On May 30, 1967, Ojukwu declared the Republic of Biafra, almost immediately steps to got the situation under control were taken. A full naval blockade of the bight of Benin and Biafra, was directed. Ojukwu, took a risk facing the north-south and the south-north axes of the Federal advance, around 3000 Biafran soldiers and militiamen crossed the Niger Bridge at Onitsha into Asaba on Wednesday, August 9, 1967.
Murtala Muhammed who hit the ground running, commanding officers, soldiers and equipment. Most of the mid-west was then captured by the Nigerian army simultaneously with the exception of Agbor and Asaba.
On September 21, 1967. Lt. Col. Murtala Mohammed made a radio broadcast in Benin City, in which he declared that everybody who stood in the way of his soldiers, would be viewed and regarded as a rebel. Mohammed, then dispatched his forces around Agbor and Asaba to fish out and deal with the suspected rebels.
Unfortunately, there were large scale reprisal killings by soldiers under Mohammed`s command against Igbos in Benin, deemed to have betrayed the area. Similar killings, also occurred in other Midwestern towns. This was to be known as the “Asaba Massacre”, hundreds of able-bodied males were reportedly lined up and executed for scheming with the enemy.