Aba (Nigeria) (AFP) – A dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed after clashes between pro-Biafra supporters and Nigerian security services was relaxed on Monday, as the government blasted social media “quacks and internet trollers” for stoking tensions.
The Abia state government in the country’s southeast last week ordered people off the streets from 6:00 pm to 6:00 am because of the unrest.
But it now said it had scaled back the start time to 10:00 pm “until further notice” because “relative peace and calm” had returned.
Members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement have clashed with the police and the military in Abia and neighbouring Rivers state over the last week.
IPOB wants an independent state for the Igbo people who dominate the region, reviving secessionist sentiment that led to a brutal civil war 50 years ago.
Fears the violence could take on a wider ethnic dimension were sparked last week after violence against Igbos living in the central city of Jos, where two people were killed.
On Saturday, police in the southern state of Delta said suspected IPOB members shot dead four people in a market dominated by Hausa-Fulani traders from the north.
IPOB claims the army, which has flooded the Abia state capital Umuahia and its commercial hub Aba with troops, is seeking to curtail its activities.
But the military, which has branded the group “a militant terrorist organisation”, maintains it is conducting a routine operation against violent crime in the area.
Nigeria’s highest-ranking army officer, Lieutenant-General Tukur Buratai, told reporters in Abuja on Monday the soldiers’ presence was “in line with their constitutional role”.
On social media, pro-Biafra supporters regularly call for the break-up of Nigeria, which is almost evenly split between a mainly Muslim north and largely Christian south.
It is also home to hundreds of ethnic groups and languages.
But Information Minister Lai Mohammed accused IPOB of using “fake videos … to mislead the international community and win their support”.
He called the attempt to manipulate public opinion “the activities of quacks and internet trollers”, rejecting IPOB claims of genocide against Igbos as “lies and propaganda”.
“What we have in the southeast is a clampdown on a band of lawless people who have no regard for the laws of the land,” he added.