Nigerian separatists: 20 killed at pro-Trump rally
Africa | Security officials deny claims of injury but say police arrested 65 protesters
by Onize Ohikere
Posted 1/23/17, 10:34 am
ABUJA, Nigeria—Security officials on Sunday said they arrested 65 people at a pro-Trump rally in Nigeria’s Rivers state after the protest turned violent. The secessionist group that organized the rally claimed police officials killed 20 of its members and injured many others.
During the rally, members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) crowded the streets of the Rivers state capital, Port Harcourt. They waved flags and chanted support for newly sworn-in U.S. President Donald Trump. The movement sees Trump as an ally who could help aid its move for independence from Nigeria.
Ahmed Magaji, the state deputy police chief, said the group did not get permission to protest. Magaji said the group’s activities disrupted traffic and forced some businesses in the area to close down. Security officials responded by firing teargas at the group but denied causing any casualties, he said.
“About 65 of them were arrested at different points within the metropolis,” Magaji said. “The suspects arrested have made useful statements to the police and the investigation is ongoing.”
The secessionist group, largely based in southeast Nigeria, complains of marginalization and continues to seek secession. Security officials detained Nnamdi Kanu, the movement’s leader, in October 2015 on charges of criminal conspiracy and hate speech. The federal high court resumed his trial this month. A similar attempt to break away from Nigeria in 1967 resulted in a three-year civil war that killed more than a million people.
In a counter statement, IPOB claimed it formally notified the police of its plans to hold a rally in support of Trump. The group said security officials called on the special anti-robbery squad as well as the Nigerian army to intervene, despite the peaceful protest.
“Twenty people were shot dead on the spot,” the statement said. “Seventy Biafrans were terminally shot at critical and vital organs of their bodies.”
IPOB accuses the Nigerian and British governments of blocking its movement and attempting to kill its leader. The group declared its support for Trump early in the U.S. presidential campaign, saying he supports the right to “self-governance.”
Olusegun Sotola, a researcher with the Lagos-based Initiative for Public Policy Analysis, said the movement’s perception of Trump as a potential ally is based mostly on assumptions.
“The comments made by Trump suggest he is a non-conventional person who could depart from the course we’re currently taking,” he said.
Onize is a reporter for WORLD Digital based in Abuja, Nigeria.