IBTimes UK has interviewed the prime minister of the self-proclaimed Biafran government in exile (BGIE) on self-determination, independence and the request to hold a referendum in Nigeria on a possible breakaway of the contested Biafran territories.
Emmanuel Enekwechi, head of BGIE since its creation in the US in 2007, called on the international community to support Biafrans' call for a referendum on independence, arguing that self-determination and freedom of speech are fundamental human rights.
Pro-Biafrans are demanding the independence of Biafran territories 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 civil war that claimed between one and three million lives, mostly Biafrans.
"We want to be able to say for ourselves what it is that we want. Similar to what happened here in the UK when Scotland had the opportunity to speak for themselves and what is going to happen in June here, where citizens of the UK will also have the opportunity to say whether they want to continue to be in EU or not in the Brexit referedum. We just want the same right " he said.
"Biafrans want Nigeria to remain and achieve its own potential. There is only one thing we are asking for: We want our freedom. Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari is advocating for freedom for people in Western Sahara and the Palestinians, why don't we deserve that?"
Nnamdi Kanu and accusations of violence
Pro-Biafrans have been calling for independence since the amalgamation to modern-day Nigeria. The independence calls, however, have gained renewed momentum following the arrest of Nnamdi Kanu, one of the leaders of the movement.
Kanu, director of Radio Biafra and head of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), was arrested in Lagos in October 2015 on conspiracy and terrorism charges, which were later dropped. He is now standing trial on six counts of treasonable felony charges.
Among other things, Kanu has been accused of advocating for violence in order to obtain independence. Enekwechi, however, distanced himself from calls for violence and reiterated that the pro-Biafran movement was peaceful.
Nigeria's security forces have also been accused of violent acts against "unarmed" and "peaceful" pro-Biafran protesters, claims authorities strongly deny. In an exclusive report by IBTimes UK, Amnesty International confirmed that Nigerian security forces had used excessive force against pro-Biafran protesters on some occasions.
Buhari: Nigeria won't tolerate another Biafra
The Nigerian government has always maintained that Nigeria's unity was a priority for the country and that although peaceful pro-Biafran protests was welcomed, demanding the breakaway of the Biafran territories was against the constitution. A government source told IBTimes UK that it does not consider the separatist movement a threat to the current leadership, and described pro-Biafrans as an "insignificant number of frustrated people who are not a threat to the existence of Nigeria".
Buhari has 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. "But to try and interfere looking for Biafra after two million people were killed, they are joking with the security and Nigeria won't tolerate Biafra."