Biafra

The banknotes of an ephemeral country!

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A short and violent history

In 1960, Nigeria obtained its independence. The country is then divided into three regions with a large autonomy. In January 1966, a first coup d'état allowed General Johnson Aguiyi-Ironsi to come to power. But the ethnic origin (Igbo) of the new head of state is causing the rise of racist tensions between the different communities. On July 29, 1966, a second coup d'état, led by soldiers from northern Nigeria, brought Colonel Yakubu Gowon to the head of a military government. Between May and September 1966, terrible massacres were perpetrated against the Igbos and other populations originating from southern Nigeria, but settled in the North. In retaliation, thousands of Hausa, Idoma and Tiv civilians were murdered by Igbos in the east, causing a mass exodus of populations.

These exterminations, unrecognized on both sides, lead directly to civil war. The igbos, mostly Christians and animists, decided to free themselves from the federal tutelage of the Hausa, mostly Muslim. On May 30, 1967, the military governor of the eastern region, Odumegwu Emeka Ojukwu, proclaimed the independence of the Republic of Biafra (1). The borders of the new state correspond to a region of eastern Nigeria created by the British in 1939. Although the ethnic origin of the conflict is undeniable, it is also motivated by economic interests, as Biafra is the region richest in oil reserves! Many observers of the time have also deduced that the belligerents had been supported by European powers based on promises expected for future exploitation of these deposits. France will also provide discreet aid with consignments including arms and mercenaries. In the end, only four African countries (Tanzania, Gabon, Ivory Coast, Zambia) and Haiti will recognize the young republic of Biafra.

This civil, political, religious and ethnic war, very deadly, will cause more than a million deaths, in particular because of famine. The conflict ended on January 15, 1970 and Biafra, which only existed for a few years, from 1967 to 1970, was definitively reintegrated into the Republic of Nigeria.



Banknotes issues

The Bank of Biafra was created in 1967 by the government of Biafra (decree n ° 3). The first governor of the bank to sign the banknotes was Sylvester Ugoh. A second decree (No. 4 of 1967) amends the banking law of the Federal Republic of Nigeria for the Republic of Biafra. The Biafra pound, backed by the Nigerian pound, became official on January 28, 1968.

The first issue of 1968 consisted of only two banknotes: the 5 shillings Type 1968 (Ref. Pick: # 1) and the 1 pound Type 1968 (Ref. Pick: # 2). In 1969, the Bank of Biafra authorized a second issue of five notes of 5 shillings, 10 shillings, 1 pound, 5 pounds and 10 pounds.

It is estimated that by the end of the Civil War around £ 115-140 million was in circulation with a population of 14 million, or around £ 10 per person (2).


The 7 Biafra banknotes are not difficult to collect and are only affordable. Note however that the 1 pound Type 1968 encounters an original printing error: the front is printed on the back and the back is printed upside down on the front. The serial number is also missing!

1_pound_error.jpg

1_pound_error_v.jpg


In conclusion, a 5-shillings Type 1968 note without the sun's rays on the front was identified and featured on the Bank Note Museum website. This note, numbered A/O 6754399 is currently the only copy known to date and symbolizes precisely but sadly ... the extinction of a country.

5_shillings_sun_without_rays.jpg



Notes

(1) The name Biafra comes from the Gulf of Biafra located to the south, on the Atlantic coast, itself named after the name - Biafara - of the capital of a state that remained mysterious but located by Portuguese sailors in the 15th century set back from the coast, between the former kingdom of Benin and Loango (Source: Wikipedia).
(2) “Banknotes from a forgotten era in West Africa”, posted on December 1, 2017 by Navona Numismatics.


Our sources

  • "Biafra" by Owen W. Linzmeyer.
  • "Biafra" Standard Catalog of World Paper Money, 1961-present, 17th edition (page 131).
  • Bank Note Museum : Biafra.
  • "Biafra" by Wikipedia.
  • Photo archive of cgb.fr.

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