The Federal Government has said politically-disgruntled individuals and treasury looters are sponsoring secession agitators, the Indigenous People of Biafra, to destabilise the country.
It noted that the group served no other purpose than to achieve such inglorious aim.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said this on Sunday during a press conference in Lagos.
“The past few days have been a trying one for Nigeria with the activities of the so-called Indigenous People of Biafra reaching a crescendo and threatening the unity of our dear nation, Nigeria.
“A rag tag mob that calls itself IPOB and its gullible supporters felt they could seize a large swathe of the Nigerian territory, set up parallel military and para-military organisations, mount road blocks and even confront the Nigerian military. Their leader openly solicits weapons and incites hatred and violence.
“Some of the group’s atrocities have been well documented by the military, which has labelled IPOB a terrorist organisation. They include the formation of a Biafra Secret Service, claimed formation of Biafra National Guard, unauthorised blocking of public access roads; extortion of money from innocent civilians at illegal roadblocks, and possession and use of weapons (stones, molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles among others) on a military patrol on 10 September 2017.”
The minister alleged that the group engaged in physical confrontation with troops at a checkpoint on September 11, 2017. He noted that during the confrontation, they attempted to snatch soldiers’ rifles and carry out an attack on a military checkpoint on September 12, 2017.
He added, “No nation, not Nigeria, will allow that to happen unchallenged. The fact that Boko Haram festered because it was not decisively tackled by the immediate past administration meant we should never again give room for any organisation to threaten the corporate existence of our country.
“But for its quick and decisive intervention, IPOB could have set the nation on fire. The governors of the states in the South-East have wisely proscribed IPOB. This step, though long overdue, is still commendable,” he stated.
According to him, there is no doubt that the wounds inflicted on the nation’s psyche by the activities of IPOB will take some time to heal.
The minister noted, “But while that happens, Nigerians must understand that IPOB was not set up to fight for the right of anyone or group, but as a tool to destabilise the nation, divert attention from the efforts of the Buhari administration and obliterate the laudable achievements of the administration.
“The activities of IPOB became heightened with the advent of this administration, and have been unrelenting since then. If this is coincidental, then that coincidence is uncanny, at the least. Remember that Nnamdi Kanu, who led a protest at the Nigeria House in London against Boko Haram insurgency and in support of Nigeria’s unity under the Jonathan administration, has suddenly metamorphosed into an IPOB monster, who will rather set the nation ablaze.
“Has anyone wondered why IPOB decided to up the ante, so to say, in its violent campaign immediately it was announced that Nigeria has come out of recession? Now, instead of the government being given the chance to consolidate on that monumental achievement, it is being distracted, and the airwaves have been polluted with the activities of IPOB.”
Besides, he regretted that the good news of the end of recession and its effects were being replaced with headlines about IPOB’s ‘show of shame’.
He added, “The self-imposed IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, is the master of hate speech. No one, including the same people whose rights he claimed to be championing, escaped his vitriolic and primitive attacks. We challenge all his sympathisers to scrutinise his incendiary, divisive and inciting speeches, the name calling and the derogatory remarks about the nation’s leaders, and then tell the nation if such do not constitute hate speech.
“Leaders of thought and commentators, who have shown the inclination to accommodate Kanu and his excesses, should say if this is what they expect from someone who wants to lead.
“As the bloodied and battered IPOB staggers around, we must warn the nation against the group’s next line of action, which is to externalise their lies and propaganda. Now they are writing to the governments and the national parliaments of some western nations to give the impression that they are victims of an ethno-sectarian violence orchestrated by the government, hence they need protection. This is a blatant lie.
“It is not in the agenda of this administration to suppress its citizens for whatever reasons. Not even the excesses of some people on the social media have forced the government to do anything that will stifle press freedom or freedom of expression.”
The Federal Government also accused IPOB of engaging in a massive harvesting of gory videos from the past and from other lands to hoodwink the public, and in particular the international community, into believing that its members were victims of state-sponsored violence.
According to the minister, such videos, which have very high emotive quotient, are circulating on the social media.
He said, “We call on all to subject all such videos to the greatest scrutiny so as not to be misled. In particular, we urge the international community not to jump to any conclusion on the basis of such videos.”
Appealing to the media to show restraints at this time, he said reporting issues of IPOB, especially since the military deployed troops in the South-East for its exercise, tagged Operation Python Dance II, had been sensationalised by a section of the media.
Stating that IPOB’s machinations had failed as Nigerians had seen beyond cheap tactics and avoided being incited against one another, he urged Nigerians to remain vigilant and resolute to say no to the incendiary and divisive tendencies of IPOB and its cohorts.