“While they were struggling with the station’s staff, four policemen who got wind of the invasion by the hoodlums arrived the premises in two patrol cars and moved into the station to confront them. Soon after they got into the building we started hearing gunshots and people were running helter-skelter.
“There was heavy shooting but I don’t know if the BZM members were armed. At the end we saw the corpse of a police sergeant and a member of the group on the floor. The Police Inspector who sustained injuries on his head was immediately taken away by his colleagues,” an eyewitness said.
Onwuka and two members of his group
Onwuka and two members of his group
However, having failed to accomplish their mission, Onwuka and his colleagues escaped through the Universal Hotel road on foot but some mobile policemen drafted to the scene from the Government House, which is about a kilometer away, pursued them into the bush behind some government offices near the State House of Assembly Complex and apprehended them.
Onwuka and 12 members were reportedly arrested and taken to the state police headquarters.
The State Police Public Relations Officer, Mr. Ebere Amaraizu confirmed the arrest of Onwuka and his members but he did not give the number of those in custody.
He said that “one police sergeant was killed, one other police officer injured while one died on the side of the hoodlums”, promising to give further details when ongoing enquiry into their activities were concluded.
The State Commissioner of Police, Mr Mohammed Abubakar, said members of the pro-Biafra group that invaded the ESBS Thursday morning were on a mission to take over the government.
He stated this while parading the 13 BZM members including their leader, Barrister Benjamin Igwe Onwuka at the State Police headquarters.
He gave the names of other members of the group being detained with Onwuka as Paulinus Uzoegbu, Michael Oleinya, Ndubuisi Nnamchi, Bethrand Obiekwe, Kelvin Ekeh, Abraham Ugwu, Chukwuma Alogius, Ijaga Sampson, Josephat Nwodo, Nwonu Fidelis and Uduma Uduma.
The commissioner who gave details of what the group did at the station said: “When they went to the ESBS, they got entrance into the studio and wanted them to give them access to make a live broadcast to the people of Nigeria. In the broadcast theyhave a CD rom where the details of what they wanted to tell members of the public was and in the CD rom, they made a summary of it in a sheet of paper and the highlight of it are; an appeal calling for all boys in Obiagu to come out, all boys from Ogui to come out, all boys in Enugu to come out, _ they also asked students to come out, those people with KekeNapep to come out. They wanted to order all businesses closed today, all schools to be closed, all markets to be closed and all government officials to surrender all property in their possession
before midday. You can see these people where in a mission of trying to overturn the government and it is something that we will never tolerate”.
He continued, “Recall that in march this year, they had attacked government house, Enugu. We had earlier declared their leader wanted. The same group of Biafran Zionist Federation led by their leader, Benjamin Igwe Onwuka invaded the Enugu State Broadcasting Service with the intention that after the broadcast, they will set the place ablaze.
“They carried with them a lot of arms, machetes, 25 liters of petrol, 46 empty beer bottles and one Biafran Zionist flag and some CDs. The purpose of going there with petrol and bottles, you know when you put petrol inside a bottle and shake it and throw it into a building, it will inflame. They went there also with guns because when the policemen confronted them, they shot a sergeant and killed him and in the process of trying to prevent them from setting the place ablaze, they also had a casualty, one of them was shot dead. About thirteen of them were arrested including the leader, Benjamin Onwuka”.
The Commissioner warned any group of persons and individuals planning to foment trouble in whatever form that will cause breach of peace to desist, saying it will not be tolerated.
Efforts made to speak with the suspects were rebuffed as the commissioner insisted that doing so “will mean giving them opportunity to say what they wanted to announce in the live broadcast”.
The BZM had laid siege to the Enugu State Government House in the early hours of March 8, 2014 and hoisted the flags and banners of the defunct republic of the Republic of Biafra.
Three days later, Onwuka and two of his officials appeared at the Nigeria Union of Journalists, NUJ Press Centre, Enugu and addressed a news conference claiming responsibility for the invasion of the Government House. He said that they successfully occupied the Enugu State seat of power for over four hours and accomplished their mission.
He said then: “I want to let you know what happened on March 8 at the Government House Enugu. This is to confirm the true report about what happened. You know very well that since January 12, 1970, the flag of Biafra has never rested on the Government House in Enugu which is the centre power of the Biafra people.
“What we did on the 8th is to reconfirm the independence of the Republic of Biafra which we successfully did.
“We didn’t attack the Government House, but we captured it back for the Biafra people. We captured it for four hours and there was a battle between the Biafrans and the Nigerians and by 7a.m., we retreated because we didn’t have any weapons in our hand, to avoid any loss of life.
“The reason we did it was to show the Biafra people that the hope for Biafra is still alive and that nothing shall quench the aspiration of the Biafra people to be independent. That independence has been resurrected. So the Biafran flag was raised at the Government House on the 8th of March, 2014 and I, Benjamin Igwe Onwuka led the operation.
“It wasn’t an armed attack on the Government House, it wasn’t kidnappers as the police have said. It was Biafran people and the Biafra Zionist Federation led it and I, Benjamin Onwuka was the man that pioneered it. It wasn’t an attack on any- one, but for the restoration of the independence of the Republic of Biafra.
“As I said, the raising of the flag at the Government House is a symbol of the resurrection of the Republic of Biafra which we did on the 8th of March 2014. “
Continuing, Onwuka said: “I want the Biafra people to know and the entire world that the Biafra has been resurrected and no force of arm could hinder this aspiration for Biafra.
“Let me make it clear. the states that will make up Biafra now are Benue, Kogi, Delta, Edo, Bayelsa, Rivers, Cross Rivers, Akwa Ibom, Ebonyi, Anambra, Enugu, Imo and Abia and Southern Ondo.
“I thank God for this press conference to set the record straight that the Biafra is independent now, because that flag that has been raised at the Government House, Enugu.”
However, the State Police Command declared Onwuka wanted for the invasion of the Government House but he could not be seen in the state until he reappeared at the state radio house yesterday.