The Police in Abia State on Wednesday arrested 51 persons suspected to be members of proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) but operating as members of “Judaism’’, in Umuahia.
The command’s Public Relations Officer (PPRO), Geoffrey Ogbonna, confirmed the arrest in a telephone interview with News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) in Umuahia.
Ogbonna, a superintendent of police, said that the suspects were arrested for allegedly being in possession of different insignias of the outlawed IPOB.
He said the suspects comprised 41 men and 10 women, adding that they would be arraigned at the end of the investigation.
NAN reports that the suspects held a procession on major streets Umuahia, carrying placards with different inscriptions, written in Jewish Language.
They were intercepted by a team of anti-riot policemen, who shot several teargas canisters in their attempt to disperse the procession.
The development caused stampede at Isigate Market as traders, shop owners, passers-by and motorists ran in different directions for safety.
The suspects, who were dressed in religious white attires with small caps, similar to those of the Jews, began the procession from Afaraukwu community, where the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, hails from but were dispersed at Isigate.
One of the members, who identified himself as Israel el-Ibe, told journalists that the procession was organised to “publicly demonstrate our desire to be allowed to have a Jewish state of our own in Biafra land because we are Jews in Biafra land”.
Reacting to the development, the Chief Imam of Abia, Sheik Ali Ukaiwo, decried the procession, describing it as ill-timed and capable of threatening the existing peace in the state.
Ukaiwo said “it is bad, ill-timed and uncalled for, especially at a time like this, when most communities hold traditional marriages and festivals.”
He warned residents to shun actions that could be perceived by security agencies as “constituting a breach of the public peace during this period.”