But while he was visiting Owerri, Mr. Adamu was fired as police chief by the Nigerian president, Muhammadu Buhari. It was a month before his tenure was set to end, and the reasons for the dismissal were unclear.

It has been 51 years since the end of the Nigerian civil war in which people of the eastern region broke away 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 Biafran dream is alive and well.

It is nurtured by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, a populist figure who peddles conspiracy theories — including one that the Nigerian president died and was replaced by a body double. Nevertheless, Mr. Kanu has managed to amass a huge following.

Biafra’s enduring popularity — and the group’s — is attributable in part to the rampant police abuses that a generation of Nigerians rose up against last fall, under the banner of the #EndSARS movement.

Young people in southeastern states have for years complained of arbitrary arrests, torture and killings at the hands of the security forces, who are usually drawn from other regions of Nigeria. Convinced that Biafra should be a separate country, many residents of the southeast say the heavy 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 late February, according to local media reports.

“With the way things are going, in two years’ time Nigeria may be able to play host to 30 to 40 insurgency groups, because government is pushing the people to the wall,” said Mr. Umeagbalasi, the criminologist.

Ben Ezeamalu reported from Lagos, Nigeria, and Ruth Maclean from Dakar, Senegal.

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