From Juliana Taiwo, Abuja, Jeff Amechi Agbodo, Onitsh and George Onyejiuwa, Owerri.
The Federal Government, yesterday came close to unveiling the identities of alleged sponsors of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).
Addressing journalists after the weekly Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting in Abuja, Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, claimed that IPOB gets the bulk of its funding from sympathisers, both in the country and in the Diaspora, especially from France.
“We have the records, we know IPOB collects money from many people from the Diaspora, they collect money from many people in Nigeria, they collect money from some foreign countries, this is clear. Let me tell you, the financial headquarters is in France,” he declared.
Although he had been under pressure to name names, the minister declined, as he simply said: “It is incontrovertible that some people in the Diaspora contribute money to IPOB. Where does he (Kanu) get his money? We know this as a fact. Again, there are a few very naughty diplomatic issues, which you need to skip. For instance, who does not know that the IPOB internal radio is located in London?…I don’t want any diplomatic row, we know for a fact where the funding is coming from and we are going to stop them.”
The South-East Governors had last week Friday proscribed IPOB’s activities in the region, asking the agitators to forward their positions on national issues through their governors or National Assembly members. The military also declared it a militant terrorist organisation.
But on Monday, Senate President Bukola Saraki described the action of the military and the governors as unconstitutional, as he said due process was not followed. He said Senate would launch an independent probe into the matter.
Notwithstanding the opposition, the minister said President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the process of the proscription group.
“For those who are fixated with legality, I have good news for them: President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the process of proscribing IPOB, and the procedure is on as I speak.
“But I ask if the President had been overly concerned with legality, where would Nigeria have been today? If attacks in the South-east had attracted reprisals elsewhere in the country, what would have happened? But for the quick action of state governors in the South-east and the North, there would have been a conflagration of immense proportions.”
Mohammed commended the South-East governors for being proactive and “making it clear to IPOB that it has no support for its violent campaign.”
“By its action, the governors have cut off the oxygen that IPOB needs to survive. If the elected Governors of all the states in the South-East have banned the activities of IPOB, who then is the organisation fighting for?”
He added: “There is a procedure for proscription, the president must sign the proclamation after which the Attorney General will follow the procedure, which he is doing. But for me, do you want the president to wait for this to be put into law before you take action and stop looting or killing? Where will Nigeria be today if there is conflagration in Lagos or Kano? Like the governor of Abia said yesterday, there are about 11 million Igbo living outside the South-east, that is not a small number, it’s not a joke.”
He insisted that IPOB was being sponsored by certain persons to distract the anti-graft war of the administration.
“I think this is not rocket science; any treasury looter would do everything possible to distract government. If by any act, God forbids it, Nigeria is today engulfed in war, and Nigeria is now involved in trying to quell unrest, will the courts be spared? What would be the first priority of government? It will be to quell that riot. So, it’s a way of distraction to ensure that government is not focused. So, it’s not rocket science that a person today, who has a case in court or almost going to jail will try and cause confusion, he would go and support IPOB.”
But in a swift reaction, IPOB and the Igbo National Council (INC) challenged the minister to list the names of sponsors and financiers of IPOB from Nigeria and France that the Federal government has discovered and shut down.
Media and Publicity of IPOB, Mr Emma Powerful said the minister was ignorant of the operations of the group, which he claimed was “well rooted” in over 150 countries of the world, arguing that no single individual or group could sponsor it.
“The statement of the minister is laughable. Lai Mohammed cannot divert the attention of the world that he has stopped IPOB’s sponsors, we challenge him to list the names because he has nobody to mention unless he wants to mention those oppositions to his clueless APC party. No politicians can claim to sponsor IPOB under Nnamdi Kanu because we’re rooted in every part of this world,” Powerful stated.
Similarly, the National President of INC, Chilos Godsent, also took FG to the cleaner over the claim.
“Lai Mohammed and his party still think they are an opposition party whose stock in trade during and after the 2015 general elections was the use of propaganda and half-truth to deceive the people. Saying that it is France and Igbo in the Diaspora that is sponsoring IPOB and the agitation for the independent state of Biafra is another of their propaganda apparently to divert the attention of the people and the international community to their woeful failure to provide leadership.
“But what Lai Mohammed has failed to tell the people is that it is the nepotistic policies of his APC government led by Muhammadu Buhari that is the major cause of the agitation for Biafra because the South East has been marginalised. Even President Buhari has made it clear that those who gave him five percent will not be treated the same way as those who gave him 97 percent during the elections and he kept his promise.”
Rather than resort to propaganda, which is diversionary tactics, Chilos admonished the government to address the root cause of the agitation, which is “deliberate marginalisation of the South East zone.” (The Sun)