Pro-Biafran activists in Nigeria have condemned the Department of State Service (DSS) for linking them to an alleged mass grave recently discovered in the country's south-east. The DSS accused people from the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) movement of being behind the murder of five people believed to have been discovered in a mass grave containing a total of 55 bodies.
Pro-Biafrans demand the independence of Biafran territories forcibly annexed to Nigeria during British colonisation, which ended in 1960. They denied the allegations and accused the Nigerian government of labelling the movement as violent in order to smear its reputation and undermine its quest for independence.
In a statement seen by IBTimes UK, Ipob accused the Nigerian government of implementing strategies to "quell the rising profile of Ipob and the growing resoluteness of Biafrans". The statement reads: "The Gestapo-DSS have realized that they are on the losing side of the legal proceedings that they initiated against Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of Ipob.
"They have rather resorted to concocting stories of abduction and killing and have subtly introduced the word 'Terrorism' so that they will hopefully make it stick on Ipob and then get [President Muhammadu] Buhari to proclaim Ipob a violent and terrorist organization."
The mass grave was allegedly discovered in a forest in Abia state, part of the contested Biafran territories. The DSS alleged Ipob played a "heinous role" in the abduction and assassination of five people, belonging to the Hausa-Fulani ethnic groups, who inhabit northern Nigeria.
"Arrests and investigation conducted so far revealed that elements within the Ipob carried out this dastardly action," the DSS statement said. "Following this act, tension is currently rife among communal stakeholders in the state with possibilities of spill-over to other parts of country. It is pertinent, therefore, to alert the general public that Ipob is gradually showing its true divisive colour and objectives."
An Ipob member, who spoke to IBTimes UK on conditions of anonymity, accused the Nigerian media of colluding with the government. He said: "The situation of false stories, hype and upset keeps running on a loop, people are very tired of the divides it causes in all communities. For this very reason Ipob has set up their own medias such as Family Writers. All Ipob are pursuing is good order and justice, through the proper judicial system, plus the release of Nnamdi Kanu in a lawful way."
Fears of reprisal killings
Some fear the DSS accusations could spark reprisal killings of southerners who live in Nigeria's north, where Fulani militants have been killing hundreds of people in the past few months. Ipob said the DSS claims could spark "genocidal killing of Biafrans" in the Arewa nation, northern Nigeria.
The Abia State Government rejected the report of the mass grave claiming security officials in the state never confirmed the alleged discovery. Blaming the media for divulging such reports, the government also warned it could spark ethnic violence across the country, the Daily Post said.
Ikechukwu Okoye, Ipob coordinator for the Anambra state, alleged Fulani herdsmen routinely target pro-Biafrans. He told IBTimes UK: "The so-called called Fulani herdsmen have been on a rampage, targeting only our people.
"All the way from Agatu in Benue State to Bonny in Rivers State, our people are losing family members to this Fulani herdsmen and the DSS has never for one day condemned them for their act. The expression of fear of reprisal killing, by my people, is only natural."