Nigerian protests to occur on Biafra Day

Protests are expected in Nigeria ahead of today’s Biafra Day celebrations. Biafra was a short-lived secessionist state in eastern Nigeria

Biafra protest

Photo: Getty

Protests are expected in Nigeria ahead of today’s Biafra Day celebrations.

Biafra was a short-lived secessionist state in eastern Nigeria that existed from 1967 to 1970. Shortly after it declared independence—the anniversary of which is today—the Nigerian national government and its Western allies declared war on the secessionists. In the blockade that followed, somewhere between 300,000 and 3,000,000 Nigerians died.

Over 50 years later, the legacy of Biafra continues to influence secessionist sentiment in southeastern Nigeria, particularly among the Ohanaeze Ndigbo—a pro-Biafra, West African ethnic group. Although Ohanaeze Ndigbo leadership has called for non-violent commemoration of the diaspora this year, the federal government is expecting protests.

In the near-term, it is possible that the government may release some detained pro-Biafra secessionists, either ahead of Biafra Day celebrations or some time after should protests occur and intensify. Doing so may prevent unrest or only encourage the released to return to protesting and, in some cases, acts of violence. As such, there is an even chance that releasing these prisoners—combined with the Ohanaeze Ndigbo call for calm—either quiets unrest or exacerbates it.

In the longer-term, expect the Nigerian government to continue its efforts toward confiscating armaments and confronting militant secessionists. Continuing instability in the east may drive economic disruption and weaken Nigerian sovereignty.

Wake up smarter with an assessment of the stories that will make headlines in the next 24 hours. Download The Daily Brief.