The Republic of Biafra in West Africa was a breakaway region which was ruled by the Igbo community, covering the eastern region of Nigeria. Its name was taken from the “Bight of Biafra” off the coastline of West Africa in the easternmost point of the Gulf of Guinea. The secessionist nation was bordered by Nigeria and Cameroon and had access to the Gulf of Guinea and the South Atlantic Ocean. Because of cultural, economic, and ethnic disputes among Nigerian citizens, the state declared independence from Nigeria which was led by Lieutenant Colonel Odumegwu Ojukwu of the Eastern Region. This declaration of independence had triggered the Nigerian civil war. Biafra then became the Republic of Biafra in May 1967 and ceased to exist in January 1970.
During the war, French medical volunteers and Biafran health practitioners, as well as international aid, were blocked by the Nigerian forces from getting through the region to provide assistance. Hence, a massive number of Biafran citizens starved and suffered from malnutrition. Following Biafra's secession, the Bank of Biafra was established under “Decree No. 3 of 1967” and administered by its first governor Sylvester Ugoh. Initially located in Enugu, the bank had been moved to different locations several times because of the war. The state was using the Nigerian pound as its legal tender until the Biafran pound was introduced on January 28, 1968. Its first banknotes were 5 shillings and 1 pound bearing a palm tree and a big rising on the obverse design. The back side of the 5 shilling banknote showed four Biafran native young girls and the 1 pound bill reflected the coat of arms of Biafra.
In February 1969, the bank released another set of banknotes in denominations of 10 shillings, 5, and 10 pounds, highlighting a palm tree and a smaller rising sun on their obverse design. Their reverse sides depicted an oil refinery, a female weaver, and a carver, respectively. At the time that these paper bills were issued, they were not recognized as a monetary unit by other nations. Later on, these banknotes were put in the numismatics market as “curious money”.