Nigeria’s Federal Government has reacted angrily as social media giant, Twitter deletes President Muhammadu Buhari’s tweet threatening violence against pro Biafra agitators in the country’s Igbo dominated Southeast region.
Buhari had in a series of tweets via his verified Twitter handle, @Mbuhari, tweeted, in reaction to series of attacks on police stations and the facilities of the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) in the region by gunmen, that, “Many of those misbehaving today are too young to be aware of the destruction and loss of lives that occurred during the Nigerian Civil War. Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand.”
The tweet which referenced the 1967-1970 Biafra war, in which an estimated three million people, mostly in Nigeria’s Southeast, were killed, including over a million children starved to death by food blockade, sparked angry reactions from many Nigerians on the social media platform, with many reminding the president that he had not made similar moves against bandits wreaking havoc in the country’s Northwest and Boko Haram in the Northeast.
The president had put up the tweet on Tuesday night, a day after many in the Southeast stayed indoors to mourn those killed during the bloody civil war, which also prompted suggestions that the tweet may be a response to the event.
Following several complaints, Twitter deleted the tweet, stating: “This Tweet violated the Twitter Rules”.
But reacting to Twitter’s decision, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, accused the platform of double standard.
He argued that the social media giant has conveniently ignored inciting tweets by Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and his cohorts.
“Twitter may have its own rules, it’s not the universal rule. If Mr. President, anywhere in the world feels very bad and concern about a situation, he is free to express such views. Now, we should stop comparing apples with oranges. If an organisation is proscribed, it is different from any other which is not proscribed,” he said.
“Two, any organisation that gives directives to its members, to attack police stations, to kill policemen, to attack correctional centres, to kill warders, and you are now saying that Mr. President does not have the right to express his dismay and anger about that? Are we the ones guilty of double standards? I don’t see anywhere in the world where an organisation, a person will stay somewhere outside Nigeria, and will direct his members to attack the symbols of authority, the police, the military, especially when that organisation has been proscribed. By whatever name, you can’t justify giving orders to kill policemen or to kill anybody you do not agree with.”
Meanwhile, indications have emerged that Buhari, in fulfilment of his threat, has ordered a major military offensive in the region, further raising concerns of possible human rights abuses and extra-judicial killings
Online newspaper, TheCable quoted multiple security sources to have confirmed that President Buhari has given the security agencies the marching order to curtail what many Nigerians fear is a descent to anarchy.
“The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has recruited over 50,000 foot soldiers, as it were, into its Eastern Security Network (ESN) and stockpiled arms, most of which were stolen from police armoury during the End SARS protests,” a security operative told TheCable.
“They have been bringing in arms through Cameroon in partnership with the Ambazonia Governing Council, the separatist movement in Southern Cameroon. IPOB sends at least 2,000 men and women to Cameroon for training on weapon handling every week.”
Another top security official said IPOB has stockpiled “bottle bombs”, locally made explosive devices, Pump Action rifles “as well as swords”.
In a recorded tape, two people described as “top commanders of ESN” were heard discussing issues such as surveillance of INEC offices, militants wounded in previous attacks, operations of IPOB camps, doctors treating wounded colleagues, installation of CCTV camera at their training camps in Udi, Emene and Nsukka and how to attack police cells,” TheCable reported.
IPOB has, however, denied being violent in its separatist campaign, but it has also said it assembles arms and ammunition locally.