Biafra War Part 17: Top 17 Things You Didn’t Know the Republic of Biafra and Its Political Structure
1. The Republic of Biafra took its name from the Bight of Biafra, the vast expanse of water covering the continental shelf into which the Niger River empties before flowing into the Gulf of Biafra.
2. After Biafra’s surrender, that body of water was renamed the Gulf of Guinea.
3. The origins of the word “Biafra” are difficult to trace, although historical records point to Portuguese writings from the sixteenth century that it may have been derived from.
4. The republic’s capital was initially Enugu, a metropolis of over one hundred thousand at the time. Enugu was also the old
administrative capital of the Eastern Region.
5. When Enugu fell to the Nigerian army on October 4, 1967, the administrative capital of Biafra was moved to Umuahia.
6. Following the capture of Umuahia on April 22, 1969, Biafra’s capital was moved once again, to Owerri, the last administrative seat before the end of the war in January 1970.
7. The population of Biafra in June 1967 was just under fifteen million people, and it was home to a large number of ethnic groups in addition to the Igbo, who made up about 65 percent of the population. The other major groups were the Efik, Ibibio, Ijaw, and Ikwerre. Others included the Andoni, Agbo, Degema, Egbema, Eket, Ekoi, Ibeno, Ikom, Iyalla, Kana, Mbembe, Uyanga, and Yako.
8. Biafra was divided initially into eleven administrative provinces with as many administrators. Later that number was expanded to twenty.
9. Once secession was declared it became clear that the war effort required a great deal of military equipment—artillery, planes, boats, tanks, guns, grenades, mines, bombs, etc. Biafra needed the means to access foreign exchange and a legal tender for commerce. One of the first things the new government did was to establish the Bank of Biafra.
10. The Bank of Biafra was located in Enugu until the city fell in October 1967,
11. The Bank of Biafra was moved several times to different locations all over Igbo land,
with the seat of government. The bank’s first governor was Dr. Sylvester Ugoh.
12. The legal tender produced by the institution in January 1968 was designed by
Simon Okeke and other talented local artists.
13. The first denominations of the Biafra Legal tender were the
five shilling and one pound notes.
14. About a year later, the ten, five, and one pound as well as the ten and five shilling notes were issued.
15. Despite Biafra Legal Tender usefulness, it was not a recognized legal tender beyond Biafra’s borders and could not be used for foreign exchange.
16. This dilemma produced a number of challenges for the Biafran government and people had to use private bank accounts of wealthy Biafrans to perform transactions abroad.