Anambra State was filled with exultation yesterday, as reports surfaced of the detainment of Simon Ekpa, a leader of the separatist group Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), in Finland.
According to reports, the Finnish authorities took Ekpa into custody on charges related to terrorism and separatism. The arrest of the IPOB leader comes amid growing tensions in Nigeria’s southeast region, where the secessionist group has been agitating for an independent state of Biafra.
Residents of Anambra State, where IPOB enjoys significant support, were seen celebrating the news of Ekpa’s arrest. Many expressed hope that his detention would lead to a decrease in the group’s activities in the region.
“Ekpa should be renditioned to Nigeria for proper punishment. That guy needs to be peppered for all the atrocious acts he had caused in this state and the entire southeast.”
“The Nigerian government should not allow his case to be handled by the Finland authorities. They will handle him with kid gloves,” said a resident of the state.
Ekpa has repeatedly called for sit-at-home protests and attacks on government facilities. In his latest move, he has declared a sit-at-home order to prevent people from engaging in Saturday’s election, an order that has been known to be enforced violently by many of his followers.
The largest newspaper in the Nordic countries, Helsingin Sanomat (HS), reported that Ekpa was escorted out of his apartment in Lahti by the Finnish police. According to HS, the newspaper team went to interview Ekpa but was surprised to find the KRP, Finland’s police, answering his doorbell.
The IPOB and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, still detained by the Nigerian government. has been urging the south-easoutheasternof Nigeria to break away from the country and establish a separate nation known as Biafra.
The sit-at-home protests have caused widespread disruption and economic losses in the region. Authorities have condemned Ekpa’s calls for violence and have urged citizens to ignore the orders.
The HS said the KRP prevented their team from entering Ekpa’s apartment and said the interview would be moved “to the future.”
“It is our understanding that he is currently in police custody in Finland,” the official who is not authorised to speak to the press was quoted to have said.
“According to information available to us, the image is verified by Helsingin Sanomat, a Finnish newspaper; in it, Ekpa is seen being escorted out of his home in Lahti by plainclothes Finnish police”, the official said.
However, Ekpa was later released yesterday evening. The Finnish Central Criminal Police confirmed Ekpa’s release, according to HS reports.
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The police claimed that its operation in Lahti and the subsequent arrest of the pro-Biafra agitator were in connection with an ongoing preliminary investigation.
“The person being questioned today is suspected of a crime. We will return to the title on Friday,” Tommi Reen from the Central Criminal Police told HS during a phone interview.
Before his eventual arrest yesterday, Nigerians all over the world had signed a petition appealing to the Finnish government, Nigerian Government, and the European Union to arrest Ekpa, the brain behind the sit-at-home order in the South-East.
In light of this, the Nigerian government has urged citizens to remain calm and refrain from any acts of violence. The government has also assured Nigerians that it will work tirelessly to address the underlying issues that led to the sit-at-home campaign in the first place.
The arrest of Ekpa is a significant development in the ongoing efforts to restore peace and order in the South-East region of Nigeria. It remains to be seen how this will affect the overall situation in the region, but many Nigerians are hopeful that this will be a turning point in the struggle for peace and stability.