The untold story of the ‘Nigeria-Biafra War’

Nigeria-Biafra War

Here are the things you need to know about Nigeria-Biafra War

  1. December 1964 Federal elections
  2. October 1965 Regional elections
  3. Post-election violence in Western Nigeria (1965/66)
  4. The military takes over the Government: (January 1966)
  5. Anti-Ironsi demonstrations and killing of Igbos in the North (April/May 1966)
  6. Overthrow of Ironsi’s regime and death of Ironsi (July 1966)
  7. Gowon seizes power, and in consultation with only Northern officers and politicians, forms government. Killings of Igbo officers continues unabated. (August 1966)
  8. Ojukwu offers to confer with Gowon to end bloodshed and asks for repatriation of troops to their regional origins to lower tension; says offer was refused by Gowon. (August 1966)
  9. Out of safety concerns, Ojukwu refuses to go to Lagos for meeting of the 4 regional military governors but is still hopeful of peace resolution. (August 1966)
  10. Mass exodus of over 300,000 Igbos from the North to the East resulting from flare up of many riots and Igbo killings. (August 1966)
  11. Ojukwu declares official day of mourning and Gowon condemns it.(August 1966)
  12. Gowon issues decree restoring the Federal system and abolishing the unitary Government. (August 1966)
  13. Regional representatives convene a conference to determine grounds for unity. Gowon opens conference with offer of 4 forms of government. (August 1966)
  14. Over 2000 Igbos are massacred in Kano on September 29th, 1966 by a combination of Hausa mobs and troops of the fifth battalion in Kano. Further Igbo exodus
  15. A DC-4 carrying weapons to Eastern Nigeria crashes in Cameroon and Henry A. Wharton, a German-American is arrested.(October 1966)
  16. Gowon suspends the constitutional conference. (November 1966)
  17. Eastern Region faced with resettlement of refugees. (December 1966)
  18. Gowon and 4 military Governors confer in Aburi, Ghana. Optimism expressed about the future. (January 1967)
  19. Nigeria confirms the death of Ironsi; flags fly at half mast. (January 1967)
  20. Easter region accuses federal government of failure to implement the Aburi accord and warns that the country is on the brink of political disintegration. (March 1967)
  21. Ojukwu warns that the East will secede if invaded or blockaded. Both sides mobilize civilians (May 1967)
  22. Awolowo announces that West/Lagos will secede if the East goes. (May 1967)
  23. Political situation deteriorates due to non-implementation of Aburi accord. Ojukwu expresses pessimism at a negotiated settlement. (May 1967)
  24. As impasse continues, Ojukwu seeks mandate from Eastern Assembly to Declare Biafra. (May 1967)
  25. Gowon divides Nigeria into 12 states/Biafra is declared. (May 1967)
  26. Nigeria invades Biafra. (July 1967)
  27. The Mid-west operation and Biafra’s military setbacks. Losses of Nsukka and Enugu. The saboteur phenomenon (August 1967)
  28. Wale Soyinka is arrested and detained; Biafra looses the Mid-west. (August 1967)28a. Two disastrous attempts by Nigerian troops to take Onitsha from Asaba. (October 1967)
  29. Ojukwu executes three military men and a civilian in Enugu. (October 1967)
  30. Soyinka is a confessed Biafran Agent, says Enahoro. (October 1967)
  31. Gowon accuses Portugal of aiding Biafra. (October 1967)
  32. Biafran plane shot down in Lagos. (October 1967)
  33. Biafra Accused of Hiring Mercenaries. (November 1967)
  34. Mrs. Soyinka Requests Hearing for Her Husband. (November 1967)
  35. Soyinks denies alleged Confession. (November 1967)
  36. OAU Mission Visits Nigeria (November 1967)
  37. Ghanaian Gen. Ankrah named OAU Emissary to Biafra. (November 1967)
  38. Nigeria suddenly, changes Currency Notes. (December 1967)1968
  39. Nigeria frees two jailed Americans (January 1968)
  40. Gowon Under Pressure to End War. (January 1968)
  41. Nigerian old Bank Notes Arrive in Geneva. (January 1968)
  42. Ojukwu calls for Cease-fire and Negotiations. (January 1968)
  43. Dick Tiger Joins Biafran Army (January 1968)
  44. Gowon sets 3-months deadline to defeat Biafra (January 1968)
  45. United States Affirms Its Support for one Nigeria. (February 1968)
  46. Commonwealth Secretary Arrives in Lagos. (February 1968)
  47. Dr. Martin Luther King cancels Nigerian Trip. (March 1968)
  48. Monsignor Rochcau Reports on Midwest Genocide. (April 1968)
  49. Tanzania Today Becomes the First Country to recognize the Republic of Biafra as a sovereign State. (April 1968)
  50. Ojukwu Takes One Week Retreat. (April 1968)
  51. New York Times Condemns Tanzania for its Recognition of Biafra. (April 1968)
  52. Houphouet-Boigny Praises Tanzania’s Recognition of Biafra. (April 1968)
  53. Preliminary talks begin in London for both sides. (May 1968)
  54. Zambia recognizes Biafra. (May 1968)
  55. Peace talks begin in Kampala and fails. (May 1968)
  56. Addis Ababa talks begin and fail.(July 1968)
  57. Political and diplomatic battles over acceptable relief routes to Biafra. Nigeria refuses direct daylight airlift of supplies to Biafra, and Biafra refuses relief passed through Nigeria. (July 1968)
  58. Britain accused Ojukwu of obstructing relief operations and of using famine to gain world sympathy.(July 1968)
  59. Belgium cancels all arms supplies to Nigeria following crash of Belgium airliner carrying arms to Lagos.(July 1968)
  60. Over Gowon’s objections, OAU consultative committee invites Ojukwu to Niamey to meet with them by July 18th, 1968 to discuss the crisis.(July 1968)
  61. Ojukwu goes to Niamey, meets OAU committee members and Hamani Diori. Meets with Biafran delegation under Eni Njoku before returning home. Gowon had left Niamey before Ojukwu’s arrival. (July 1968)
  62. Biafra rejects proposed relief route from Enugu to Awgu to Okigwe saying Biafrans will not eat food that passes through Nigerian hands for fear of poisoning. (July 1968)
  63. Speculations on Ojukwu and Gowon leading their respective delegations to upcoming Addis Ababa talks. Ojukwu, in interview, looks forward to decisive confrontation with Gowon.(July 1968)
  64. Pilots flying arms cargo to Biafra with Henry A. Wharton threatening to revolt unless a fee of $1000 per trip in increase is made. (July 1968)
  65. France announced support of Biafra and calls for settlement of dispute on basis of self determination. (July 1968)
  66. Addis Ababa talk opens with Ojukwu present but not Gowon. Ojukwu delivers two hours and ten minutes address insisting that only sovereignty can guarantee security for Biafrans. Ojukwu leaves talk accompanied by two Gabonese officials whose presence Nigeria had protested. (August 1968)
  67. Activities of Biafra 4th Commando Division under Major R. Steiner and five other white officers. (August 1968)
  68. Noted Swedish pilot, Count Von Rosen flies food and medicine to Biafra through secret route immune from Nigerian anti-aircraft fire. (August 1968)
  69. Biafrans display 98 Nigerian troops that surrendered as a unit. (August 1968)
  70. Nigerian troops push for Aba, cross Imo River but encounter Biafran resistance at Akwete; Ojukwu announced that Nigerian thrust on Aba has been effectively checked, but sources say Ojukwu has moved his headquarters to Umuahia (August 1968).
  71. Gowon orders “final offensive”. (August 1968)
  72. Biafra faces imminent collapse in September/October 1968 as Nigerian forces take Aba, Owerri and Okigwe in rapid succession. Umuahia is the only sizeable town in Biafra’s hands. (September 1968)
  73. Charles de Gaulle in interview hints at possibility of recognizing Biafra and admits that France has been aiding Biafra. (September 1968)
  74. Nigerian troops threaten Umuahia but Biafrans are defiant.(September 1968)
  75. International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) suspends relief flights to Biafra because Uli Airport is badly damaged by Nigerian bombs and Nigerian forces are rapidly approaching Ohi- Uturu airstrip. (September 1968)
  76. Nigerian forces near Oguta bringing Uli Airport within artillery range. Ojukwu reportedly visits Biafra commanders at Oguta and gives them 24 hours to clear Nigerian forces from within artillery range of Uli airport.(September 1968)
  77. Nigeria announces capture of Owerri and march on Umuahia.77a. Zambia’s President Kenneth Kaunda announces that Biafra will be allowed to set up government in Exile in Zambia, if defeated.(September 1968)
  78. As Biafra loses Aba, Owerri, and Okigwe in rapid succession, Ojukwu asks China for help to counter what he called “Anglo-American imperialism and Soviet revisionism”. (September 1968)78a. Otuocha market massacre by Nigerian war planes; over 500 killed. (September 1968)
  79. Canada rules Biafran postage stamps invalid.(October 1968)
  80. International observer team, sent to monitor conduct of Nigerian troops, clashes with Col. Benjamin Adekunle in Port Harcourt. (October 1968)80b. Nigeria apologises for Col. Adekunle’s behaviour (October 1968)
  81. Biafra dismisses Col. Steiner and his mercenary group in charge of the Biafran 4th Commando Division. Action linked to friction between Steiner division and Biafran regular army units. (November 1968)
  82. Britain alters expectation of Nigerian total military victory over Biafra. Expects that Biafra, even if totally occupied, could prolong the stalemate by guerilla resistance. (December 1968)
  83. Biafran troops re-enter Owerri,, with house to house combat reported. (December 1968)
  84. Gowon declares 2-day Christmas truce starting Dec. 21. Ojukwu agrees to 8-day truce starting Dec. 23. Gowon refuses extension of truce to one week. (December 1968)1969
  85. De Gaulle urges “recognition of right to self-determination for valiant Biafra” (January 1969)
  86. Mobil Oil Corporation sponsors visit of J.S. Tarka to United States to counter Pro-Biafran sentiments. (January 1969)
  87. In Enugu, the Nigerian Army executes 3 Igbos accused of attempting to assassinate Nigeria’s 1st Division Commander. Col. Mohammed Shuwa. (January 1969)
  88. Nigerian Government prepares for another final offensive. Nigerian Government spokesman says Biafra must be defeated by the end of February or growing international support will make Nigerian victory impossible. (February 1969)
  89. About 300 civilians (with eventual toll over 500) are killed by the Nigerian air force at Umuohiagu market. (February 1969)
  90. Ojukwu, in a speech to Biafra’s consultative assembly in Umuahia, says that Nigerian Government has began their “last desperate effort”, but bars any Biafran surrender. States “land army program” will increase agricultural effort. (February 1969)
  91. United States New York Senator, Goodell et al, arrive in Biafra. (February 1969)
  92. U.S. Congressional delegation headed by Representative Diggs of Michigan arrive Biafra. (February 1969)
  93. Nigerian government reject peace formula proposed by Dr. Azikiwe (February 1969)
  94. Ojukwu expresses hope that De Gaulle, in his forthcoming meeting with Richard Nixon will convince Nixon to press for cease-fire in the war. Ojukwu in interview, discusses three ways in which the war may end. (February 1969)
  95. Nigerian warplane kills over 250 civilians in Ozu-abam market. (February 1969)
  96. The United States, the Red Cross and others protest Nigerian’s bombing of civilian population in Biafra. (March 1969)
  97. British Prime Minister, Harold Wilson arrives Nigeria for state visit 29/3/69. Wilson invites Ojukwu to meet with him outside Biafra. Warns Gowon that bombing of Biafran civilians is eroding the remnant of British support for the war(March 1969)
  98. Ojukwu rejects Wilson’s invitation; calls invitation “political propaganda exercise”. (April 1969)
  99. Nigerian troops open another offensive, after six months. (April 1969)
  100. Several push-and-shove action between Nigerian and Biafran forces between Uzuakoli and Umuahia. (April 1969)
  101. OAU Committee opens another meeting to try and end the war. (April 1969)
  102. Medical camps for care of Biafran children are established in the Ivory Coast run by doctors of New York’s Columbia Presbyterian Hospital and Ivory Coast Red Cross. (April 1969)
  103. Biafra recaptures Owerri using its 14th Division under Col. Ogbugo Kalu. (April 1969)103a. Col. Ogbugo Kalu and Biafran Information Commissioner, Ifegwu Eke, address 6 foreign jounalists in Owerri to counter Nigerian denial of its recapture (April 1969)
  104. Ojukwu is promoted to Major General and given new mandate to continue the war. (May 13, 1969)
  105. Colonels Adekunle and Haruna, commanders of Nigeria’s 3rd and 2nd Divisions respectively are relived from their posts. (May 1969)
  106. Pius Okigbo, Biafra’s rep. to the U.S. urges U.S. to recognize Biafra. (May 1969)
  107. ICRC (Red Cross) Director, Dr. August Lindt and aides are detained for 16 hours by Nigeria with no charges. (May 1969)
  108. Youth, B. Mayrock, of Old. Westbury, New York, sets himself on fire and dies in protest against Genocide in Biafra. (May 1969)
  109. Biafra marks 2nd anniversary of nationhood. Ojukwu, in address, says Biafran forces are ready to meet expected Nigerian offensive. ( May 1969)
  110. Biafran forces raid Kwale, across the Niger, killing 11 oil technicians (10 Italians and 1 Jordanian). Biafra captures 17 other oil workers (14 Italian and 3 W. Germans.) Biafra sentences them to death. (June 1969)
  111. Pope writes letter to Ojukwu regarding lives of Oilmen captures in the Mid-West. (June 1969)
  112. Wale Soyinka is reported seriously ill in Kaduna Prison, where he is incarcerated without trial. (June 1969)112b Nigeria shoots down a Swedish Red Cross Plane.(June 1969)
  113. Biafra frees captured Oilmen.(June 1969)
  114. Nixon urges end of impasse on relief shipments. (June 1969)
  115. US Senator, Strum Thurmond, urges Nixon to rush relief food to Biafra with or without Nigerian permission. (July 1969)
  116. Pope visits Uganda and attempts to mediate peace between Nigeria and Biafra. (August 1969)
  117. Zik withdraws support for succession and urges Biafra to abandon war. (August 1969)
  118. Gabonese President, Albert Bongo, reports that Gowon requested him to arrange meeting between him and Ojukwu; Nigeria denies making such a move. (September 1969)
  119. Wale Soyinka is freed. (October 1969)
  120. Canadian Prime Minister accuses Biafran authorities of being interested in receiving arms, not food and medical supplies. (November 1969)
  121. Nigerian forces open offensives on both Northern and Southern borders of Biafra, ending a seven month lull. (December 1969)
  122. Biafran delegates arrive at Addis Ababa for new peace talks but Nigerian delegates were absent. (December 1969)
  123. Ojukwu, in Christmas speech says that Biafra is faced with the toughest military test of the war. (December 1969)1970
  124. As war entered 30th month, Nigerian troops report they’ve cut Biafra into three parts. (January 3)
  125. Massive Nigerian troops link up and pressure cause refugees to stream into Owerri as Biafra nears collapse. (January 4th)
  126. Ojukwu announces over Radio Biafra that he is flying out of Biafra “to explore possibilities” for peace. (January 11th)
  127. Nigerian forces reportedly recaptures Owerri and are moving on Uli Airport. Pandemonium and fright as millions of Biafran refugees clog roads in chaotic flight from advancing Nigerian troops and artillery fire. (January 11)
  128. Biafra appears near collapse as Nigeria confirms recapture of Owerri, and Uli airport is virtually destroyed by artillery fire. (January 11)
  129. Biafra capitulates, ending a 30-month war that cost an estimated two million lives on both sides. (January 11)
  130. General Effiong, in radio broadcast, orders Biafran troops to lay down their arms and says he is sending representatives to meet with the Nigerian field commanders to negotiate armistice. ( January 13)
  131. Gowon, in broadcast, rejects all relief aid from countries or groups that aided Biafra. (January 14)
  132. Nigerian Red Cross claims sole responsibility for distribution of relief. (January 15)
  133. Last Missionaries to Leave Biafra Describe the Beginning of the End. (January 15)
  134. Biafrans Scramble to get on the Last Plane. (January 15)
  135. Gowon Re-instates Biafran Civil Servants and Prohibits the Word “Biafra”. (January 15)
  136. Effiong makes formal surrender statement/declaration in a ceremony in Lagos. (January 16)
  137. Ojukwu appeals to the world to help save Biafrans in a statement released for him in Geneva by Markpress. (January 16)
  138. Last observers to leave Biafra describe the beginning of the end. (January 16)
  139. Nigeria Expels 4 Journalists for Visiting the East without Permission. (January 17)
  140. General Effiong reassures the Nigerian Government that the Biafran forces hiding in the bushes will not wage guerilla war. (January 18)
  141. Portugal offers asylum to all Biafran refugees and says it will maintain its facilities at Sao Tome for relief operation. (January 19)
  142. Nigeria thanks USSR; Ambassador George T. Kurubo says Soviet aid to Nigeria was the most important factor in the defeat of Biafra. (January 21)
  143. Nigeria drops safe conduct passes to remote areas to persuade Biafran troops and civilians to come out from hiding places. (January 21)
  144. Obasanjo Detains 80 Journalists in Port Harcourt. (January 21)
  145. Gowon, After Stalling, Increases Money for Relief Distribution; First News Conference since End of the War. (January 22)
  146. Gabon Offers Asylum to Biafran Exiles. (January 22)
  147. Nigeria Grappling with Troop Brutality and Indiscipline. (January 23)
  148. Unabated Food Shortage in Biafra. (January 23)
  149. British Team Deplores Indiscipline among Nigerian Troops. (January 24)
  150. Ojukwu is given asylum in the Ivory Coast. Ivory Coast Government says he will refrain from all political activities. (January 24)150b. Reports of indiscipline, plundering and looting among Nigeria’s 3rd Marine Commando troops. (January 24)
  151. Nigerian Government refuses to use Uli Airport for relief, saying it is a symbol of rebellion. (January 26)
  152. U.N. Envoy Calls Biafran Relief Distribution Insufficient. (January 26)
  153. Facing Criticism, Nigerian red Cross says It’s Expanding Relief Operations. (January 27)
  154. Nigeria Arrests Two C.B.S. Newsmen. (January 27)
  155. Gowon says there will be no Nuremburg-type trials for rebel leaders and he reiterates General amnesty. (January 30)
  156. New York Times columnist, A. Lewis describes chaotic conditions in Biafra. (February 1)
  157. Nigeria Establishes Board of Inquiry for Biafran Officers. (February 6)
  158. ICRC ends relief operations, citing Nigeria’s obstructionist tendencies. (February 7)
  159. Nigeria Bans Arms Possession in 3 Eastern States. (February 13)
  160. U Thant defends his policies during and immediately after the war. (February 18)
  161. Igbos are beginning to return to their jobs in the North, West, and Lagos. (February 22)
  162. Gowon Urged to Abate Anti-Missionary Hostility. (March 7)
  163. Ojukwu to Face High Treason Charges. (March 14)
  164. Nigeria’s National Rehabilitation commission takes over relief distribution from the Nigerian Red Cross. (March 15)
  165. Nigerian Chief Army of Staff, Brigadier H.U. Katsina says Ojukwu will be tried or high treason if he returns. (March 15)
  166. Maj. Gen. Effiong Under Arrest. (May 8)
  167. Flat payment of 20 pounds to all Igbos for their Biafran and pre-war Nigerian money deposited in Nigerian Banks, regardless of amount. (June 5)
  168. Nigeria to Dismiss Pro-Biafran Employees. (August 15)
  169. Nigeria Reconciles with Biafra’s Friends. (September 1)
  170. Nigeria reconciles with Tanzania, Ivory Coast, Gabon and Zambia. (September 2)
  171. Gowon defers civilian rule to 1976. States census and new constitution are prerequisites to civilian administration. (October 2)
  172. 5000 Biafran children evacuated during the war return to Lagos. (October 11)

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