Biafran government in exile
A supporter of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu holds a Biafra flag during a rally in support of KanuReuters

Many people advocating for the breakaway of the Biafran territories were not even born during the 1967-1970 civil war, Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari has said. He made the comment during an official visit to Katsina State as pro-Biafran activists continued to hold regular marches across southeastern Nigeria calling for independence.

The Biafran territories were forcibly annexed to Nigeria during British colonisation, which ended in 1960. A Biafran Republic was established in 1967 and re-annexed to Nigeria in 1970, following a bloody civil war that claimed between one and three million lives, mostly Biafrans.

"But recently, some people who were not even born during the war are saying they want to divide Nigeria," Buhari explained during a speech at the Emir of Katsina's Palace, The Nation website reported. "I always say the civil war was fought for the unity of Nigeria because then we hadn't even discovered oil let alone enjoying it. But two million people were killed.

"The way the Sahara is advancing, with Boko Haram, growing number of people and uncertainty over rainfall, in a land where we fought civil war leading to the death of about two million, for someone to just say he will chase us out? So where do we go?"

Buhari also urged Nigerians to ignore groups agitating for a split and said leaders should work to promote peaceful co-existence in the country.

Earlier in March, Buhari told Al Jazeera his country will "not tolerate" another independent Biafra and that his administration will not engage in a dialogue with pro-Biafran activists. "We have a democracy system now. Let them organise themselves and vote to have a state within a state," he argued.

Nnamdi Kanu

Pro-Biafran breakaway calls have gained renewed momentum following the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, one of the leaders of the movement, who is standing trial on six counts of treasonable felony charges.

Emmanuel Enekwechi, the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Biafran government in exile (BGIE), told IBTimes UK the international community should support Biafrans' call for a referendum on independence, arguing that self-determination and freedom of speech are fundamental human rights.

The Nigerian government has always maintained that Nigeria's unity was a priority and that although peaceful pro-Biafran protests was welcomed, demanding the breakaway was against the constitution. Political analysts have warned pro-Biafrans might join forces with militants in the Niger Delta and those calling for the independence of Southern Cameroons.