Abuja — President Muhammadu Buhari on Sunday railed against separatists seeking Nigeria’s “dismemberment” as it marked its 1960 independence from Britain and said corruption remained the African oil giant’s “number one enemy”.
Buhari, who fought in the 1967-70 Biafran war, said those seeking to carve up the country had no idea of the havoc they could potentially wreak.
“As a young army officer, I took part from the beginning to the end in our tragic civil war costing about two million lives, resulting in fearful destruction and untold suffering.
“Those who are agitating for a rerun were not born by 1967 and have no idea of the horrendous consequences of the civil conflict which we went through,” he said.
“I am very disappointed that responsible leaders of these communities do not warn their hot-headed youths what the country went through. Those who were there should tell those who were not there, the consequences of such folly.”
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement wants an independent state for the Igbo people who dominate the southeast region.
Tension has been building since October 2015 when the group’s leader Nnamdi Kanu was arrested and held in custody until he was released on bail in April this year.
His trial on charges of treasonable felony is expected to resume this month. The army earlier this month flooded Abia state with troops, ostensibly as part of an operation against violent crime, but IPOB suspected it was an attempt to curb its activities.
Supporters clashed in Abia and neighbouring Rivers state, while the violence threatened to take on a wider ethnic dimension when unrest flared in the central city of Jos.
Nigeria’s government has since formally proscribed IPOB as a terrorist organisation and accused it of stoking tensions by making false claims online of genocide against Igbos.
Buhari called for “proper dialogue” in the provincial and national legislatures to defuse the tensions, saying: “These are the proper and legal fora for national debate, not some lop-sided, un-democratic body with pre-determined set of objectives.”
Buhari, who was elected in 2015 on an anti-corruption platform, also said endemic graft remained a major scourge, recalling the period from 1999 to 2015, when Nigeria reverted from military to democratic rule.
“In spite of oil prices being an average of $100 per barrel and about 2.1 million barrels a day, that great piece of luck was squandered and the country’s social and physical infrastructure neglected,” he said. — AP