A Nigerian minister accused government’s political opponents of sponsoring a campaign for secession in south-east Nigeria formerly known as Biafra, where unrest has been rising.
Secessionist sentiment has simmered in the south-east since the Biafra separatist rebellion plunged Africa’s most populous country into a civil war in 1967-70 killing an estimated million people.
Campaigners from the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) intensified calls for secession since their leader, Nnamdi Kanu, was released on bail in April. He was detained nearly two years on charges of criminal conspiracy and belonging to an illegal society.
The military labelled IPOB a “terrorist organisation” after a week in which it was accused of surrounding Kanu’s home in Abia state, which it denied, and a curfew was imposed.
Lai Mohammed, information minister, said IPOB was set up as “a tool to destabilise the nation” sponsored by people he called a “coalition of the politically disgruntled and the treasury looters”.
“They believe by sponsoring this group to destabilise 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 said.
He did not accuse any people or groups by name.
The minister also said Kanu previously publicly supported Nigeria’s unity when President Muhammadu Buhari’s predecessor, Goodluck Jonathan, was in power.
Buhari’s administration, formed from his All Progressives Congress (APC) party, took office in May 2015. The opposition People’s Democratic Party (PDP) ruled for 16 years prior to Buhari coming to power.
A number of former government officials faced corruption charges, which they deny, since Buhari took office. The PDP accused the president of mounting a witch-hunt against its members.