The arrest of Simon Ekpa, the Biafra separatist leader and one of the brains behind the dreaded militia group, Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), by the Finnish police is one of the most cheering news to most patriotic Nigerians in recent years.
His arrest is a tribute to diplomacy and signifies the cordial bilateral relations between Finland and Nigeria. I commend the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr Geoffrey Onyema, for his excellent diplomatic work in getting the Finnish authorities to bring this terrorist to book; and I salute President Muhammadu Buhari for the successes he’s recorded in bringing peace and security to the country in the last days of his tenure. Ekpa was arrested Thursday morning for the elaborate plans he put in place to disrupt the elections in Nigeria by ordering a sit-at-home in the South Eastern parts of the country. He had threatened to deal ruthlessly with any person that goes out to vote in the whole of the South East region. From his records as a notorious and ruthless militia leader, nobody would have dared to disobey him, and the vote in that region would have been almost a flop.
READ ALSO: Breaking: Finland Authorities Arrest Biafran Agitator, Simon Ekpa
Ekpa, the self-acclaimed disciple of Nnamdi Kanu, the detained leader of IPOB, assumed prominence after he was named as the head of the group’s propaganda wing that operates Radio Biafra. He was also appointed as a replacement for Kanu following the re-arrest of the IPOB leader by federal government. Tall and handsome, Ekpa has a dual Nigerian and Finnish citizenship, and has long been known to the Nigerian authorities as being responsible for the murders of several people, including public officials, by the notorious ‘’Unknown Gunmen’’ in the South East. His numerous atrocities, including arming and funding the separatist militia group and instigating violence and bloodbath in Igboland, has put him on the radar of the federal government for a long time. It is therefore certain that his sit-at-home orders would have led to a very low turnout in this election.
But the news of his arrest has not elicited any celebrations in the South East. Ordinary people have been insufferably intimidated and traumatized in Igbo land. I feel their pain. But I cannot understand why none of the governors or leaders in the region has uttered a word since the news of the arrest broke. Hope Uzodinma, Imo State governor, who has been very worried about the incessant killings in his state, has been uncharacteristically silent. I wonder why. Yes, Ekpa and his murderous gangs have succeeded in intimidating ordinary folks, but the governors should continue to show leadership.
According to diplomatic sources, the Nigerian government had long been worried about the activities of Ekpa in Finland where he is a citizen, and his arrest had been planned for long. But it was after he made the sit-at-home order that the government put all plans into an overdrive. Last week, the Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Zubairu Dada, summoned the Finnish Ambassador in Abuja, Ms Leena Pylvanainen, to his office and made an official complaint about Ekpa. The Minister noted that Ekpa has a cult following and a well-armed militia that engages in maiming, killings, kidnapping and arson. Dada said that Ekpa’s orders were a major threat to the election, and expressed the federal government’s displeasure if the government of Finland fail to rein in on Ekpa. ‘’We thought it was important for us to have this chat with you to let you know that he is living in the comfort of his home there in Finland…and we are saying that enough is enough’’, Dada told the Finnish Ambassador. He also complained that Ekpa’s threats to disrupt the elections were the most vicious violation of our electoral process by a foreign national. But the Finnish diplomat was, to my surprise, a bit retrained in her response, noting that Finland would approach the matter carefully since Ekpa was a citizen of both countries. Apparently, Ambassador Pylvanainen’s reserved diplomatese might also have been intended to not alarm the militia leader.
Now, what happens next? Mr. Ekpa should be brought home to face justice. I’m not sure if Nigeria has an extradition treaty with Finland. But if there is no such agreement between both countries, our government should press for his repatriation back home. Finland knows a thing about threats to national security, and I cannot see why it would not oblige our request. It has an 832-mile (1,3387 km) border with Russia. Last year, after Russia launched its war against Ukraine, Finland, a small country about a third of the size of Nigeria, was so frightened that the government hurriedly announced a plan to erect a fence to cover parts of the border in a project that is expected to cost $393 million and scheduled to be completed by 2026. The country is also planning to join NATO just to feel secure from a super-power menacing neighbour. Finland should send Ekpa back home!