Biafrans Capitulate To Nigeria: US Increases Grant For Relief

School children gather at the courtyard reminiscing the effects of the tragic. Image: A. Abbas/Magnum Photos (1971)


BY LAWRENCE FELLOWS

JANUARY 13, 1970

LAGOS, NIGERIA (THE NEW YORK TIMES)
—Biafra, with its last de fenses crumbling and its supplies of food and ammunition exhausted, capitulated yesterday to the Nigerian Government.

Brig. Philip Effiong, the Bi afran Chief of Staff, who took over the leadership Saturday night when Gen. Odumegwu Ojukwu fled the besieged remnant of the secessionist region, announced on the Biafran radio this afternoon that the attempt at secession had failed.

[Unconfirmed reports from Lusaka, Zambia, said Monday night that General Ojukwu was expected to arrive with in the next day. It was un derstood that Zambia had of fered him asylum. Page 15.]

Brigadier Effiong ordered Biafran forces to disengage from battle in an orderly fashion and said that he was sending representatives to Nigerian field commanders to negotiate an armistice.

Gowon Accepts Offer

Immediately after the broadcast Gen. Yakubu Gowon, head of the Nigerian Government, issued directives to troops in the field to provide full pr tection of surrendering Biafran forces and to shoot only if they encountered resistance.

He ordered that particular care be taken to insure the safety of civilians in the liberated areas. To relieve some of the fears of soldiers and civilians in the vanquished republic, he ordered civilian policemen to accompany troops.

At midnight, more than seven hours after the offer of surrender, General Gowan made broadcast to the nation stating that he accepted in “good faith” the surrender offer.

“We have arrived at one of the greatest moments in the history of our nation,” he said, “a great moment of victory for unity and national reconciliation.

“Our objective was to crush the rebellion, to maintain the territorial integrity of our nation, to assert the ability of the black man to build a strong, progressive and prosperous modern nation.” he said.

News Spread Slowly

The news of the capitulation had taken a while to spread into the streets of Lagos. There was little obvious excitement. Not everyone has a radio good enough to receive the frail Biafran transmitter, but by last night the news was moving rapidly through Lagos.

A crowd gathered in Independence Square, just passing the news to all who came by. The Daily Times published an extra edition with the huge headline “Rebels Surrender.”

The brutal, bewildering civil war in Nigeria had lasted just over 30 months. There may never be an accurate reckoning, but it probably cost Nigeria more than a billion dollars and something like two million lives.

It has been estimated that at most there are four million people left in what remains of Biafra. It had a population of 14 million when General Ojukwu, then a lieutenant colonel, raised the flag of independence on May 30, 1967. On July 7 that year it was plunged into this wasting war. Most of the two million dead were lost to starvation. At the very least, 1.5 million will need quick relief now from some measure of starvation.

“I thank the civil population for their steadfastness and courage in the face of over whelming odds and privation,” Brigadier Effiong said in his broadcast. He spoke solemnly, but without faltering, in English. His six‐minute message was then rebroadcast by the Biafran radio in four other languages of the country.

Disillusionment Cited

“I am convinced now that a stop must be put to the bloodshed which is going on as a result of the war,” he continued. “I am also convinced that the suffering of our people must be brought to an immediate end. Our people are now disillusioned.”

He continued: “Those elements of the old government regime who have made negotiation and reconciliation impossible have voluntarily removed themselves from our midst.”

The reference was to Gen eral Ojukwu and some of the other leaders of the secession movement. It was still not known in Lagos where General Ojukwu, his closest followers and his family had gone.

The Nigerian Government said yesterday that it had cer tain knowledge that General Ojukwu and 19 others, including him immediate family, three tons of luggage and a Mercedes Benz were flown out of Biafra Saturday night in a Super Constellation—“an aircraft supplied by a certain foreign government supposedly for relief flights.”

Whether the government's statement was true was an important matter before the day was out. It was made long before 4:40 P.M., when Brigadier Effiong spoke.

For two days the Biafran radio had broadcast nothing but music. Some indication had been awaited from the Biafrans of the effect on them of the recapture of Owerri by Nigerian troops and of the destruction by artillery fire of the airstrip at Uli, the only significant means they had of receiving shipments of food and ammunition.

Last night the Government announced that its forces had captured Uli airstrip and the town of Orlu, the home of General Ojukwu in Ibo the heart land.

Just before Brigadier Effiong spoke, the radio played Beethoven's Fifth Symphony, symbol of the resistance to Hitler in the dark, early, days of World War II. It caused more than one heart to sink among the Nigerians who had listened to the Biafran radio faithfully all day.

“I urge on General Gowon in the name of humanity to order his troops to pause while an armistice is negotiated,” the Brigadier said.

“We have always believed that our differences with Nigeria could be settled by peaceful negotiations,” he said. “A delegation of our people is therefore ready to meet represenatives of the Nigerian federal Government anywhere to negotiate a peace settlement on the basis of O.A.U. resolutions.”

By accepting the resolutions of the Organization of. African Unity, the Biafran leader showed the completeness of his surrender. The organization has never accepted Biafra's secession, and was against any settlement of the civil war that would violate the integrity of the Nigerian nation.

Resistance Ruled Out

Brigadier Effiong, said there was no thought of a Biafran government‐in‐exile, and came out strongly against further resistance either passively or in some form of guerrilla warfare.

“Any question of a government in exile is repudiated by our people,” he said.

“The whole population are hereby advised to remain calm and to cooperate with the armed forces and police in the maintenance, of law and order,” he said. We should remain in our homes and stop the mass movements which have in creased suffering and loss of life.”

How swift would be the effect of the orders General Gowon has sent to his troops in the field could not be ascertained immediately. Discipline is not always ideal in Nigeria's army, which grew from a force of 8,000 men at the time of Biafra's secession to 150,000 men now. Communications are not always easy in a country four‐times the size of Britain, more populous than any in Africa and more turbulent than most, even in peacetime.

The Nigerians were already moving relief supplies of food staples to the edge of the battlefronts yesterday. A shipment of 500 tons of rice, beans and fish—staples in this part of the world—was sent to the South eastern State for distribution to refugees slipping through the lines, most without knowledge of the capitulation.

Another shipment of 18 tons of food went to the Rivers State, which. Biafra claimed but which was lost early in the war.

Relief Shipments Ready

More shipments of food were being organized by the Niger ian Government to be placed at depots close to the shrunken borders of Biafra for quick distribution.

The Americans, .British and others are standing by with enormous means of‐ transport and food aid for the mciment the Nigerian Government gives the word.

No one really knows the dimensions of the problem. Not even the population of Biafra is known, nor can it be known, for the borders are uncertain and shifting always in the vagaries of warfare in these damp West African forests.

In his broadcast Brigadier Effiong said:

“On behalf of our people thank those foreign governments and friends who have steadfastly given us support in our cause. We shall continue to count on their continued help and counsel.

“I also thank His Holiness the Pope, Joint Church Aid and other relief organizations for the help they have given for the relief of suffering and starvation.”

He concluded his broadcast by saying, “I appeal to all governments to give urgent help for relief and to prevail on the Fed eral Government to order their troops to stop all military operations.”

Gowon Orders Amnesty

LAGOS, TUESDAY, JANUARY 13 (AGENCE FRANCE PRESSE) — Maj. Gen. Yakubu Gowon, the Nigerian leader, said last mid night that he had instructed Nigerian troops to arrange for a mass surrender by the Biafran Army.

General Gowon in a radio broadcast that he had announced an amnesty “to all those who were led into futile attempts to disintegrate the country”

He said the fall of Biafra was a “great victory for national unity and reconciliation.”

“We have reached the end of a tragic and painful con flict,” he said. “Thirty months ago, we were obliged, to take up arms against our brother; who were deceived and misled into armed rebellion against their fatherland.”

“I pay tribute to the courage and resourcefulness of all who have fought so long against local troops as victims of Ojukwu's vicious propaganda and the machinations of certain foreign governments,” the general said.

He said in a radio broadcast that he accepted in “good faith” the declaration of Brigadier Effiong accepting the O.A.U. resolution providing for the unity and territorial integrity of Nigeria.

“I ask all the secessionist troops to act honorably and lay down their arms in an orderly manner,” he said. “The officers of the secessionist troops are asked to send emissaries to federal field commanders at once to work out detailed arrangements for orderly surrender: All field commanders will take all necessary measures to give full protection to surrendering troops.”

“We reiterate our promise of general amnesty for all those misled into the futile attempt to disintegrate the country,” he said, adding that Nigerians must demonstrate their role for an honorable reconciliation.

He concluded: “We have all welcomed with open arms the people now freed from the tyranny and hate of Ojukwu and his gang. Long live one united Nigeria! We thank God for his mercy.”

Thousands Reported Fleeing

LAGOS, NIGERIA, JANUARY 12 (REUTERS)--The Nigerian radio reported tonight that thousands of men, women and children were pouring out of Biafra.

In a special broadcast, the radio emphasized the need to work for reconciliation, rehabilitation and reconstruction after the ravages of the civil war.

The Government‐owned stations said it was heartening to know that Nigeria now could divert her resources to more useful directions other than the wastes of the war.

“We have a great deal to do in other directions,” the radio said.” We have women and children to feed and clothe. Rehabilitation and reconstruction are now going to be our main task.”

In Benin, the capital of Nigeria's Midwestern State, hundreds of persons ran into he streets shouting “peace” and “freedom” at news that Biafran leaders had called for in armistice.

Huge groups of dancing, shouting people thronged the street corners, waving their arms and shaking hands with passers‐by.

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