The Eastern Security Network (ESN) is the paramilitary organization of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a pro-Biafra separatist movement.
|Eastern Security Network|
"Commander Ikonso" †
|Size||More than 50,000 soldiers (Nigerian Army sources)|
|Battles and wars||Insurgency in Eastern Nigeria|
The Igbo people lost the 1967-1970 Nigerian Civil War, during which they attempted to secede from Nigeria and establish an independent government in Biafra. There remains residual support for the independence of Biafra among the Igbos. Many Igbos, who are mostly Christian, consider that they are disadvantaged under the current, Muslim-dominated Nigerian government. Biafra secessionism is also attributable to the Nigerian police abuses and arbitrary arrests in the southeastern states.
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), founded by Nnamdi Kanu, is a currently active separatist movement. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, "[t]he federal government, recalling the civil war, is bitterly opposed to Igbo separatism, as is most of the Igbo establishment. The government has long sought to defang the IPOB and silence Kanu, sometimes through illegal or quasi-legal methods". Since 2017, the IPOB is designated by the Nigerian government as a terrorist organization.
Since August 2020, violence has been escalating between the IPOB and the Nigerian government. In August 2020, Nigerian police forces executed 21 IPOB members at a meeting, with two police officers dead and both siding accused each other of firing the first shot. Violence escalated during the following months, leading to a region-wide insurgency.
The IPOB formed the ESN in December 2020, as a reaction to the Igbo's perception that they are targeted by Muslim Fulani herders, whom they accuse of grazing on farmlands and committing crimes against local residents. The movement then morphed into a paramilitary unit with broader functions.
The Nigerian government saw the ESN as a threat to its authority and deployed the army to locate and destroy ESN bases. In January 2021, intense fighting broke out in the town of Orlu, in Imo State. The military confrontation lasted for seven days, until ESN declared a unilateral ceasefire and both sides withdrew from the city.
Shortly after the Orlu Crisis, IPOB gave all the governors of southeast Nigeria 14 days to ban open grazing, threatening to deploy the ESN to enforce a ban if the authorities did not do so. However, the ESN did not wait 14 days; a few days later, ESN operatives attacked a Fulani camp in Isuikwuato, Abia State, killing their livestock and burning down their houses. Following the raid, some governors responded by heeding the ESN's call and banning open grazing.
IPOB accused the Nigerian Army of working in collaboration with the governor of Imo state to continue the harassment and intimidation of civilians in Orlu and environs, especially the arrest of a Rabbi and his family members, whom it was reported were being tortured. Beginning from 15 February there were reports of the Nigerian army sending reinforcements to Orlu. On the 18th of February 2021 Nigeria Military launched an airstrike in Orlu, Imo state; the IPOB issued a swift statement through its State Directorate asserting that "they have finally brought the war upon the Biafran people."
In response to the deaths of 20 security personnel in the region in early 2021 by unknown gunmen, including the destruction of three police stations, Nigerian forces raided an ESN camp in Aba, Abia on the night of 23 March 2021. The Nigerian force, numbering hundreds, captured the camp and claimed to have killed 16 ESN fighters. On 29 March the Nigerian police reported arresting 16 ESN members suspected of attacking security personnel.
On April 5, 2021, at around 2 AM, a prison in Owerri, Imo State, was attacked by gunmen who used explosives to open the administrative buildings, and then opened the inmates' cells. The prison security fled, and 1844 inmates escaped. The Nigerian police blamed the attack on the Eastern Security Network. The IPOB denied any involvement. An attempt to enter the armoury at the nearby police headquarters was deterred. By the following day six of the escaped prisoners had voluntarily returned to the prison.
- ^ Killing of ESN top commander: Hope Uzodinma has stirred hornet nest — IPOB, Vanguard, Apr 24, 2021. Accessed Apr 24, 2021.
- ^ EXCLUSIVE: Military, police set to launch major operations against ‘insurgency’ in south-east, The Cable, Jun 2, 2021. Accessed Jun 2, 2021.
- ^ a b c d Ezeamalu, Ben; Maclean, Ruth (2021-04-06). "More Than 1,800 Prisoners Are Broken Out of Jail in Nigeria". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
- ^ a b Parkinson, Gbenga Akingbule and Joe (2021-04-06). "Nigeria Prison Attack Frees 1,800 Inmates". Wall Street Journal. ISSN 0099-9660. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
- ^ a b c "Nigerian Prison Attack Frees 1,800; Buhari Labels it Terrorism". Bloomberg.com. 2021-04-06. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
- ^ a b Owolabi, Tife (2021-04-06). "Gunmen free more than 1,800 inmates in attack on Nigerian prison". Reuters. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
- ^ a b c d "Nearly 2,000 prisoners escape jail in south-east Nigeria". the Guardian. 2021-04-05. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
- ^ a b c d e f g h i "Security Deteriorating in Nigeria's Former "Biafra"". Council on Foreign Relations. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
- ^ "Nigeria: New clashes after security forces break up meeting of Biafran separatists". The Observers - France 24. 2020-08-26. Retrieved 2021-05-11.
- ^ Nigerian Soldiers Resigned To Join Kanu's Eastern Network – Military Sources, Sahara Reporters, Jan 22, 2021. Accessed Jan 22, 2021.
- ^ Military Jet Combs Orlu Communities For ESN Operatives After Failed Land Combat, Sahara Reporters, Jan 27, 2021. Accessed Jan 28, 2021.
- ^ Orlu: Nnamdi Kanu orders ESN to ceasefire against Army, watchful of Fulani herdsmen, Daily Post, Jan 28, 2021. Accessed Jan 28, 2021.
- ^ IPOB gives Southeast governors 14 days ultimatum to ban open grazing, The Nation, Jan 30, 2021. Accessed Jan 30, 2021.
- ^ Herdsmen Flee As IPOB's Eastern Security Network Invades Fulani Camp In Abia, Kills Many Cows, Sahara Reporters, Jan 31, 2021. Accessed Feb 1, 2021.
- ^ IPOB hails Southeast Governors’ ban on open grazing, The Nation, Feb 2, 2021. Accessed Feb 2, 2021.
- ^ Second Nigeria/Biafra War Has Just Started But We Will Defend Our Land — IPOB , Sahara Reports, Feb 19, 2021. Accessed Feb 20, 2021.
- ^ "Nigerian Army, Police Kill 16 IPOB's Eastern Security Network Operatives In Abia allegedly". Sahara Reporters. 24 March 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
- ^ "Police arrest 16 IPOB ESN members for allegedly killing security operatives in Southeast". The Guardian Nigeria News. 29 March 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
- ^ "Nearly 2,000 prisoners escape jail in south-east Nigeria". The Guardian. 5 April 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
- ^ "How gunmen attacked Owerri prison, freed 1,844 inmates - Official". Premium Times, Nigeria. 5 April 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.