The Indigenous People of Biafra has announced resumption of plans to hold a referendum towards the ‘peaceful restoration’ of the defunct Republic of Biafra.
IPOB said it has printed 40 million ballot papers to be used in the first phase of the referendum by Biafrans to determine their readiness to opt out of Nigeria.
According to Punch Newspaper, IPOB spokesperson, Emma Powerful, in a statement on Tuesday, said the first phase of the ‘three-stage referendum’ would take place in 2018 although he did not disclose the date for the planned plebiscite.
He said the ballot papers would be distributed to all adults in every clan and village in ‘Biafraland’.
“We the Indigenous People of Biafra wish to bring to the attention of the world that plans are at advanced stages in preparation for the first in our three-stage referendum process towards the peaceful, non-violent restoration of the nation of Biafra.
“Our decision to hold the first of the three plebiscites later this year has vindicated IPOB’s resilience in sticking to the principle of non-violent agitation for Biafra in the face of government brutality and treachery from enemies within.
“Efforts geared towards this first referendum is gathering unstoppable momentum with dates for the exercise to be announced imminently.
“Forty million ballot papers are being printed and readied for distribution to every clan and village in Biafraland for all adults over the age of 18 to express their preference,” the statement read partly.
Also in the statement, IPOB cited occasions where the Nigerian government had, in the past, conducted a referendum for some sections of the country.
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“On 11th February, 1961, Nigeria conducted a referendum for the people of Southern Cameroon to determine whether they wished to be part of Nigeria or merge with Francophone northern Cameroon.
This referendum resulted in the peaceful secession of the then NCNC-controlled Anglophone Cameroon from Nigeria.
“In other words, they voted to leave Nigeria for good. That was democracy in action, not war.
“Again, on the 13th of July, 1963, Nigeria conducted another referendum which led to the creation of the defunct Mid-West Region from the supposedly Yoruba-dominated Western Region.
“The old Mid-Western Region comprised parts of today’s Delta and Edo states.“Referendum has been used in Nigeria before to resolve a seemingly intractable issue,” IPOB added.
The secessionist group noted that its mission “is to restore Biafra sovereignty via a democratic process and through the instrumentality of a three-stage referendum, the first of which will be held in the coming weeks.”
IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, has been at the vanguard of the call for an independent Biafra Republic from the Nigerian state through referendum.
Mr. Kanu, who is facing charges of treasonable felony at the Federal High Court in Abuja, had threatened to boycott elections in Anambra last November if government fails to set a date for referendum.
Clashes occurred between IPOB members and soldiers when the military commenced an operation in the south east states last September.
Since then, Mr Kanu’s whereabouts has remained unknown.
While the Federal Government proscribed IPOB and labelled it a terrorist organization in the wake of the clash, the U.S. government, however, said it does not see IPOB as a terrorist organisation, a position described as ‘unfortunate’ by the Nigerian government.