The Presidency on Sunday raised alarm over the misleading campaign spearheaded by the so-called Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), using false allegations of persecution of Christians against the Nigerian State.
Malam Garba Shehu, Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity, in a statement in Abuja, said that the Federal Government had since uncovered two interconnected campaigns being run concurrently by the IPOB in that regard.
According to him, 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.
He said the real purpose was to drive a wedge between the Nigerian government and its US and UK/European allies.
“IPOB leadership of course self-proclaims as “Jewish,” a position not shared by the generality of the members.
“For reasons of convenience, it claims to have an interest in the welfare of Christians – but this is a ruse.
“The case for independence, IPOB leadership believes, is strengthened by `proving’ the government of Nigeria is `autocratic’, engaged in a `silent slaughter’ of 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 said.
The presidential aide therefore advised Nigerians and the international community 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’’.
He observed that the campaign had taken the form 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.
He said further: “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.
“The American charity secured a meeting with US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and has made presentations to the US Commission on International Religious Freedom.
“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.’’
Shehu revealed that members of the alleged Christian NGO have had multiple Op-Ed articles in conservative news websites promulgating their message of a “Christian Genocide”.
He disclosed that some of these articles had 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,’’ he said.
He added that they have secured additional coverage in France, EU and Germany.
“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.
“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 said.
He further stated that IPOB’s campaign was also meant to damage inter-religious dialogue in Nigeria as well as to damage the international reputation of Nigeria.
Shehu, therefore, urged Nigerians and the international community to ignore this campaign as they did to similar past campaigns originated by this group which has been designated as a terrorist organisation by the Nigerian State.
He said: “International groups and societies are welcome to send representatives to Nigeria and give a lie to the false claims made 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.’’