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Biafra Civil War: The Genesis and Its End

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The immediate cause of the civil war may be identified as the coup and the counter coup of 1966 which altered the political equation and destroyed the fragile trust existing among the major ethnic groups.

Before the full-blown war, there was a military coup in 1966 (carried out by Maj. Nzeogwu which led to the death of Tafawa Belewa, among others), a counter-coup (led by Gowon, which led to the brutal murder of Aguiyi Ironsi, Fajuyi, among others) and a persecution of the Igbo people living in Northern Nigeria, forcing them to return home. Even on their way home, many of them were killed in disturbing circumstances.

There have been divided opinions on the 1966 coup as some argue that corruption among the civilian ruling class pushed the military to organize the coup, while others opine that the control of oil production in the Niger Delta was also a major factor.

In May 1967, the Federal Military Government divided the country into twelve states from the original four regions, but the former Eastern Region under Lt. Col. Ojukwu saw the act of the creation of states by decree “without consultation” as the last straw, and declared the Region an independent state of “Biafra”.

Consequently, the Federal Military Government saw this act of secession as illegal. Several meetings were held to resolve the issue peacefully without success. To avoid disintegration of the country, the central government was left with no choice but to forcefully bring back the region to the main fold.

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As soon as the war began, the Federal Military Government of Nigeria led by General Yakubu Gowon surrounded the Biafra territory and captured the oil –rich coastal areas.

The blockade imposed during the war led to severe famine such that within the two and half years (30 months) the war lasted, there were over 100,000 overall military casualties, while nearly two million civilians died from starvation, which was a deliberate policy adopted by Nigeria to bring the people on the Biafra side to their knees.

Western powers were also involved in the war, with Britain and the then Soviet Union backing Nigeria, while France and a few other countries supported Biafra.

At the orders of the Federal Military Government, the Nigerian federal troops marched in two divisions into Biafra on the 6th of July, 1976. Division 1, led by Col. Shuwa operated through the north of Biafra, while the second Division advanced on Nsukka which later fell on July 14.

On the 9th of July, the Biafrans led by Lt. Col. Banjo retaliated by marching into the mid-western region of Nigeria across the Niger River, passing through Benin City and later stopped at Ore on August 21.

The Biafran troops captured the mid-west easily because there was little repulsion from soldiers guarding the region. This infuriated Gowon and he asked Col. Muhammad Murtala to form another division (Division 2) to drive the Biafrans out of mid-west and attack Biafra as well.

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The mid-west region was recaptured by the Nigerian army on the 20th of September.

Enugu was made the capital of Biafra, and later when Enugu was captured in October 1967, Aba, Umuahia and Owerri served successively as the provisional capitals.

Within a year, the Federal Military Government captured the city of Port Harcourt and many other coastal oil facilities. The Federal Miltary Government blocked all the routes for transporting food into the Republic of Biafra which led to severe starvation.

The FMG saw this as a war strategy and a way to keep Nigeria united, while many people around the world saw this as nothing but a genocide. The food flown in by foreign mercenary pilots was very little and couldn’t solve the starvation Biafra was facing. Over 2 million Biafrans died of starvation.

By the end of the year 1969, it was obvious that the war will soon come to an end. The FMG launched its final operation known as “Operation Tail-Wind” on January 7, 1970.

The operation was carried out by the 3rd Marine Commando Division and supported by the 1st and 2nd Infantry Division. Owerri was captured on the 9th of January, while Uli fell on the 11th of that same January.

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Aware of the hopelessness of the situation, the self- acclaimed Biafra head of state, Lt. Col. Ojukwu fled the Republic immediately with his family on the 10 of January 1970.

The commander of the Biafran army, who was left with the administration of the Republic later surrendered to the Federal Government on the 14 of January, 1970, thus bringing the civil war and bloodshed to an end. The war officially ended on the 15 of January, 1970.

The sudden end of the war in 1970 was a big relief to both sides and the entire world was elated when General Yakubu Gowon said there was no victor, no vanquished. His government also introduced the popular three ‘Rs’, which stood for Reconciliation, Rehabilitation and Reconstruction.

At the end of the civil war, the Federal Military Government ordered that all Biafran currencies must be deposited into a bank account immediately or they would become worthless.

After everyone complied with the directive, they again ordered that every former Biafran account holder will receive only the sum of 20 pounds regardless of how much they had in their account.

This most Biafrans believed was an unjustified act of the civil war as heads of households were forced to rebuild their financial holdings as well as support a typically large African family with only 20 pounds.

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Biafra

Nigerian govt disobeying a court order preventing it from persecuting IPOB members

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“The government has even resorted to extrajudicial killings”

UMUAHIA — Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, said the Nigerian government has yet to obey a ruling by a continental court which he says has prevented the government from arresting and persecuting members of the separatist group.

According to the rights activist, the continental court issued the order in March 2018.

“Do you know that in March 2018, a continental court restrained the Nigerian government from further arrests & prosecutions of members of #IPOB, including my humble self,” Kanu said in a tweet Thursday.

“Till date, Nigerian government is yet to obey that Order & has even resorted to extrajudicial killings”.

Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, rights activist and leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB).

In addition to hundreds of deaths since 2015, government forces are still pursuing members of the separatist group that seeks an independent state known as Biafra.

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At least 48 civilians who government forces say support the separatist movement have been killed since November 2020.

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Biafra

Nigeria calls Biafra government announced by an ex-militant ‘a joke’

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Asari Dokubo, former Niger-Delta militant

ABUJA — The Nigerian government has mocked the Biafra government declared by Asari Dokubo, a former militant who announced himself as the leader of the new government.

Dokubo, a former Niger-Delta militant and pipeline guard, had announced over the weekend the birth of the ‘Biafra defacto Customary Government (BCG)’ in the former eastern region of the country.

Injustice against the people in Nigeria’s Biafra region prompted the formation of the new government, said the group’s spokesperson, Uche Mefor, a former deputy for Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra— a separatist group struggling for the emergence of the Republic of Biafra.

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“I am sure you have heard of the theatre of the absurd, that is the best way I can describe it,” Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Culture, told reporters in Lagos on Monday.

“If Asari Dokubo wants to form and run a fathom government, I think he is free to do so. This administration will not be distracted because we still have a lot to do.

“We are not ready to give any attention or time to a joker like Dokubo who is just looking for attention. We will just take it as one of these entertainment things.

“The beauty about Nigeria is that it is never a dull country, you must have one thing or the other to entertain you”.

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Biafra: DSS and soldiers intensify hunt for IPOB members in Imo

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A Nigerian soldier controls the traffic in Aba, in a pro-Biafra separatist zone. The southeastern Nigerian region has long complained of being marginalized since the end of the civil war in 1970.(Cristina Aldehuela / AFP/Getty Images)

OWERRI — The army and the Department of State Services, have stepped up the hunt for members of the separatist group – the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in Imo state, southeast Nigeria.

Locals complains that government forces are setting up checkpoints in the town of Owerri, where they arrest people they suspect are pro-Biafra and members of the separatist group.

“They are using the previously arrested IPOB members to identify and abduct other people,” a native said.

Government forces carried out airstrikes last month in parts of Orlu during a hunt for local defense members known as the Eastern Security Network (ESN) who chase armed and violent Fulani herders away from the eastern region.

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Some houses and shops were razed to the ground by airstrikes and the soldiers who carried out the raid in February, and they reportedly lost two soldiers in a shootout with the local vigilante.

Some Christian clerics are currently being held by government forces who accuse them of supporting and harboring members of IPOB and ESN.

The government had ordered a crackdown on IPOB members and their activities, after alleging that the group was a terrorist group, a claim that met strong disagreement from Nigerians and members of the international community.

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