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IPOB Separatists' Lockdown Protest Takes Hold in Nigeria's Southeast


FILE - Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu appears at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria, January 20, 2016.

Supporters of the Nigerian separatist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), began a weekly stay-at-home protest Monday in the country's southeast, calling for their leader to be released.

IPOB's southeast lockdown protest took effect from 6 a.m. local time Monday and lasted 12 hours. Residents across many states in the region complied with the order to stay at home, despite a warning from authorities prohibiting it.

The separatist group says the protest is to press for the release of their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who is facing trial for treason in Nigeria after he was rearrested in June.

FILE - Journalists are stationed opposite the Federal High Court as they await the arrival of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu at the court in Abuja, Nigeria, July 26, 2021.
FILE - Journalists are stationed opposite the Federal High Court as they await the arrival of IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu at the court in Abuja, Nigeria, July 26, 2021.

Enugu resident Daniel Ede said he received a memo from his office asking him to stay away from work Monday.

"There's a sense of hostility in the air," Ede said. "There's very minimal vehicular movement, very minimal movement, in general. Everybody is just keeping to himself and trying to observe and see how everything pans out."

Enugu state in southeastern Nigeria is a strong base for the separatist movement.

The separatist group says the stay-at-home protest will continue every Monday until Kanu is freed.

In May, IPOB gave a similar order to honor fighters who died facing the Nigerian state during the civil war in the late 1960s.

Imo state resident Justin Ohanu said travelers from Lagos passing through the state Monday were hindered by local militias enforcing the lockdown.

"This morning, some buses were burned along the road there," he said. "The buses were coming from Lagos. I think they got the passengers out of the vehicles, they were transport buses. About three of them got burned."

Government offices in the region opened Monday, even though many workers could not make it to work, due to movement restrictions.

In January, IPOB launched an armed unit called the Eastern Security Network. The government's crackdown on the unit escalated security tensions in the region and led to 115 extrajudicial executions, according to Amnesty International.

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