The outlawed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has denied declaring a one-week sit-at-home across South-east Nigeria.
Simon Ekpa, the leader of Autopilot, a faction of the IPOB, had, in a statement on 14 June, announced that there would be a one-week sit-at-home in the region.
Mr Ekpa, a self-acclaimed prime minister of the Biafra Republic Government in Exile, said the sit-at-home would hold from 3 to 5 July and continue from Friday, 7 to 10 July.
The agitator said the proposed civil action was to demand the “immediate and unconditional release” of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who has been detained at the facility of Nigeria’s secret police, State Security Service (SSS).
He said the action was also in preparation for the conduct of “Biafra’s self-referendum.”
IPOB disowns sit-at-home order
But when contacted on Thursday, Emma Powerful, the spokesperson of the IPOB, told PREMIUM TIMES that the sit-at-home declaration did not emanate from the group.
“IPOB did not declare the infamous sit-at-home. Those doing that (declaring the sit-at-home) are criminals who want to use Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s name and IPOB to perpetrate criminalities in the South-eastern states, but it won’t work for them,” he said.
“They want Mazi Nnamdi Kanu to remain in the SSS solitary confinement,” Mr Powerful added.
IPOB, in August 2021, introduced a sit-at-home order every Monday across the South-east to pressure the Nigerian government to release its detained leader, Mr Kanu, who is standing trial on alleged terrorism at the Federal High Court, Abuja.
The separatist group later suspended the order in preference for the order to be implemented only on the days Mr Kanu appears in court.
But despite its suspension, residents of the five South-east states —- Enugu, Ebonyi, Imo, Abia and Anambra —- have been observing the Monday sit-at-home order, mostly out of fear.
Some residents and motorists, including commuters, have been attacked lately by gunmen for stepping out of their homes on Monday and other declared sit-at-home days.
Mr Ekpa, a Nigerian-Finnish citizen, has continued to differ with IPOB on many issues, like his frequent declaration of sit-at-home orders in the region without IPOB’s approval.
Although he claims to be loyal and fighting for the release of Mr Kanu, the controversial agitator has been in a prolonged face-off with IPOB and its officials under Mr Kanu’s leadership.
The recurring disagreement among the pro-Biafran agitators lately confirms reports of crisis within the IPOB camp since Mr Kanu was first arrested in 2015.
The crisis worsened after the IPOB leader was re-arrested and brought back to Nigeria from Kenya in June 2021.
Since his ongoing detention at the SSS facility, Mr Kanu has been largely inactive in running the separatist group.
To fill the void, IPOB, in August 2022, announced Chika Edoziem as its temporary leader until Mr Kanu was released, but that was after some factions had already broken away from the separatist group.
Like Mr Ekpa, other leaders formed their factions of the IPOB.
The crisis recently hit the legal team of Mr Kanu, with the IPOB leader’s family sacking two of his lawyers —- Mike Ozekhome and Ifeanyi Ejiofor —- on 15 June.
Although the lawyers have dismissed the sack, the development only confirmed the strained relationship among those fighting for Mr Kanu’s release.
While the IPOB leader’s Special Counsel, Aloy Ejimakor, and Mr Ekpa belong to the same camp as Mr Kanu’s family, Messrs Ozekhome and Ejiofor enjoy the backing of IPOB.
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