Recalling the Tragedy: The Asaba Massacre of October 7, 1967 in Delta State

The Asaba Massacre, which occurred on October 7, 1967, during the civil war in Nigeria, remains a harrowing chapter in the history of Delta State.

Nigerian troops entered Asaba on October 4, 1967, in pursuit of Biafran soldiers who had crossed Ore after seizing Benin and forcing Nigerian troops to retreat. With the Niger bridge blown up by Biafran soldiers, preventing pursuit, the Nigerian troops, under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel Murtala Muhammed, established themselves in Asaba.

What followed was a spree of house-to-house killings, targeting individuals suspected of aiding the Biafran soldiers. As days passed, the brutality escalated.

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On October 7, in an attempt to demonstrate loyalty and support to the Nigerian troops, the leaders of Asaba summoned the townspeople to gather in the streets. Hundreds, adorned in ceremonial white attire, assembled, chanting “One Nigeria” as they marched.

However, upon reaching Ogbe-Osawa village square, where the Nigerian troops were stationed, a horrifying scene unfolded. Men and boys above the age of 12 were separated from the women. Amidst shouted orders and raised guns, the men and boys were mercilessly gunned down. Over 700 lay dead, their bodies strewn across the square.

The aftermath saw mass burials while Nigerian troops continued to occupy the town, relentlessly pursuing those who had escaped the massacre. Women and young girls were subjected to rape and forced “marriages.”

Shockingly, the perpetrators of this atrocity were hailed as national heroes, with monuments erected in their honor and their deeds glorified.

Yet, for the people of Asaba, the memory of the October 7 massacre lingers as a haunting and traumatic experience, silently shaping their lives to this day.

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