The French government reacted angrily to allegations by the Federal Government of Nigeria to the effect that the Nnamdi Kanu-led Indeginous People of Biafra (IPOB) is funded by France.
Nigeria’s Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, had accused France and UK of funding the separatist group.
The President Buhari-led government had launched a brutal crackdown on the separatist group last week and declared it a terrorist organisation while South East governors proscribed the organisation.
Nigeria’s air force on Tuesday said it was deploying aircraft to the southeast of the country where unrest related to a campaign for secession has escalated in an area formerly known as Biafra.
The military presence in the southeast has increased in the last few weeks as part of an operation that the military said was part of efforts to crack down on crime, kidnapping and secessionist agitation. The air force deployment marks a further escalation of the operation, which began this month
“The essence of the deployment is to provide the necessary air cover to the ground troops to enhance overall operational cohesion and efficiency,” said Olatokunbo Adesanya, a Nigerian Air Force (NAF) spokesman.
“The request by the Nigerian Army for close air support made the involvement of the NAF inevitable,” he added.
The Embassy of France expressed shock that such allegation was made without any contact with France.
“The Embassy of France was surprised by the statement made yesterday by the Minister of Information and Culture indicating that the “financial headquarters” of IPOB were in France.
“We don’t have any knowledge of a particular presence of IPOB in France and the Nigerian authorities never got in touch with the Embassy on this point. We stand ready to examine any information which could support this statement.
“Furthermore, we would like to reiterate that France actively cooperates with Nigeria in the field of security and that we strongly support the unity of the country,” the Embassy said.