Lai Mohammed, minister of information, says Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), supported the country’s unity under former President Goodluck Jonathan but “suddenly turned into a monster”.

In a statement issued by Segun Adeyemi, his media aide, Mohammed said “treasury looters and certain disgruntled elements” were the sponsors of the group.

Mohammed said the aim of IPOB was to sabotage the Buhari administration, under the guise of fighting for the rights of the people of the south-east.

“Nigerians must understand that IPOB was not set up to fight for the right of anyone or group, but as a tool to destabilise the nation, divert attention from the efforts of the Buhari administration and obliterate the laudable achievements of the government,” Adeyemi quoted the minister as saying at a news conference in Lagos.

“IPOB is being sponsored by those I will call the coalition of the politically disgruntled and the treasury looters. They believe that by sponsoring this group to destabilise the country and trigger chaos, they will realise their ambition of escaping justice and then be free to dip their hands into the nation’s treasury again.

“If this is coincidental, then that coincidence is uncanny, at the least. Remember that Nnamdi Kanu, who led a protest at the Nigeria house in London against Boko Haram insurgency and in support of Nigeria’s unity, under the Jonathan administration, has suddenly metamorphosed into an IPOB monster who will rather set the nation ablaze.”

Mohammed said IPOB thrived on exploiting the nation’s fault lines, and that its modus operandi “is to trigger conflagration nationwide through attacks and reprisals”.

“Thankfully, IPOB has failed in its evil machinations. The good people of Nigeria have seen beyond those cheap tactics and have avoided being incited against one another. We must remain vigilant and resolute. We must all say no to the incendiary and divisive tendencies of IPOB and its cohorts.”

The minister commended the Nigeria military for labelling IPOB a terrorist organisation and for checkmating the group, and south-east governors for proscribing the organisation.

“But for (the military’s) quick and decisive intervention, IPOB could have set the nation on fire. Thanks to the decisiveness of the military, today the governors of the states in the south-east have wisely proscribed IPOB,” he added.