BY JONATHAN NDA- ISAIAH, MUYIWA OYINLOLA, AHURAKA ISAH, JULIANA AGBO, Abuja, ISAIAH BENJAMIN, Kaduna and MATTHIAS NWOGU, UMUAHIA –
The federal government has described the activities of members of the indigenous people of biafra (IPOB) as an orchestrated plot by opposition elements to destabilise the President Muhammadu Buhari-led government.
It said those behind the sinister plan are the politically disgruntled treasury looters who think that by sponsoring IPOB to disrupt Nigeria and cause confusion, they can be able to evade justice and get themselves free to loot the country dry again.
Minister of Information, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, who made government’s position known yesterday in Lagos, urged Nigerians to understand that against popular belief, “IPOB was not set up to fight for the right of anyone or group, but as a tool to destabilize the nation, divert attention from the efforts of the Buhari Administration and obliterate the laudable achievements of the administration.
“IPOB is being sponsored by those I will call the Coalition of the politically disgruntled and the treasury looters. They believe that by sponsoring this group to destabilize the country and trigger chaos, they will realise their ambition of escaping justice and then be free to dip their hands into the nation’s treasury again”, he added.
Speaking to journalists on the state of the nation, especially on the recent upheaval in the South East following the clampdown on the group by Operation Python Dance II, the minister noted that the past few days had been a trying one for the country, “with the activities of the so-called IPOB 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 organizations, mount road blocks and even confront the Nigerian military. Their leader openly solicits for weapons and incites hatred and violence”, he stated.
He however disclosed that “Some of the group’s atrocities have been well documented by the military, which has labelled IPOB a terrorist organization”.
According to the minister, such atrocities 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 road blocks, as well as possession and use of weapons (stones, molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles among others) on a military patrol on 10 September, 2017.
He noted that IPOB engaged in physical confrontation with troops at a check point on 11 September 2017, during which they attempted to snatch soldiers’ rifles, and carried out an attack on a military check point on September 1, 2017.
He, however, stated that no nation, including Nigeria will allow that to happen unchallenged, stressing that the fact that Boko Haram festered because it was not decisively tackled by the immediate past administration meant the nation should never again give room for any organisation to threaten the corporate existence of Nigeria.
Mohammed commended the Nigerian military “for once again living up to its constitutional responsibility”, noting that but for its quick and decisive intervention, IPOB could have set the nation on fire.
He also lauded the governors of the states in the South East for proscribing IPOB, saying the step, “though long overdue, is still commendable”.
He noted that the activities of IPOB, which became heightened with the advent of the current administration, 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 that will rather set the nation ablaze”, he pointed out.
Mohammed further warned against the group’s next line of action, which he said is to “externalize their lies and propaganda”.
He continued: “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 truth is that IPOB is being sponsored to destabilize our nation. It serves no other purpose beyond that”.
The former APC spokesperson also noted that IPOB is also engaging in a massive harvesting of gory videos from the distant past and from other lands to hoodwink the public, and in particular the international community, into believing that they are the victims of state-sponsored violence.
Such videos, which have very high emotive quotient, he said, are circulating on the social media, just as he called on every Nigerian 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”, he said.
PMB Meets 3 Govs Over Tension In North
Meanwhile, President Muhammadu Buhari yesterday met behind closed doors with the governor of Borno State, Kashim Shettima, his Kano and Sokoto counterparts, Abdullahi Ganduje and Aminu Tambuwal at the presidential villa, Abuja, before leaving the country for New York.
LEADERSHIP gathered that the president was briefed by the three governors on some national issues, including the security situation in their respective states.
Shettima, who is also the chairman of the Northern State Governors’ Forum, had in a statement issued in Maiduguri, lauded the residents of the region for keeping the peace in the face of the recent clashes between members of Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and soldiers in some parts of the South East region.
“No Nigerian deserves to be punished for the mere fact that he or she happens to be living or doing legitimate business in any part of the country”, Shettima was quoted in the statement.
IPOB has been proscribed by the South East governors and declared as a terrorist group by the military.
Our correspondent reports that President Buhari, after the meeting with governors, left Abuja for New York to join other world leaders at the 72nd session of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA 72).
During the visit, he will participate in the general debate where he is expected to deliver the country’s national statement.
The special adviser to the president on media and publicity, Mr. Femi Adesina, who confirmed the departure of Buhari to New York through the Nnamdi Azikiwe International Airport, Abuja said “President Buhari departs Abuja to New York for 72nd Session of the United Nation General Assembly on Sept. 17, 2017”.
Coalition Lauds North’s Maturity, Peaceful Posture
Meanwhile, the Coalition of Northern Groups yesterday commended Northerners for heeding the call for restraint and their general response to events as they recently unfolded, particularly in the South East and other parts of the country, in the face of provocations.
A statement issued by the spokesperson of the coalition, Abdul-Azeez Suleiman, described the maturity with which Northerners responded to the activities of IPOB as commendable.
The coalition reiterated its earlier call for the Northerners to remain calm, focused and have confidence in the nation’s security agencies.
The statement made available to LEADERSHIP noted: “We assure the Northern public that we have been in constant touch with Northerners residing in the South East and they have assured us that the situation is firmly contained by the authorities.
“We assure the northern public, particularly the youth, of our committed resolve to pursue their rights collectively and individually and shall never fail them in this regard. And as we continue to monitor the development, we assure northerners of our resolve to present a comprehensive data of collateral human and material damages arising from the incident to relevant authorities and to press for redress.
“We specifically commend the efforts of the Ulama and the cleric, the leadership of the Northern Governors Forum, Northern elders, cultural associations such as the ACF, traditional institutions and the media in downplaying and discrediting the spread of harmful rumours.
“We also commend the prompt responses of the Plateau, Rivers and Abia State governments in preempting and stamping the escalation of tensions in their states as well as the proscription of IPOB by the South East governors.
“We must state here that our position that IPOB be proscribed, its activities be declared as acts of terror, and its leaders be accordingly treated in the interest of a greater, peaceful and united Nigeria has to a large extent been vindicated which is also reassuring and encouraging.
“We also wish to state that we have privileged information that IPOB sponsors are mobilizing their members in the Diaspora to humiliate our dear President Muhammadu Buhari in New York where he is billed to address the United Nations General Assembly”.
Turkey Denies Link With Terrorist Group
Meanwhile, the Turkish government has denied having any link with the IPOB terrorist group.
A statement issued yesterday by the Embassy of Turkey in Nigeria disowned a certain Turkish citizen, AbdulKadir Erkahraman, who claimed to be a diplomat supporting the agitation of biafra.
The Turkish Embassy distanced itself from Erkahraman who has been parading himself as Turkish diplomat, adding that he is neither a civil servant nor an official representative of the government of Turkey.
The statement noted that Erkahraman for some time now has been supporting biafra agitation and sharing videos against the Nigerian government.
“The government of Turkey is committed to the territorial integrity and polity unity of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”, the statement reads.
It further noted that Turkey never supported secessionist activities against the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
Erkahraman, who claims to be the president of the International Nations Commercial Association in Turkey visited Kanu in his home town in Umuahia, Abia State, when he was released from jail.
Kwankwaso Urges Political Parties To Mobilize Against Agitations
Meanwhile, former governor of Kano State and a serving Senator representing Kano central, Senator Rabiu Kwankwaso, has called on political parties to embark on all out mobilization as well as consultations with their members and the electorate to stem agitations for secession or in various parts of the country at present.
Senator Kwankwaso who said this while addressing a press conference in Abuja yesterday said the political parties irrespective of their sizes, whether a ruling or in opposition, should do so as a matter of necessity and urgency.
He observed that the exercise is highly required now in the country, rather than calling names or passing bucks, in order to the preserve sovereignty or geographical entity of our nation.
He noted that those masquerading currently as religious, ethnic or regional champions advertently or otherwise seized the opportunity or the vacuum created by lack of consultations or mobilization of the electorate and party faithful by the political parties in the country.
Kwankwaso said when a political party at the national, state, local government or ward level calls for a meeting, it would be the meeting of people representing several interest groups, such as religious, ethnic or regional.
He said, “It becomes irreconcilable for anyone or group to begin to call names, insult or deriding other group or ethnic group simply because it is also represented. We all owe a duty to stand up to defend the unity of this country, as well as our democracy. This is not the time to be APC, PDP or whatever; all hands just have to be on deck to preserve our peace and unity.
“In a democratic setting, the political parties have the responsibilities to mobilize elected and all other members to nation building while putting in place mechanism for dispute resolution, through dialogue and consultations. It is the perceived lack of such platforms that are apparently being exploited and used by ethnic/tribal champions to push through the unconstitutional ways of agitations
‘’Therefore, I urge all statesmen, traditional and religious leaders, and political parties to stand up to and speak in the face of these challenges facing our country today’’.
The ex-governor noted that the incessant calls for restructuring of the country was as a result of lack of good and quality leadership across the strata of governance in the country.
“The bottom-line is that everybody wants good living standard and once he or she is not getting it, one begins to look here or there for answer. Good and quality leadership is the key to unity and development of the country’, he added.
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