Thursday, June 3, 2004
38 MASSOB members to be tried for treason
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38 MASSOB members to be tried for treason
- Tori Foxcroft

Thirty-eight members of a militant group seeking a separate state for the ethnic Igbo people of southeastern Nigeria are to face treason charges, a police spokesman said on Thursday. The supporters of Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) were arrested on Wednesday in different locations in Anambra and Ebonyi states following a tip-off, Chris Olakpe said.

"Intelligence reports at our disposal have shown that the MASSOB members were regrouping at Anieke and Ezamgbo in Ohaukwu and Effiom local government areas of Ebonyi State," he said. He said the police moved in quickly to arrest the suspects who were found with arms and ammunitions, adding that more arrests were made in neighbouring Anambra State.

He said incriminating items and documents were found in the possession of the MASSOB members who confessed to interrogators they were planning to "excise" southeastern Nigeria from the rest of the country. Olakpe said the suspects will be prosecuted for treasonable felony, unlawful assembly, disturbance of public peace, among other offences. "They will appear in court very soon," he added.

MASSOB Leader, Chief Ralph Uwazuruike
MASSOB was formed on 1999 by Ralph Uwazuruke to canvass for the creation of a state of Biafra, a name given to a separate republic whose formation in 1967 led to a three-year civil war. The Nigerian government banned the group among other ethnic militia in 2001 when their activities were perceived to be threatening the peace and unity of the country.

Despite the ban, MASSOB continued to pursue its campaign for self-determination. Last year, some 40 members of the group, including its leader Uwazuruke, were taken to court because of their activities. They were released on the order of the court after a few months in detention.

The Igbo, Nigeria's third largest ethnic group of some 30 million people, sought to break away from the rest of the west African nation in 1967, but were defeated in a civil war that lasted for 30 months.

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