Buhari says no to secession


Nigeria President Muhammadu Buhari will not allow the country to be dismembered as it faces calls for secession in a region formerly known as Biafra and the Niger Delta oil hub along with a separatist insurgency by Boko Haram.

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous nation and has the continent’s largest economy but has struggled for unity among its 180 million inhabitants who include Christians and Muslims. Its 250 different ethnic groups mostly co-exist peacefully.

In the last few months calls for a separate south-eastern state Biafra have grown louder, evoking memories of a conflict that killed around a million people in the 1960s. Militants in the restive southern Niger Delta also called for independence in the last year.
“Highly irresponsible groups” were calling for “dismemberment of the country,” Buhari said in a televised speech to mark the anniversary of Nigeria’s independence. “We cannot and we will not allow such advocacy.”

His comments come against the backdrop of a military deployment to the south-east and a crackdown on the region’s best known secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), last month labelled a terrorist organisation.

The group’s leader, Nnamdi Kanu, has not been seen since September 14 when IPOB said his home was raided by soldiers. The military said it did not and was not holding the IPOB leader.

Buhari also said government continued to hold talks with communities in the Niger Delta to maintain a ceasefire which halted attacks on oil installations which last year cut crude production by over a third.
“We intend to address genuine grievances of communities. Government is grateful to the responsible leadership of those communities and will pursue lasting peace in the Niger Delta,” said Buhari, a former military ruler.

The broadcast was aired shortly before the presidency said Buhari was travelling to Maiduguri, epicentre of the Islamist militant Boko Haram insurgency, to celebrate the independence anniversary with soldiers fighting Boko Haram.

The jihadist group is seeking a separate state in the north-east adhering to a strict interpretation of Islamic law.

More than 20,000 people have been killed in the insurgency since 2009 and at least 10 million people in the north-east need some form of assistance, according to the United Nations which says it is one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises.