Some youth groups in northern Nigeria threatened to forcibly remove people originating from the nation’s southeast if they don’t leave the region by October 1, stoking decades-old tensions and drawing condemnation from the authorities and other northerners.
The groups plan to “eject” members of the Igbo ethnic group after the deadline expires, they said in a joint statement signed in the northern city of Kaduna. Among the signatories is Yerima Shettima, youth leader of the Arewa Consultative Forum, an influential body in the predominantly Muslim north. Shettima authenticated the statement, a copy of which was obtained by Bloomberg.
The Arewa Consultative Forum dissociated itself from the threat late Wednesday. ACF appeals for caution over “statements that are capable of jeopardizing the unity, peace and corporate existence of Nigeria,” spokesman Muhammad Ibrahim Biu said in an emailed statement.
The Kaduna State government said all the signatories to the “hate speech” delivered in the declaration published on Tuesday would be arrested, according to a statement Wednesday by spokesman Samuel Aruwan.
Africa’s most populous country fought a 30-month civil war from 1967 to 1970 after the southeastern region tried to break off and create the independent state of Biafra. As many as three million people are believed to have died in the war, which was prompted by a 1966 coup led mainly by ethnic Igbo officers from the predominantly Christian south against a government dominated by northern Muslims. That led to a revenge coup six months later and the massacre of tens of thousands of Igbos across northern Nigeria.
The youth groups said in their statement that Igbos are a “threat” to national unity because some Igbo organizations still advocate independence. They called on northeners to seize control of land and properties owned or rented by Igbos in the region after the expiration of the ultimatum.
Information Minister Lai Mohammed said Wednesday that “security organizations are very much on top of this matter,” during a press briefing in the capital, Abuja.