Okezie Ikpeazu, governor of Abia state, says some of the grievances of the proscribed Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) are valid.
IPOB, a secessionist group, has been linked with attacks on security agencies and facilities in the south-east, the most recent being the attack on Owerri Custodial Centre and police command.
Speaking on Arise TV on Tuesday, Ikpeazu said some of the “issues raised” by IPOB should be addressed.
He said it is only when those concerns are acknowledged that elected officials will be granted solid ground to preach the gospel of Nigeria’s unity.
The governor expressed his opposition to the strategy IPOB uses in pushing for its demands. He urged the group to table its grievances in a civil manner.
He said: “I have taken my time to listen to some of these issues raised by IPOB: issues about injustice, issues of marginalisation, issues of trust deficits within the polity called Nigeria as it concerns people from south-eastern Nigeria. And I think some of those are valid issues and they should be addressed and spoken to; they should be addressed squarely. So that everybody and those of us that are in government today can have a foothold within the south-east region to continue to promote the unity of Nigeria.
“I do not subscribe to the strategy of IPOB in pursuing their goals. And the reason is because I’m yet to see the end of the tunnel from where I’m standing and I do not like to take a plunge in the dark. We must engage and discuss the issue which is bothering them and everybody and we can’t continue to pretend as if these issues are not valid.
“Equal rights and justice is an indelible right of all citizens and if through impunity and carelessness we allow a group of people to begin to feel like they’re not rightly represented within the polity, it creates a lacuna where people are no longer confident in the government to protect them and take care of their interest within the polity. There’s bound to be agitation one way or another. Some of these reactions may extrapolate to levels that may undermine national convention and unity.”
The increasing insecurity in the region spurred south-east governors to establish Ebube Agu, a joint security outfit that was announced on April 11.