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Biafran separatists in court over 'secession' bid

20 November 2014, 21:43

Lagos - Eleven members of a Biafran separatist movement were remanded in custody when they appeared in court in southeastern Nigeria accused of conspiring to declare a breakaway republic.

Prosecutor DE Kaswe told the Enugu High Court on Wednesday that the group, known as the Biafra Zionist Movement (BZM), stormed the offices of the Enugu State Broadcasting Service on June 4.

They intended to proclaim the Republic of Biafra in a live radio broadcast, he told the hearing.

A previous declaration of an independent Biafran state sparked a three-year civil war in Nigeria between 1967 and 1970 in which up to one million people are thought to have died.

Also read: Yobe faults extension of emergency rule

The 11, who are charged with conspiring to declare a republic within the country, are also accused of plotting to hoist the outlawed Biafran flag and that of Israel at the radio station.

The group's leader, Benjamin Onwuka, also faces a charge of creating a website "with the intent to incite and solicit support from members of the public to intimidate President Goodluck Jonathan".

All 11, most of them from southeastern Anambra state, pleaded not guilty to the offences and were remanded in custody. A trial date was set for December 6 at the same court.

The Biafran or Nigerian civil war came after the Igbo people, who dominate the southeast, unilaterally declared independence following waves of killings of their kinsmen in the Muslim north.

Many of the victims of the conflict starved to death, sparking an international humanitarian relief effort.

Biafra was reintegrated into Nigeria in 1970 but lingering resentment has persisted, with Igbos claiming that the region still receives unfair treatment at the hands of the government.

The Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), of which the BZM is a breakaway faction, has long alleged that Igbos are still passed over for prominent political and military posts.



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