The Biafran separatist organization headed up by activist Nnamdi Kanu was declared a “militant terrorist organization” on Friday by Major General John Enenche of Nigeria’s Department of Defense.
Enenche released a statement that emphasized Nigerian officials’ concern that the organization in the southeastern part of the nation has transitioned from political activism to armed uprising.
“The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group which has posed to be a security challenge in the country, has been metamorphosing from one stage to the other,” the defense statement said, urging Nigerians to keep their youth away from its influence.
Enenche cited examples that include the formation of a Biafran National Guard and secret service, the blocking of roads and the possession of weapons. He said Kanu and the IPOB tried to seize the service weapons of Nigerian soldiers at a roadblock on Monday, while another member also did so Tuesday.
The statement, issued amid rising tensions that have led to arrests and violent clashes, comes as IPOB supporters claim Kanu and some family members are missing from his home in Umuahia. That home has been surrounded by Nigerian forces since last weekend, in an area placed under a three-day curfew.
In an emergency meeting, governors of the southeast provinces also banned the IBOP and its activities on Friday. President Muhammadu Buhari, preparing to leave for the United Nations General Assembly in New York, reportedly has been urged to meet with Kanu but did not have plans to do so as military operations continued.
The renewed Biafra movement has seen numerous episodes of violence since October 2015, when separatists seeking an independent state were further sparked by the arrest of Kanu. An Amnesty International report released in November found at least 150 Biafran activists had been killed thus far, with evidence of human rights violations and political repression. The organization says it is monitoring the situation.
Image: Radio Biafra