Neo-Biafra Separatist Agitations, State Repression and Insecurity in South-East, Nigeria

Society. 2023;60(1):40-53. doi: 10.1007/s12115-022-00782-0. Epub 2022 Nov 15.


The resurgence of Biafra separatism in Nigeria is largely a reaction to a perceived ethno-national superordinacy as well as the compromised state-building capacity of the Nigerian ruling groups. The tendency to attribute the upswing in ethnic nationalism, separatist agitations and the ascendancy of sectarian cleavages in Nigeria to the widening of the democratic space since 1999 is flawed. Whilst every part of Nigeria is bedevilled with one security challenge or another, the most visible existential threats to lives and livelihoods in Nigeria's South-East are coordinated attacks on state facilities by unknown gunmen and the brutal military response of the Nigerian state to the neo-Biafra separatist uprisings. Although the reinvention of Biafra separatism has received substantial scholarly attention, available studies have neglected how the persistence of state repression has lubricated the wheels of the neo-Biafra separatist movement in Nigeria. This study argues that the repressive disposition of the Nigerian state towards Biafra separatism is at the base of the current mutation of the Indigenous People of Biafra's strategy from the non-violent option to the armed movement. This article relies mainly on the analysis of secondary data on Biafra separatism and state repression in Nigeria. Drawing from the basic assumptions of the theory of state repression, this study concludes that the wanton deployment of the kinetic approach involving harassment, proscription, arrests, extraordinary rendition, torture and mass killing of pro-Biafra agitators tends to stimulate insecurity in the South-East.

Keywords: Biafra separatism; Eastern Security Network; South-East; State repression; Unknown gunmen.