The Presidency has revealed a ploy by the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB)
to use smear campaigns to malign the Federal Government of Nigeria with the intent to damage the relationship between it and its international allies.
This revelation was disclosed Sunday evening by the Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu who stressed that it was necessary to draw the attention of citizens and the International community to what he described as a “misleading campaign”.
Garba, accusing the IPOB leadership of spearheading the misleading campaign revealed that the group’s approach is using false allegations such as “persecution of Christians against the Nigerian State”.
He said: “A very deep and wide investigation by an agency of the Nigerian government, working with international partners have made us become aware that there are two, interconnected campaigns being run concurrently by the IPOB in this regard.
“Both are using the cover of Christianity – and calling for a US Special Envoy to be appointed to stop the “genocide” of Christians in Nigeria. But the real purpose is to drive a wedge between the Nigeria government and its US and UK/European allies” he said.
Garba, in a veiled reference to exiled leader of the group, Nnamdi Kanu, faulted the interest of IPOB leadership whose religious views is divergent to that of his followers.
“IPOB leadership of course self-proclaims as “Jewish,” a position not shared by the generality of the members.
“For reasons of convenience, he claims to have an interest in the welfare of Christians – but this is a ruse: the case for independence, the leader believes, is strengthened by “proving” the government of Nigeria is “autocratic”, engaged in a “silent slaughter” of their own citizens along religion and ethnic lines – and that therefore the only viable option for the unique religious and ethnic minority is a sovereign Biafra separate from Nigeria, he stated.
While warning stakeholders across board, the presidential spokesman further revealed how the group’s campaign and activities against the Nigerian Government are being funded by unknown sponsors.
“Nigerians and the international community are advised to be wary of this divisive campaign, which available evidence shows is being funded with a monthly spending of $85,000 USD since October 2019, with no records of the source of this largesse.
“The campaign consists of producing articles in the names of the alleged Christian NGOs’ leaders (of campaign groups created at the time this PR contract with a US lobbying firm was signed) and letters to and from members of Congress to the White House.
“Unfortunately, some Members of Congress have clearly been persuaded there is indeed a “Christian persecution” underway in Nigeria – and do so quoting the campaign – and they are known to be taking up the case directly with the White House to appoint the special envoy”, Mr Shehu said.
Expressing how far the group had gone in its attempt to heat up the polity and cause disquiet nationally and international, Garba noted that the “misleading campaign” has caught the attention of the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the US Commission on International Religious Freedom and other international figures and organizations in the UK and Europe.
Shehu stated that: “There is also a UK and European angle of the Campaign, which is more opaque than its US sister campaign – given there is less legal requirement for public filings – but what is known of this at the moment is that their Budget is sufficient to hire four PR firms in the UK, Belgium, France and the US (the latter additional to the above).
“They have founded an “NGO/Charity” and a linked web-based campaign named “Stop the Silent Slaughter” which is well designed and complete with video “evidence”-completely concocted.
“Members of the alleged Christian NGO have had multiple Op-Ed articles in conservative news websites promulgating their message of a “Christian Genocide”. Some of those articles have also been used as “evidence” in the sister US campaign.
“Two of those conservative news websites were co-founded by the owner of the UK PR firm they have hired to generate their publicity as well as an OP-Ed article in the name of a British MP who may have been convinced by their campaign under false pretences” Shehu revealed.
With additional coverage in France, EU and Germany as stated by Presidential spokesman, Shehu added that: “They secured a MPs debate on the “Christian Genocide” in the House of Commons in which staff member of the UK PR was referenced as the “private secretary” to the leader of the UK-based Charity”.
Shehu pointed out that the misleading actions of the group is capable of damaging inter-religiois dialogue in the country as well as the reputation of Nigeria among international communities.
He said: “It is clear from all of the above that the IPOB’s extraordinarily and dubiously well-funded campaign in the US and UK/Europe is misusing the issue of the welfare of Christians purely to further their own political ends”.
He however called on international groups and societies to send representatives to Nigeria for fact findings so they could see the false claims by “these terrorist groups who are duping them of their money and involving them in conduct and activities disguised to destroy the harmonious relationships existing between their home countries and Nigeria”.
Shehu advised Nigerians and the international community to “ignore this campaign as they have disregarded similar past campaigns originated by this group which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the Nigerian State”.