Abuja. France has ruled out any support for the secession of any part of Nigeria.
The former colonial power supported the Biafra (southern Nigerian) secession bid in 1967.
French ambassador to Nigeria Denys Gauer told the local Guardian newspaper on Sunday that Paris would not work with any group agitating the dismemberment of the nation.
He said France was working with Nigeria and supporting it as a country.
“We are working with Nigeria and we are supporting it as a country. This is absolutely clear and I don’t think there is any kind of future for Biafra. They are part of Nigeria and Nigeria has to remain as the only country,” he said.
Mr Gauer pointed out that Nigeria had evolved since the civil war, adding that France has been cooperating with Abuja to overcome its challenges, especially the fight against insurgency.
However, the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Mr Uchenna Madu, told the Guardian that the struggle for Biafra “is real and cannot be stopped by any man created by God”.
He added: “We in MASSOB do not believe what he said because that does not represent the position of France. France is a friend of Biafra and even during the Nigeria/Biafra war, they assisted us so much.
“In this current agitation for Biafra, France has sympathy for us. We advise our people to disregard what he said. We think that the Nigeria media misinterpreted what the French envoy said.”
The French envoy explained how France helped the Goodluck Jonathan government to organise a regional meeting with neighbouring francophone countries, Chad Cameroon and Benin, in Paris, in 2014, following which the Multinational
Joint Task Force (MJTF) was established to fight the Boko Haram.
“Apart from encouraging neighbouring African countries to cooperate with Nigeria, we have also developed a strong bilateral relationship with the Nigerian Armed forces,” said Mr Gauer.
Nigeria’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen. Tukur Buratai, recently warned those agitating for an independent state to “forget it”.
The groups are the Independent People of Biafra (IPOB) and MASSOB .
Though they have the same aim, they are rival groups and have consistently clashed. (NMG)