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HS: Finnish police detain Biafran separatist leader Simon Ekpa

Ekpa, a local NCP councillor in the city of Lahti, has been advocating for and financing an armed uprising in his native Nigeria.

Simon Ekpa tietokoneen ääressä, taustalla aseita, lippuja, katossa suuri kristallikruunu ja seinällä maalaus meritaistelusta.
Simon Ekpa is the leader of IPOB, which has been declared a terrorist organisation in Nigeria. Image: Sakari Piippo / Yle
Yle News

Finnish police have detained Simon Ekpa, following an operation at his home in Lahti on Thursday, Helsingin Sanomat has reported (in Finnish).

Ekpa is a local councillor in the Finnish city, representing the National Coalition Party (NCP), but has been accused by the Nigerian government of leading an armed revolt in the Biafra region, in the southeast of Nigeria.

Nigerian authorities have repeatedly called on Finland to intervene and prevent Ekpa from continuing his activities.

Nigerian daily Business Day reported that the country's Ministry of Foreign Affairs had summoned Finnish ambassador Leena Pylvänäinen "over misinformation, disinformation, hate speech and incitive comments by a Nigerian-Finnish lawyer and Biafra agitator, Simon Ekpa".

Using social media, Ekpa has called on millions of people to boycott upcoming Nigerian general elections, set to take place this Saturday, 25 February. His Twitter video, in which he tells people to stay in their homes and not cast their ballots, has been viewed over a million times.

Ekpa has previously told Yle that he is leading a rebel group from his home in Lahti, with the stated aim of establishing an independent Biafran state.

"I condone violence against Nigerian central government forces. It's a question of self-defence. They are constantly attacking us," he told Yle.

Ekpa has also imposed a curfew on five states in the southeast region Nigeria on certain days of the week, which citizens continue to observe, to varying extents, according to Human Rights Watch.

In this video, Simon Ekpa calls on 20 million Nigerians to participate in a five-day curfew.

Following the publication of the Helsingin Sanomat article on Thursday, Yle spoke with Tommi Rehn of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to seek confirmation that Ekpa was indeed the man detained.

Rehn confirmed that officers had carried out an operation in Lahti, but at this stage the name of the detained man and the reason cannot be disclosed to the public.

"I can confirm the operation, yes, but not the person's name as it's still ongoing," Rehn said.

Neighbour confirms police operation to Yle

A neighbour of Ekpa's, speaking under the condition of anonymity, confirmed to Yle that the police operation had taken place on Thursday.

"I noticed what was happening because I was just leaving for lunch at the time. I looked out the window and saw that there were several cars in the yard," the neighbour said, adding that Ekpa usually behaved very normally, except for occasional noises from his flat at night.

"There has been some loud talking. Once there was a bit of a disturbance, and my husband had to go down to his door to talk. But we avoided a major conflict," the neighbour said.

"I am surprised at how quickly this happened, but from what has been in the papers and in the news, I expected this," the neighbour added.

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