Indigenous People of Biafra

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Indigenous People of Biafra
IdeologyBiafra independence
Biafran/Igbo nationalism
ColoursRed, black, green and yellow
Party flag
Flag of Biafra.svg
Website ;

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is a group that leads the calls for Biafrans freedom from Nigeria. Its main aim is to restore an independent state of Biafra for the people of old Eastern Region of Nigeria through a referendum[1]. The group was founded in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu, who has resurfaced the issue of independence of the Indigenous Biafran population from Nigeria[2]. They have issued calls for a peaceful settlement of their grievances through a referendum in the Nigerian states that were part of the old Eastern Region.

Supporters of Biafran independence are from the Igbo, Anang, Igbanke, Igala, Idoma and other ethnic groups within the map of defunct Biafran state[3]. IPOB claims that Biafrans are marginalized by the government in Abuja through a lack of equitable resource distribution, poor investment, and an unfair heavily militarized presence in their region[3][4]. The IPOB rose to prominence after previous Biafran independence organizations got weakened. The Nigerian government has been cracking down on IPOB members who peacefully protested due to Kanu's arrest and incarceration despite various courts rulings for his release.

Today, IPOB has metamorphosed from a group to a movement of the Indigenous Biafran population who are fed up with the Nigerian depleting state. Biafrans all over the world have identified with the movement, thereby making IPOB to be a face of Biafra restoration movement.


Biafra had previously existed as an Independent Republic declared by Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu for three years, 1967 through 1970. The federal government fought hard to preserve the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and did not like the idea of an independent state of Biafra [5]. The result of tensions between Biafra and the federal government resulted in the Nigerian civil war that went on for three years. There were an estimated one to 3.5 million deaths that were heavily civilian casualties caused by starvation and death on the side of Biafra[6]. In 1970, the Biafran forces surrendered through the armistice brokered by the defunct OAU [7]. From 1970 onwards, Nigeria remained a united nation.


The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra is Nnamdi kanu who is a dual British and Biafran citizen. He created IPOB after he initially gained fame from his broadcasts on Radio Biafra, which was established in 2009. This was a radio station from London that broadcast messages that called for "freedom of Biafrans" and criticised corruption in the government of Nigeria. Radio Biafra catalyzed Kanu’s rise to the public scene, as he was previously an unknown figure.[2] Kanu was arrested by Nigerian security forces on 19 October 2015, on charges of "sedition, ethnic incitement and treasonable felony."[8]

Links with other groups[edit]

There have been many other pro-Biafran groups that have come into existence. The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) began gaining attention in the early 2000’s, along with the Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM) which rose to the spotlight in 2012. The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) emerged in 2012 as well after these other groups[9].

IPOB emerged to continue the movement that had been championed by MASSOB. MASSOB was formed in 1999 by its national leader Ralph Uwazuruike. However, the organization was severely weakened due to alleged state repression and disagreement within the group about leadership. MASSOB accused  Uwazuruike of associating himself with “mainstream Nigerian politics” instead of furthering the cause of Biafra[10]. These conflicts contributed to the formation of another faction named BZM. BZM leader Benjamin Igwe Onwuka and many members of the group were arrested for treason by the Nigerian government at a rally that took place on 5 November, 2012 in the region of Enugu. BZM’s activities were scaled down because of arrests and trials of many lead members of the organization. Both of these pro-Biafran groups set up the rise of IPOB which would continue championing the same causes[8].


There has been recent peaceful protest in the country regarding IPOB. The organizations leader and a prominent activist named Nnamdi Kanu has been arrested by Nigeria’s Department of State Services on 19 October, 2015. In response to his arrest there has been a group of pro-Biafran protesters who have been leading marches in eastern parts of Nigeria to push for his release. His arrest has pushed IPOB supporters into gaining further traction, as their mobilization grew[2]. There have been many protesters and police clashes; on 2 December, 2015, nine protesters and two policemen were killed at a protest in Onitsha, Anambra state[11]. Since that date, there have been several protesters who have been reportedly killed by policemen in Aba, Onitsha, Enugu and Umuhahia[12]. The cause in rising protests are attributed to the claimed political disenfranchisement among the Igbo people and much trauma that continues as an effect of the Nigerian civil war.

IPOB supporters have cited historical events such as the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, and Britain's vote to exit the European Union as proof of international support for “self-determination.[2]” According to many sources, Donald Trump’s victory provides hope for the IPOB group in their ability to secede from Nigeria. Trump’s political interests are in line with supporting Biafra, because of oil pursuits. U.S oil company outputs in Nigeria have been cut by militants in the Niger Delta who have been continually attacking pipelines[2].  Therefore, IPOB figures contend that it is within the United State’s economic interest to support the Biafran secessionist movement due to agitations in the region[13]. However, as of yet Trump has made no public statement in support of Biafran self-determination.

The pro-Biafran protesters are calling for the immediate release of Nnamdi Kanu and other Biafran activists that have been jailed. Most importantly they want an independence referendum to have a date set by the government. The editor of pro-Biafran media outlet ‘Voice of Biafra’ Nnabuike Nnadede stated that the Igbo people suffer from a lack of resources and investment from the Nigerian government. The main reason for their protests are because they want the opportunity to vote for independence[14].

State response and treatment[edit]

The Federal High Court in Abuja has labelled the IPOB as a terrorist organization on 18 September 2017[15]. The IPOB have fought against this proscription, and sought to reverse the court's decision in 2018[16]. However, their attempt has ultimately been unsuccessful, and they continue to be declared as terrorist organization under Nigeria’s Terrorism Act.

According to sources, the Nigerian State has utilized violent and excessive police force in order to silence pro-Biafran movements. This police violence has been ongoing from 2014, first targeting MASSOB and IPOB after its formation[8]. In 2008, MASSOB claimed that 2,020 of their members had been massacred and extra-judicially killed by the state. Amnesty International released a report detailing that countless IPOB protesters were killed between the 39th through 30th of May 2016 during a governmental operation wanting to prevent IPOB members marching from Nkpor motor park to a rally[17].  The Nigerian army claims that they were acting in self-defense, and that the death count lies at five instead of fifty. These killings have not been investigated by Nigeria, despite urgings from Amnesty International.

Human rights organizations have been keeping records of extrajudicial killings in Biafra. They claim that from August 2015 through February 2016, 170 unarmed civilians were killed and that 400 were arrested, charged or detained without a proper trial[18].

Kanu's trial and detention[edit]

The leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu has failed to appear in court since April 25, 2017 to answer to the charges against him by the federal government. He had previously been detained without trial for over a year and was arraigned on November 8, 2016 for charges of criminal conspiracy, membership of an illegal organization and intimidation[19]. He was granted bail on April 2017 because of health concerns that the judge said needed better medical attention that couldn’t be provided by the prison. However, he was barred from granting interviews, meeting in groups larger than ten individuals, organizing and attending rallies or social functions[20]. Kanu disappeared after September 2017 after a premeditated attack on his home village, Umuahia by the combined forces of the Airforce and Army. Through a Radio Biafra broadcast he explains that his disappearance is because President Muhammdu Buhari sent the military to execute him in his home[21]. The military denies the occurrence of this raid, despite an obvious video footage of the gruesome attack[22]. There has been speculation that Kanu had fled to Israel for safety, after a facebook livestream video depicted an individual resembling Kanu praying at the Western Wall in Jerusalem[23]. The Israeli foreign ministry stated that Israel cannot confirm this allegation as they do not have any evidence of Kanu in the country[24]. Now, the court has revoked the bail of Kanu and the trial judge Binta Nyako has ordered the immediate arrest of Kanu and stated that his treasonable felony will proceed despite his absence.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Allison, Simon. "Mystery of the missing Biafran separatist". The M&G Online. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  2. ^ a b c d e "The man behind Nigeria's new separatist movement". 2017-05-05. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  3. ^ a b Mahr, Oluwatosin Adeshokan, Krista. "The dream of Biafra lives on in underground Nigerian radio broadcasts". Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  4. ^ EST, Conor Gaffey On 12/7/15 at 7:22 AM (2015-12-07). "What is Biafra and Why are Some Nigerians Calling for Independence?". Newsweek. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  5. ^ The Editors of Encyclopaedia Britannica. "Biafra: Secessonist State, Nigeria".
  6. ^ "What's in a Name? For the Nigerian Civil War, Everything". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  7. ^ Akuchu, Gemuh E. (1977). "Peaceful Settlement of Disputes: Unsolved Problem for the OAU (A Case Study of the Nigeria-Biafra Conflict)". Africa Today. 24 (4): 39–58. JSTOR 4185729.
  8. ^ a b c IBEANU, ORJI, IWUAMADI, OKECHUKWU, NKWACHUKWU, CHIJIOKE (2016). "Biafra Separatism: Causes, Consequences and Remedies". Institute for Innovations in Development: 1–71 – via Research Gate.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  9. ^ Bybee, Ashley (November 9, 2017). "The Indigenous People of Biafra: Another Stab at Biafran Independence" (PDF). Institute for Defense Analyses. 17: 1–5.
  10. ^ "MASSOB expels Uwazuruike, picks new leadership". The Nation Newspaper. 2015-11-30. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  11. ^ Maya, Emmanuel (2016-06-08). "SPECIAL REPORT: Inside the massive extrajudicial killings in Nigeria's South-East". Premium Times Nigeria. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  12. ^ "10 pro-Biafra protesters 'die' in Aba". The Nation Newspaper. 2016-02-09. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  13. ^ EST, Conor Gaffey On 11/10/16 at 1:39 PM (2016-11-10). "In Nigeria, secessionists are celebrating Donald Trump's election". Newsweek. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  14. ^ EST, Conor Gaffey On 12/7/15 at 7:22 AM (2015-12-07). "What is Biafra and Why are Some Nigerians Calling for Independence?". Newsweek. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  15. ^ Published. "Court affirms IPOB's proscription, designation as terrorist group". Punch Newspapers. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  16. ^ siteadmin (2018-03-02). "IPOB Appeals Order Declaring It A Terrorist Organization". Sahara Reporters. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  17. ^ "Nigeria: Killing of unarmed pro-Biafra supporters by military must be urgently investigated". Amnesty International (in Dutch). Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  18. ^ Maya, Emmanuel (2016-06-08). "SPECIAL REPORT: Inside the massive extrajudicial killings in Nigeria's South-East". Premium Times Nigeria. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  19. ^ "Court revokes bail of IPOB's leader Nnamdi Kanu". The Guardian Nigeria News - Nigeria and World News. 2019-03-29. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  20. ^ "Release of Leader Re-Awakens Calls for Biafran Secession in Nigeria". This Is Africa. 2017-06-23. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  21. ^ Onyeji, Ebuka (2019-02-03). "Why I 'ran away' from Nigeria – Nnamdi Kanu". Premium Times Nigeria. Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  22. ^ Mahr, Oluwatosin Adeshokan, Krista. "The dream of Biafra lives on in underground Nigerian radio broadcasts". Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  23. ^ AFP. "Nigerian separatist leader admits he's in Israel, says owes life to Jewish state". Retrieved 2019-05-13.
  24. ^ "Israel casts a shadow on Biafran leader Nnamdi Kanu sighting". Africa Times. 2018-10-23. Retrieved 2019-05-13.

External links[edit]