Ethno-religious conflict is known to be one of the biggest threats to sustainable peace and development in Nigeria. Just recently, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) were reported to have unleashed mayhem on Northerners in Rivers, leaving two dead and two injured.
According to the Daily Trust report, two Hausa indigenes resident at Oyigbo in Oyigbo Local Government Area of Rivers are feared dead as suspected members of IPOB attacked their Sabo.
“Eye witness account had it that suspected irate IPOB members had on Saturday and Sunday launched coordinated attacks on Hausa residents in Oyigbo,” the report stated.
“The eye witness said two persons were feared dead while two other persons sustained serious injury.”
The Spokesman of the Northern community in Rivers, Alhaji Musa Saidu confirmed the attack, while calling on the police to bring the culprits to book. He also said that the motive behind the attack was unclear but might not be unconnected with previous threats issued to the Hausa community in Rivers by suspected IPOB members.
The Chairman of Oyigbo Local Government Area, Prince Gerald Oforji also condemned the attack and appealed to the Hausa community in Oyigbo to remain calm and not to take laws into their hands.
Meanwhile, the Vanguard’s account states that IPOB had nothing to do with the killings.
According to the report, the “police in Rivers has said the irate youth who killed two Hausa settlers in Oyigbo town, Oyigbo Local Government Area, were not members of Indigenous People of Biafran (IPOB) as suspected by eyewitnesses.”
IPOB has since denied allegations of the killings.
The legal adviser of the group, Alloy Ejimakor said, “IPOB does not engage in killing let alone Northerners.”
Ejimakor stressed that IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu’s call on the Igbos is for self-protection, adding that the group abhors killings. He further stated that the allegations of killings were untrue and unfounded.
As a topic of national importance, Nigerians have also weighed in on the issue via Twitter:
IPOB accused of killing 2 Hausa people in Iyigbo, Rivers State. The leader of the Hausa people there said this is the 5th attack against them.— Abdulbaki Jari (@Bahaushee) September 7, 2020
This is very unfortunate, and we hope the governor and law enforcements do the needful before it escalate— Ambursa (@Broskaay) September 8, 2020
If IPOB is proscribed, why on earth are they allowed to exact mayhem on lawful citizens? There are lawful ways of airing grievances. Mindless gatherings and killings will provoke retribution. Which is what I know they want!— Tony Onyearugbulem (@OnyearugbulemT) September 7, 2020
According to Nnamdi Obasi, the Crisis Group Nigeria Senior Adviser, “President Muhammadu Buhari’s forceful response to the agitation has been counter-productive, inflaming passions and boosting separatist sentiments. The government needs to change course and prioritise dialogue over coercion.”
“The starting point of any response” according to him, “is to understand the agitation’s roots.”
Nigerian leaders need to stop asking citizens to keep hoping the crisis will end. They need to stop the use of forceful approach when there are other options – like dialogue. They also need to stop fuelling these agitations and make concerted efforts to stop the killings.