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No, repeat of 1960s civil war not under way in south-eastern Nigeria

IN SHORT: Several photos and videos of Nigerian soldiers and police have been used as evidence in claims of an ongoing civil war in southeast Nigeria. The claim is false.

Warning: This report links to graphic content. Discretion is advised.

A repeat of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war is ongoing in south-eastern Nigeria, according to a message circulating on Facebook since March 2024. 

Two members of the 18 PMF personnels posted to Garki, in Okigwe LGA were ambushed at about 0625hrs of 23/3/2024 by the Biafra Liberation Army on the ongoing #Second Nigeria-Biafra Civil War in Nigeria otherwise called The Nigeria-Biafra Civil War II. They were killed by the Biafra Liberation Army while they were patrolling in between old and new Garki, in Okigwe LGA of Imo State,” one Facebook post reads. 

The message is accompanied by photos and short videos of different incidents. The graphic photos appear to show the bodies of Nigerian police officers and a burned van.

The post was published in the public Facebook group United Nations Mission for Referendum in Biafraland, which has over 24,500 members.

The same claim has been made on Facebook here, here, here and here. Some of the posts include short videos showing Nigerian army operations against terrorists in different parts of the country.


The war between Nigeria and Biafra

Nigeria’s eastern region seceded in 1967 to form an independent republic. This led to a 30-month war between Nigeria and Biafra. It ended in January 1970 when Biafran leaders surrendered to the Nigerian government. The death toll is estimated at between 500,000 and 3 million.

Over the past 15 years there has been growing agitation for the restoration of Biafra led by various pro-Biafra groups. The Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), formed in 2012, is the most well known of the groups.

The Nigerian government classified Ipob as a terrorist group in 2017. Since then, militants linked to the group have been accused of killing and kidnapping security agents and destroying government facilities

But has this escalated to the level of civil war, like in the 1960s?

No civil war declared

Africa Check did a reverse image search of the photos in the post about the killing of police officers in the “ongoing second Nigeria-Biafra civil war”. 

It led to a news article about an announcement by the Nigerian police on 23 March 2024. In it, the police said that two officers had been killed in an attack in Okigwe, Imo state, in south-eastern Nigeria.

Police spokesperson Olumuyiwa Adejobi said the attackers, suspected to be members of Ipob, used dynamite

A short video used in some of the posts about the ongoing civil war shows soldiers of the Nigerian army in a gun battle with suspected terrorists. 

A reverse image search of screenshots of the video yielded no useful results. However, considering the brown grass and dusty road seen in the video, it is unlikely that the location is the south-east region of Nigeria in March 2024, as the posts claim, as this is mostly rain-forest.

There has also been no declaration of war by the federal government of Nigeria and Biafra is not a sovereign state. 

The governments of the five states that make up the south-east geopolitical zone are intact and subject to Nigerian rule under the Nigerian constitution.

The claim that a repeat of the Nigeria-Biafra civil war is ongoing is false.

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