Nigeria’s acting president meets with regional leaders on ethnic unrest

Nigeria's Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo flags off the clean-up in Ogoni land Bodo, Nigeria, during the start of an exercise to clean up pollution in Ogoniland, June 2, 2016. REUTERS/Afolabi Sotunde

ABUJA – Nigeria’s acting president met with regional leaders in an effort to quell ethnic tensions, his office said, as threats grow of conflict between northern Muslims and southeastern Igbo people.

The two groups have been trading barbs since the beginning of the month, after Muslim activists demanded the eviction of Igbo from the north over their calls for a separate southeastern state, known as Biafra.

The expulsion notice is an echo, 51 years later, of the anti-Igbo pogroms across the north that helped spark the secession of Biafra in 1967. The resulting civil war ended with Nigeria’s victory in 1970, after an estimated 1 million people died.

“There is a point where a line has to be drawn, and that is when conversations or agitations degenerate into hateful rhetoric, where the narrative descends into pejorative name-calling, expressions of outright prejudice and hatred,” said Yemi Osinbajo, Nigeria’s acting leader, according to a statement late on Thursday.

Osinbajo met with leaders from the north and southeast, state governors and media publishers and editors, the statement said.

“It will be wrong of us to approach our grievances by threatening to disobey the laws or by threatening the integrity of our nation,” Osinbajo told leaders.

Nigeria is no stranger to ethnically charged violence. Deadly clashes between Muslim herders and Christian farmers have erupted in recent years, partly over land use in the region known as the Middle Belt.

In the eastern state of Taraba, part of the Middle Belt, 10 people have died since last week in ethnic clashes, a police spokesman said.

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Godwin Okafor is a Financial Journalist, Internet Social Entrepreneur and Founder of Naija247news Media Limited. He has over 16 years experience in financial journalism. His experience cuts across traditional and digital media. He started his journalism career at Business Day, Nigeria and founded Naija247news Media in 2010. Godwin holds a Bachelors degree in Industrial Relations and Personnel Management from the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos. He is an alumni of Lagos Business School and a Fellow of the University of Pennsylvania (Wharton Seminar for Business Journalists). Over the years, he has won a number of journalism awards. Godwin is the chairman of Emmerich Resources Limited, the publisher of Naija247news.

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