Controversy Erupts over Arrest of Simon Ekpa, Leader of Nigerian Separatist Group IPOB, in Finland

Controversy Erupts over Arrest of Simon Ekpa, Leader of Nigerian Separatist Group IPOB, in Finland

There is controversy over reports of the arrest of Simon Ekpa, a Nigerian separatist leader, by the Police in Finland. The IPOB leader was allegedly arrested on Thursday in Helsinki, the capital of Finland, after a warrant was issued by the Finland government for his detention.

Simon Ekpa is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a pro-independence group fighting for the 'freedom' of Biafra from Nigeria. BBC Igbo reported that he was arrested by the Finnish government for inciting violence through a video broadcast ahead of the Nigeria's 2023 election.

The Nigerian Government had laid complaint to the government of Finland over a social media video shared by Ekpa declaring a "sit-at-home" across the South Eastern Region of Nigeria (Biafra) throughout the period of the upcoming election in Nigeria. 

Ekpa declared a sit-at-home beginning from Saturday, 23rd to Friday, 28th February, 2022. Meanwhile, the Nigerian general election is scheduled to take place on Saturday, 25th February, 2023. The sit-at-home is aimed to disrupt the Saturday's election.

Following Ekpa's sit-at-home declaration, Geoffrey Onyeama, Nigeria's Minister of Foreign Affairs, last week, held a meeting with Leena Pylvanainen, the Finnish Ambassador to Nigeria, to converse about the dangers posed by the divisional leader of IPOB. In the meeting, Onyeama expressed his displeasure with the sit-at-home orders given by the IPOB leader to his followers, who said would in turn caused destruction and mayhem during the Saturday election.

Ekpa, who has been living in Finland for several years, had been a prominent figure in the Biafran separatist movement, IPOB. He was IPOB Spokesperson but took over as the leader of the separatist group following the arrest of the supreme leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, who is currently in Nigeria's collection facility for charges related to treason and terrorism.

Nigerian authorities had previously issued an international warrant for Ekpa's arrest, accusing him of inciting violence in his homeland but no action was taken by the Finnish government.

Meanwhile, even after reports of his arrest, Ekpa's Twitter account has remained active and he has continued making posts across his social media platforms. On Saturday morning, he was in a live interview with an unknown organization on Twitter, raising controversy as to whether his arrest was a hoax.

In one of his tweets a few hours after the news of his arrest, he mocked those who celebrated the news of his arrest, and made other tweets in support of his previous "sit-at-home" plans against Saturday's election.

Many Nigerians are concerned about the truth of the matter. While some feel he might be sharing those posts while in detention, others claim the posts were made through social media assistance prior to his arrest. However, his live interview has defied all other evidence of his arrest.

Research conducted by our teams seems to suggest that Ekpa might have been released from detention by the Finnish authority. Until official reports are made by either the Nigerian government or the government of Finland, the news of his arrest remains a controversial claim.

If Ekpa's arrest is true, it would be a gesture of solidarity between Finland and the Nigerian government. Finland is one of the European countries that does not tolerate violence or threats of violence but this is different in the case of Simon Ekpa. Ekpa is a well-known legal practitioner, ex-serviceman, and a top politician in Finland. This gives him an edge over other Nigerian separatist personnel in other countries on similar mission.

In the event that Simon Ekpa has been officially detained, a potential extradition hearing could take place in the near future. If extradited, Ekpa might be charged with crimes related to the Biafran separatist movement, which is proscribed by the Nigerian Federal Government.

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