History will always repeat itself, especially when people refuse to learn from it. This is why a considerable number of countries are battling internal strives and violence in the world today. Nigeria is also battling ugly security situations.
The failure to proffer a lasting solution to the nation’s security problems is what the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has capitalised on to evolve from just a bunch of noisy agitators into a group that is beginning to cause real danger and anarchy in the Southeast. The acclaimed supreme leader of the group, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is one individual that has succeeded in causing division along ethnic lines through his discordant broadcast.
Nnamdi Kanu, the vociferous IPOB leader and a boisterous activist, was once arrested by Nigeria’s Department of State Services in October 2015 and later released after more than a year. Before his release, a group of pro-Biafran protesters marched in the eastern part of Nigeria. This action motivated others to do the same and things eventually became very violent, as mobilisation grew. There were many police clashes.
On 2 December 2015, nine protesters and two policemen were killed at a protest in Onitsha, Anambra state. Since then, there were several protests and more deaths recorded in Aba, Onitsha, Enugu, and Umuhahia.
The Federal High Court in Abuja on 18 September 2017 labelled IPOB a terrorist organisation. The organisation fought back aggressively to reverse the court’s decision in 2018 to no avail. With this declaration, the Nigerian Police resorted to violent and excessive force to silent the pro-Biafran movement.
Amnesty International released a report detailing the number of IPOB members killed between 29 through 30 May 2016 during a governmental operation to prevent IPOB members marching from Nkpor motor park to a rally.
The emergence of the Eastern Security Network, an Igbo paramilitary force originating from IPOB changed the level of violence in the eastern region.
It started early in August 2020, when the Nigerian police killed about twenty-one people at an IPOB meeting in Enugu State. In response, IPOB promised retaliation and urged its members to practice self-defence.
In December last year, Nnamdi Kanu announced the establishment of the Eastern Security Network (ESN), allegedly to protect Igbos against Fulani herdsmen. For the Federal Government, a non-state paramilitary organisation in the old Biafran heartland was unacceptable, and it moved against ESN camps.
In late January 2021, serious fighting broke out in the town of Orlu in Imo State, leading to significant numbers of deaths and displaced persons.
Within a few days, the danger of the crisis expanding to other parts of the former Eastern Region became evident. In response to the Nigerian military operations in and around Orlu, the Biafra Nations League (BNL; initially known as Biafra Nations Youth League / BNYL) threatened to attack all oil installations in Bakassi.
In Aguata, Anambra State, suspected Biafran separatists killed four policemen at a checkpoint and took off with their weapons on 24 February. Another four policemen were killed in Calabar the next day. On 26 February, a police station was attacked in Aboh Mbaise, Imo State. On 3 March, gunmen killed two policemen in Cross River State.
Local authorities blame the ESN and IPOB for the attacks on police stations, some of which preceded the Orlu Crisis. The Police Commissioner of Delta State alleged that IPOB elements had crossed the Niger River to infiltrate the state. To prevent such infiltrations, the Nigerian Navy started patrolling the river.
In early March, IPOB threatened to deploy the ESN to Benue State to protect Igbos there against Fulani raiders. This came after the killings of IPOB activists by armed Fulani. Days later, Nnamdi Kanu declared that the ESN had captured a prominent Fulani bandit leader named Mohammed Isa in Benue State.
On March 15, the ESN invaded Eleme with claims that they want to expel Fulani herders. On April 5, armed men stormed a prison in Owerri, enabling some 1,800 inmates to escape. The Nigerian government blamed IPOB, which in turn denied any involvement.
In mid-April, state governors announced the formation of Ebube Agu, a pro-government security network. IPOB declared that the ESN was sufficient, and alleged that the true purpose of Ebube Agu was to fight the ESN. On April 14, armed men launched several attacks in Njikoka and hoisted a Biafran flag. Before the attack, Nnamdi Kanu had accused the Nigerian government of plotting false-flag attacks to destroy the image of ESN.
On April 24, the top ESN commander known as Ikonso was killed when the Nigerian Army raided an ESN camp in Imo State. IPOB blamed governor Hope Uzodinma and announced after less than 24 hours that a new top commander had been instated.
The same day as hostilities were renewed, IPOB said that the military deployment constituted a “declaration of war against the Igbos” and accused the Nigerian government of planning a “final solution to the Biafran question”. The group declared that Nigeria had “crossed the line of no return” and that Igbos now had no choice but to defend themselves. The next day, IPOB declared that the “second Nigeria/Biafra war” had begun on 18 February and that unlike in the 1967–1970 Nigerian Civil War, Biafra would win.
The tenacious execution of IPOB’s secessionist’s campaigns shocks all patriotic Nigerians. Since the formation of the group’s armed wing, there have been recurring attacks on security formations, police officers, soldiers and civilians in the region.
IPOB’s opposition to Ebubeagu has been very strong and consistent. Despite efforts to reconcile the two security groups, IPOB remains quite adamant. In a statement, IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary (IPOB), Emma Powerful warned that “any person that joins Ebubeagu to spy on Eastern Security Network should be prepared to join his ancestors”.
According to him, “We, therefore, warn our youths to have nothing to do with the so-called Ebubeagu security outfit which was ostensibly formed to sabotage IPOB and ESN. Anyone who neglects this warning and thinks he can hide under the cloak of Ebubeagu to spy on ESN should be prepared to join his ancestors.
“The protection of all Biafrans is our priority and we are prepared to sacrifice anything to achieve this. We are aware of plans to decimate indigenous tribes in Nigeria. We are also aware of the Federal Government’s tacit support for this evil agenda. But IPOB and ESN promise them that no inch of our land will be given to Fulani herdsmen in the East.”
It has been a mixture of half-truths, falsehood, fear, ethnic sentiments and barbarity that IPOB and its armed wing, ESN, have used to rev up violence and bloodshed in the eastern part of Nigeria.