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Police arrest Catholic priest, others over alleged MASSOB membership

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The Anambra State Police Command has apprehended Rev. Fr. Samuel Aniebonem, a Catholic priest, and five other people on suspicion of belonging to the separatist Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB).

Mazi Chris Mocha, MASSOB’s director of information, said the priest and the others were apprehended by the Nigeria Police Force’s anti-kidnapping section in Awkuzu, Oyi Local Government Area, which used to be the Anambra State headquarters of the outlawed Special Anti-Robbery Squad, SARS.

The priest, who works at St. Patrick’s Cathedral Church in Awka, is from Ifitedunu, where three people were arrested last week when police raided the MASSOB office in the area.

According to reports, the cleric got into difficulty when he went to the State Criminal Investigation Department to inquire about his 87-year-old in-law, Chief Sylvester Dinyelu, who was among those jailed earlier, for his probable release.

According to Mocha, instead of informing the priest about the reasons for Dinyelu’s arrest, the police arrested him on suspicion of being a member of the movement as well.

Udebunu Anachuna, Fr. Aniebonam’s driver, as well as Christian Ifeji, Johnson Anagor, and Kanayo Madu, were detained with him.

Mocha stated that a similar incident occurred on Tuesday last week in Onitsha when one Mathew Ani was arrested on suspicion of belonging to the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).

He called for an end to the incessant arrests by police, arguing that such actions violated the principles of the right of citizens to free association and movement as enshrined in the Nigerian constitutions as amended.

He added that the group has hired a lawyer to ensure the early release of the men, including the 87-year-old man.

Mr. Tochukwu Ikenga, the state police public relations officer, confirmed the arrest and detention, saying police operatives working on reliable intelligence raided their office along the Oyeagu-Ifitedunu route.

He claimed that there were numerous damning artifacts and unpatriotic materials demonstrating the movement’s enmity towards the federal government.

“Temporarily, the case is still under investigation,” he further said.

Nze Dekey, a human rights activist, called the arrest of the Reverend Father on the trumped-up claim of affiliation to MASSOB startling and questioned the reason behind the arrest.

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