But while visiting Owerri, Mr. Adamu was fired as police chief by Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari. A month passed before his term ended and the reasons for the dismissal were unclear.
It has been 51 years since the end of the Nigerian civil war in which the people of the eastern region were separated from the rest of the country. Biafra, the state they created, came to an end when its leaders surrendered after 30 months of fighting.
But the Biafra dream is alive and well.
It is fueled by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Biafra Indigenous People, a populist figure selling conspiracy theories, including one that the Nigerian president died and was replaced by a body double. However, Kanu has managed to accumulate a large following.
Biafra’s enduring popularity, and that of the group, can be attributed in part to the rampant police abuses against which a generation of Nigerians rose up last fall, under the banner of the #EndSARS movement.
Young people in the southeastern states have for years complained of arbitrary arrests, torture and killings at the hands of the security forces, who generally come from other regions of Nigeria. Convinced that Biafra should be a separate country, many residents of the southeast say that the strong military presence in the region is reminiscent of an occupying foreign army.
The prison break is part of a pattern of attacks on national security forces. Six police stations were razed and 10 police officers killed in the southeast by gunmen over two weeks starting in late February, according to local media reports.
“With the way things are going, in two years Nigeria could be the headquarters of 30 to 40 insurgent groups, because the government is pushing people against the wall,” said Mr. Umeagbalasi, the criminologist.
Ben Ezeamalu reported from Lagos, Nigeria and Ruth Maclean from Dakar, Senegal.