On Monday, the South-East was once again under lockdown due to a sit-at-home order being enforced by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). IPOB first imposed sit-at-home on September 9, 2021 to protest the incarceration of its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, by the federal government after he was intercepted on Sunday June 27, 2021in Kenya. It later added the lockdowns to any day their leader appears in court.

With Kanu in detention, Simon Ekpa, a Nigerian-Finnish citizen and Councilor of Lahti City, was appointed IPOB spokesman and he started enforcing the lockdowns through his terrorist, Autopilot wing of IPOB.

Ekpa, armed with Finnish military training and service and as self-acclaimed Prime Minister of the Biafra Republic Government in Exile (BRGIE) organization, has been directing agitation for Biafran independence, with uncontrolled bloodshed.

The road to this infamy started in December 2020, when Kanu created the Eastern Security Network (ESN) to supplant the Nigerian state as the primary guarantor of security in the region, and ostensibly a prerequisite for insurgency war. The ESN became the rallying point of all criminal elements in the region, and successfully organized jail breaks to recruit members.

Ekpa has been using bellicose tweets and regular social media broadcasts as means of rallying these IPOB elements towards violently enforcing sit-at-home orders and launching repeated insurgent style terrorist attacks while at the same time killing and kidnapping residents for ransom. For instance, On July 7, 2023, Simon Ekpa tweeted; ‘‘Any police NG that shoots any Biafran within Biafra territory, capture him alive”. Also on July 17, 2023, Simon Ekpa @ simon_ekpa said thus: “Nigeria aggression in Biafra territory will be repelled”.

He had enthusiastically told a Finnish local newspaper: “I condone violence against Nigerian central government forces,” and the people of the South-east by extension.

The reckless sit-at-homes and their enforcement has resulted in incalculable damage and devastating effects to the region in terms of numerous lives wasted, huge economic losses and social dislocation.

Cumulatively, according to a newspaper report, the region has lost 144 sit-at-home days from January till July, 2023 with at least 31 days in Ebonyi State, 48 in Anambra, 28 in Imo and 37 in Abia State. Deputy Speaker, House of Representatives, Ben Kalu, said within the last two years, the zone lost about N4 trillion to the sit-at-home.

This development has had cataclysmic effect on the many micro, small and medium-scale enterprises and indigenous manufacturing, fabrication and agro-allied industries; causing cutbacks and capital flight as unstable business environment increase cost of service delivery and higher logistical costs.

Nigeria has tried to stop Ekpa.

Before the 2023 general elections, then Foreign Ministry’s Minister of State, Ambassador Zubairu Dada, summoned Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, Ms Leena Pylvānāinen, over Ekpa and told her about “this irritant” threatening “our relationships.”

Explaining Nigeria’s “displeasure” over his terrorist activities including “killings, maiming and burning,” Dada asked the Finnish government to stop him from using their country to cause a near-crippling violence in South-east.

In addition, Nigerians signed a petition for Finland to arrest the separatist violent leader. In the run up to the elections, a pan-Nigerian elders’ forum met the Finnish Ambassador to protest Ekpa’s role in violent attacks in South East.

The protest letter was signed by Chief Simon Okeke on behalf of Amb Okey Emuchay (Ohaneze); Chief Edwin Clarke (PANDEF); Prof Ango Abdulahi (Northern Elders Forum, NEF); Dr Emeka Ezeife (Igbo Elders Forum); Chief Ayo Adebanjo (Afenifere); Dr Bitrus Pogu (Middle Belt Forum); and Anthony Sani (ACF).

Sadly, the Finnish Ambassador is not being helpful. She told the elders that Ekpa has fundamental human rights that must be upheld, although those rights have limits. Finland, she said, was doing “certain things” which would not be disclosed because they remain classified information.

She also told Ambassador Dada that because Ekpa is a dual citizen of Nigeria and Finland, the Finnish government has to take his rights into consideration, and that everything has to be done according to legislation which has very strong protections for freedom of speech.

In a symbolic move, Ekpa was “invited” by Finnish Police few days to Nigeria’s elections but later released. Since then, the violent agitator has continued his terrorist’s acts.

It is time Finland reins in Ekpa, and urgently too, as he threatens the peaceful coexistence of Nigerians, especially in the South-east, a once relatively peaceful zone. He must not be allowed to continue to use their base to launch his attacks, either verbal or otherwise. Finland must stop its diplomatic posturing as Ekpa is not only aiding the destabilization of Nigeria he is a present danger to and doing damage to Nigeria-Finland relations.

Nigeria needs to formally engage Finland with meticulous evidence of Ekpa’s tweets where he incited violence and called on his terrorists fighters to violently enforce sit-at-home every Monday and every other time he fancies.

Moreover, Nigeria should abstain from Finland’s celebration of 60 years of diplomatic relations. It is time Finland makes a choice between Nigeria and Ekpa.

Beyond that, Nigeria needs to take tougher diplomatic measures against Finland for habouring a man, who is an avowed enemy of a united Nigeria. And if need be, it should consider cutting diplomatic relations with the Nordic region nation. After all, you cannot hope to have excellent relations with a nation while giving sanctuary to its enemy. Nigeria must also do everything within the law to arrest and prosecute Ekpa.

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