December 14e, Sahara Reporters obtained footage showing armed members of the Biafran Separatist National Guard (BNG) urging the Nigerian government to release Nnamdi Kanu, head of the Igbo Nationalist Organization of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). Vanguard reported on December 11e that Kanu, who was jailed for terrorism and treason in June, would be mistreated in detention. The Department of State Services (DSS) has since denied the allegations. Kanu’s abuse and humiliation will only incite bloodthirsty militias to commit violence in the name of Biafran sovereignty.
The BNG and IPOB are just two of the many other secessionist movements and insurgencies that are tearing Nigeria apart. The Daily Post reported in July that Leader Gani Adams, founder of the nationalist Yoruba Oodua People’s Congress (OPC), told a Zoom conference in Washington DC that the Yoruba people will soon seek self-determination. Yoruba personalities, such as the recently incarcerated Sunday Igboho, are also calling for the creation of an independent republic of Oduduwa in southwestern Nigeria. In the Niger Delta, the remnants of the Movement for the Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), an organization of numerous militias that led a guerrilla war against exploiting oil refineries, are still active in the region according to Sahara Reporters.
Additionally, Punch says jihadist groups like Boko Haram and the Islamic State-West African Province (ISWAP) are establishing miniature caliphates in the northeastern states of Nigeria. Even members of the Shia Islamic Movement of Nigeria (ISN) refuse to recognize the Nigerian government and intend to transform the country into an Iranian-style Islamic republic, as noted by the BBC. Federal authorities invariably react with extreme violence and repression to any group with separatist tendencies.
The Nigerian police and military are largely responsible for the radicalization of Biafran activism. Amnesty International has revealed that between August 2015 and November 2016, security forces killed at least 150 IPOB members or supporters during mostly peaceful rallies, rallies and marches. Countless people told researchers that they had been tortured and denied medical attention while in detention. Police and military personnel unleashed another reign of terror earlier this year in response to the emergence of IPOB’s armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN). Testimonies allege that the security forces “used excessive force, physical abuse, secret detentions, extortion, house fires, thefts and extrajudicial killings”. President Muhammadu Buhari is unlikely to ever launch an investigation to investigate these egregious violations.
The perception that Buhari is unduly harsh on Biafran activists and far too lenient towards rampant crime also fuels the separatist sentiments of the Igbo minority. Nigerian authorities have proved utterly powerless to control an outbreak of kidnappings. Premium Times found that around 4,962 people were kidnapped and held for ransom between January 2015 and May 2020. State Security Service (SSS) agents, who are quite good at suppressing dissent, have lost count of the number of kidnappings taking place in Nigeria. The fact that Nigerian police are among the most corrupt in the world, according to AfroBarometer, the World Internal Security and Police Index, Human Rights Watch and Transparency International, has prompted vigilantes in Igbo communities to take justice into their own hands.
Finally, a burning desire to avenge the millions who died from starvation during the Nigerian civil war has resurfaced and is pushing thousands of disillusioned Igbo youth to resuscitate the struggle for independence in Biafra. Nigeria’s Federal Military Government (FMG), backed by British and Soviet arms, launched a borderline genocidal campaign and economic blockade to defeat the breakaway Republic of Biafra between 1967 and 1970. Historian Mark Curtis has demonstrated that the massive famine of the Biafranais “was not a simple by-product of the war, it was a deliberate part of the FMG’s war policy. Survivors and their descendants have never forgotten this heinous atrocity, despite decades of state-imposed censorship, silence and denial. President Buhari’s appalling promise to deal with IPOB “in the language they understand” (read: famine and massacre) has fueled the flames of insurgency in the southeastern states, as noted in the conversation. Buhari, as lawyer Anthony Aladekomo recommends, must give the Igbos a chance to decide their fate in an independence referendum to prevent a second civil war.