Common Roots: Ancient Evangelical Future Conference

Archbishop calls for a peaceful resolution to Biafran protests

The Primate of All-Nigeria has called for calm in the wake of separatist protests in southeastern Nigeria’s Igboland.

The Primate of All-Nigeria has called for calm in the wake of separatist protests in southeastern Nigeria’s Igboland. In a statement released on 3 Dec 2015 the Most Rev. Nicholas Okoh urged separatists calling for Igboland to leave Nigeria to form an independent Republic of Biafra to halt their demonstrations and dialogue with the government. In the turmoil following Nigeria’s 1966 military coup against civilian rule, tribal fighting broke out leading to a unilateral declaration of independence by Igbo leaders of the oil rich southern delta region. The Federal Republic of Nigeria laid siege to Biafra and succeeded in defeating the rebels after three years of war, but at the toll of several million civilian deaths. As a young man Archbishop Okoh served as a private soldier in the Biafran war with the Nigerian Army. In the statement, Archbishop Okoh said, “We have noticed with concern the escalating youth restiveness, mass protests and violence in some parts of Nigeria. Issues that threaten security and peaceful co-existence demand the concerted effort of the government and all and sundry to deal with them timely and effectively before they are turned into national calamity.” Nigeria’s history did not bode well for the success of the current protests. Past mass actions “grew steadily until they plunged the country into crisis of terrible magnitude, occasioning destabilization of the country, gruesome killing of thousands of people, wanton destruction of property, collapse of economic activities.” At the same time as the army was battling Boko Haram in the North, the Southeast was “now witnessing blockage of roads, forceful closure of business and commercial activities, mass protests involving thousands of youths, led by the Movement for the Actualization of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASOB) and a group that goes by the name “Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB).” Archbishop Okoh called on religious and community leaders to intervene to stop the protests and to urge the demonstrators to begin dialogue with the government. “We must be mindful of the fact that delay in addressing a crisis situation quickens the harvest of mayhem,” the archbishop warned.

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