By Gabriel Ani, (Chief Editor)
Finnish Security operatives have released pro-Biafra agitator Simon Ekpa, hours after he was arrested.
Ekpa was arrested by the police in his residence in the Lahti area of the country, a Finnish paper Helsingin Sanomat reported Thursday.
The separatist factional leader has repeatedly declared that there will be no elections in the South-East region of the country and insisted on the observance of a sit-at-home every Monday in the area to protest the detention of the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB) Nnamdi Kanu.
Nigerian government has asked Finland to intervene in Ekpa’s activities. Last week, the Nigerian foreign minister invited the Finnish ambassador Leena Pylvänäinen to a meeting because of the issue.
The killings in the South-East have been repeatedly linked to the sit-at-home ordered by Ekpa in the South-East.
Ekpa publicly claims to have deputized the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) separatist movement, Nnamdi Kanu , after he was arrested. He also claims to command IPOB’s armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN).
Lahti’s Etelä-Suomen Sanomat newspaper reported on Thursday that Ekpa “doesn’t hide the fact that he is participating in the elimination of government officials.” He even leads the operation and acquires weapons”.
However, some of those claiming to be members of IPOB or ESN accuse Ekpa of lying and misusing Kanu’s name.
But IPOB has distanced itself from the Finland-based Ekpa who was reportedly billed for an interview before his arrest.
Simon Ekpa is a local politician of the coalition in Finland. He is a member of the coalition council and represents his party in the public transport board of the Lahti region.
IGBOS REJOICES AT SIMON EKPA ARREST
Many Igbos have expressed joy at the arrest of Simon Ekpa, Dr. Chiedozie Alex Ogbonni describes the mood of the Igbo people on Thursday after the arrest of separatist Simon Ekpa . Ogbonnia teaches Political Studies at Enugu State University and represents Ohanaeze Ndigbo Worldwide, an Igbo advocacy group.
Almost a fifth of Nigeria’s population is Igbo. They are mostly Christians and live mainly in South-Eastern Nigeria.
Finnish based Simon Ekpa has also declared that he is fighting for the interest of the majority Christian Igbos. He has said that he is fighting for the independence of Biafra, located in south-east Nigeria – from his home in Lahti.
Ekpa has publicly claimed to control the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) separatist movement and its armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN). According to Ekpa, he deputized IPOB founder and leader Nnamdi Kanu after his arrest.
But the groups have given up on Ekpa, Ogbonnia states.
According to him, Ekpa used to work in the IPOB movement, but ran into contradictions about its methods of operation. Now IPOB and the Igbo organization are condemning Ekpa’s actions.
“You must have the consent of the group whose independence you are pushing for,” Ogbonnia states.
According to him, Ekpa doesn’t have that.
At the same time, many Igbos feel that Muhammadu Buhari, who ruled Nigeria for eight years , discriminates against them, says Ogbonnia.
According to Ogbonnia, Nigerians have been living in fear because of Ekpa, and the police operation in Finland encourages us to believe that Saturday’s elections will go well.
However, the police in Finland have not disclosed the reason for the arrest. The Central Criminal Police confirms that they suspect the man arrested in Lahti on Thursday of a crime in Finland, but did not comment further on the matter on Thursday.
Ekpa has used social media to incite residents of South-Eastern Nigeria to boycott the presidential election by staying in their homes on election day. Not all Igbos share the idea of opposing elections. For example, Ogbonnia says that he supports one of the early favorites in the election, Peter Obi of the Labor Party , who is also Igbo.
According to Ogbonia, Ekpa is not particularly well known in Nigeria, which has a population of about 225 million. However, his supporters include, for example, young unemployed people who believe that an independent Biafra would solve their problems, says Ogbonnia.
Viktor Adetula, a professor of international relations and development studies at the University of Jos, also states that no one who lives outside Nigeria ultimately has a very significant influence on the ground.
Ekpa’s arrest still attracted attention in southeastern Nigeria. For example, a BBC Igbo reporter said that Ekpa’s situation is of interest to Igbo people.
Ekpa’s propaganda is said to have strengthened the atmosphere of fear during the curfews he imposed.
Southeast Nigeria has suffered from serious violent crimes during the elections. On Thursday, Labor Party senatorial candidate Oyibo Chukwu was shot and burned just two days before the election, among others . BBC Igbo wrote about suspicions that IPOB or ESN were behind the act. However, it was reported that the criminals had previously also shot another party member in the same areas.
In reality, Ekpa was not arrested, but the Central Criminal Police took him in for questioning.
Ekpa was later released on Thursday evening after questioning.