Private security stands next to an election poster for All Progressive Congress (APC) leader, Bola Tinubu in Lagos on February 18, 2023, ahead of the Nigerian presidential election scheduled for February 25, 2023. (Photo by JOHN WESSELS / AFP) LEHTIKUVA


Nigeria has called on Finland to stop a Finnish politician from leading an armed revolt in southeastern Nigeria. Simon Ekpa, a local Lahti city councillor representing the National Coalition Party, is calling on millions of people to boycott upcoming Nigerian general elections next weekend, using social media. Ekpa is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a separatist movement agitating for the secession of Biafra in southeastern Nigeria. IPOB also comprises the Eastern Security Network, which is a paramilitary group.

Ekpa's exact role in the separatist group was unclear, but he has called on millions of people in southeastern Nigeria to participate in anti-government protests during the past 18 months. Ekpa is a feared individual in Nigeria, and forces under his command have allegedly threatened people who don't respect a Monday curfew ordered by the separatists. According to Human Rights Watch, citizens in the southeast continue to observe, to varying extents, a 'sit-at-home' order introduced by IPOB in August 2021.

Nigeria has asked Finland to clamp down on Ekpa's activities, fearing that they could derail the peaceful conduct of 2023 general elections. The Finnish ambassador, Leena Pylvänäinen, has stated that it's not up to a diplomat to investigate whether a Finnish citizen has potentially committed a crime by demanding an election boycott or by supporting separatists. "The right authority in this case is the police, and they've been notified. They are very much aware of the situation," she explained.

The Igbo Union Finland, representing hundreds of Igbo people in Finland, has distanced itself from Ekpa's actions. They have warned that if Finland doesn't take action to stop Ekpa's activities, the situation could escalate into a tragedy like Rwanda's 1994 genocide. Orji Anya Odim, the union's chairman, has urged Ekpa to stop inciting violence and provoking conflict, stating that many Igbo people in Finland have family members in Nigeria who are at risk of being caught up in the violence.

This latest development has come as a surprise to the National Coalition Party in Lahti, and they are currently investigating the matter. The party's secretary, Mika Airinen, has stated that if it is found that Ekpa is involved in armed activities, his position in the party will be evaluated.