The Nigerian government should avoid heavy-handed actions but respond comprehensively to the agitation by pro-Biafra groups, the International Crisis Group (ICG) has urged.
In an interview with its Senior Analyst, Nnamdi Obasi, the global conflict-prevention think-tank based in Brussels, Belgium, outlined several measures that should be taken to prevent further escalation of the protests.
As a first step, Crisis Group urges the federal government to tone down threats of crushing the agitation. It warns that heavy-handed response could earn the agitators wider local sympathy, radicalize their followers and trigger more desperate actions.
Instead, it says the government should encourage governors, federal legislators and other south-eastern leaders to more actively persuade protesters to channel their grievances and demands through constitutional avenues.
The group also urges President Muhammadu Buhari to respond to the agitators’ grievances and demands by re-assuring all regions equitable attention and distribution of resources throughout his presidency.
Though the south east voted massively for former President Goodluck Jonathan and the People’s Democratic Party (PDP) in the last elections, President Buhari should ensure his policies are even-handed and effectively communicated to all Nigerians, ICG says.
The organization urges President Buhari to emphasize his government’s even-handedness by undertaking an official visit to the South East and making a public commitment to addressing local grievances.
As a longer term response, Crisis Group says Nigerian leaders must improve governance at all levels.
In particular, it urges President Buhari to implement the political and administrative reforms recommended by the 2014 National Conference. It also calls on the National Assembly (the federal parliament) to resume its stalled review of the country’s constitution and work toward guaranteeing all citizens equal rights and a stronger sense of national belonging.
ICG calls on state and local governments in the south east to also read the agitation as a wake-up call to create jobs and improve service delivery for their people. It warns that if they fail, the country risks more revolts.