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Nigeria’s president slams divisions after absence

Abuja, Nigeria | AFP | Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari took to state TV on Monday in his first speech since returning from a long medical absence in Britain, in a bid to dampen mounting separatist tensions in the country.

The 74-year-old, who received treatment for an undisclosed condition in London, appeared thinner than usual as he read slowly from a prepared statement in which he also vowed to redouble the fight against Boko Haram jihadists.

He did not address his more than three-month absence or the illness that caused him to seek treatment abroad.

“I was distressed to notice that some of the comments (in my absence), especially in the social media, have crossed national red lines by daring to question our collective existence as a nation. This is a step too far,” he said.

“The national consensus is that it is better to live together than to live apart,” said Buhari, who returned to Nigeria on Saturday after more than 100 days away from the west African nation of 190 million people.

Nigeria is facing a number of breakaway movements, including the Indigenous People of Biafra led by fierce Buhari critic Nnamdi Kanu in the country’s southeast, which is dominated by the Igbo ethnic group.

The group has become increasingly vocal in its bid to win independence in recent weeks, with Kanu appearing in images meeting a private army of young men.

Arewa, a radical Muslim youth group in the country’s north, has issued an October 1 deadline for all Igbo people to leave the region.

Boko Haram jihadists, meanwhile, have been fighting a bloody insurgency in the country’s northeast since 2009.

Buhari vowed renewed energy for the fight against “terrorists and criminals”, singling out Boko Haram, kidnappers and those responsible for ethnic violence.

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