…IPOB faults claim

MASSOB, Afenifere, legal icons berate DHQ

By Chidiebere Ejike

The declaration of the separatist group, Indigenous Peoples of Biafra, IPOB, as a “militant terrorist organisation,” September 15, by the Defence Headquarters, DHQ, has drawn mixed reactions from the group, other groups and some prominent Nigerians.

Reacting to DHQ’s declaration, Emmanuel Kanu, an IPOB member and brother of IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, faulted the branding of the group as a terrorist organisation. Kanu who spoke during a Channels TV programme on Friday evening said the group never believed in violence and that its members never carried arms.

He said, “We don’t believe in violence as violence never solves a problem. We believe in dialogue and education in informing our people the right thing at the right time. So, how could a whole intelligence officer of the military tag IPOB a terrorist group; how possible is that? If you look at our records, our records are clean and straight.

“From inception, Nnamdi Kanu made it clear to the whole world that we [IPOB] are non-violent freedom fighters and that is the way it has been. We do not carry arms, we do not ask anybody to kill for us, neither have we killed before.”

He added, “It is very, very laughable that that is coming from a military intelligence officer.”

On the formation of the Biafra Secret Service and the Biafra National Guard, which have been described as unauthorised formations, Kanu noted that the formations were vigilance groups and not secret service.

Hear him: “I think there is a lot of misconception there; they are there to take care of our land, protect us against attacks from herdsmen and criminals and that is all it is. We are not armed.”

The Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, also faulted DHQ’s declaration describing it as unacceptable.

In a statement signed by its leader, Uchenna Madu, the group insisted that nowhere in the world would non-violent people be branded terrorists.

According to the statement, “This deliberate and shameless declaration on a legitimate and international registered organization is a subtle sign of another plan to continue their military onslaughts against the non-violent and peaceful citizens of Biafra.

“Neither Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB nor even MASSOB is the problem of Nigeria, rather it is Hausa-Fulani Islamic agenda backed by the British government that are the headaches of Nigeria.”

Also speaking on the declaration by the DHQ, a human rights lawyer, Mr. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, described the declaration as illegal and should be disregarded by the IPOB members.

While citing the Terrorism (Prevention) Act of 2011, as amended in 2013, Adegboruwa explained that before the Nigerian government could declare any group a terrorist organization, the Attorney General of the Federation is required by law to approach the Federal High Court to seek an order of the court to proscribe the group and that such would take effect once it is published in the Official Gazette and national newspapers. He added that the court would grant such order if convinced by the facts presented before it.

In his words, “Given the provisions of this Act, which states the procedure to be followed before declaring a group a terrorist organisation, the declaration by the Defence spokesperson is not only illegal , it is an affront to constitutional democracy.

“Not even the President, the Chief of Army Staff or the Chief of Defence Staff could make such declaration, because only the Attorney General, acting on the order of a Federal High Court, could make such declaration in the gazette. So, what Maj. Gen. Enenche said in his release was a mere statement.”

Adegboruwa noted that in spite of the President’s military background, he should allow Nigeria to practice true democracy where the military is subject to constitutional democracy.

He said: “So, I urge IPOB members to disregard the statement; they have a right to freedom of association. If the Defence Headquarters has intelligence that IPOB is engaging in any of the activities listed in the Act as constituting terrorist activities, it (DHQ) should approach the Attorney General, who would then proceed to court to obtain the order.”

In his reaction, human rights lawyer, Chief Olisa Agbakoba SAN, said the statement by the DHQ branding IPOB as a militant terrorist organisation, was unfortunate.

According to him, “It is not a helpful situation in the context of the problem going on in the country to brand IPOB as a terrorist organisation.

“Nigeria is not in civil war. Rather than do that, I would have thought that the best way to resolve the crisis was to create a framework of diplomatic response, irrespective of whether IPOB is doing the right or the wrong thing.

“I’m not even sure that the army is the one doing this declaration; it is more of something that lies on the table of the president. It is not in the place of the army, they have no right to make such.

“Army has made a political statement, and that is not its duty. Its duty is purely prescribed by the Armed Forces Act.

“You don’t set your house on fire because your son slapped you, you need to have framework of peace, stability and harmony to resolve whatever the crisis is, rightly or wrongly.

“Whether IPOB is wrong or right, to declare them a militant terrorist organization only helps to make them more determined to do whatever it is they want to do, whether what they do is right or wrong.

“I totally disagree and it is an unfortunate statement that the army made”.

The apex Yoruba socio-cultural organisation, Afenifere also berated the DHQ for declaring IPOB a terrorist organisation.

While saying that the military’s declaration was not in the best interest of the country, Afenifere speaking through its spokesman, Mr. Yinka Odumakin insisted that government should have explored dialogue option instead of resorting to the use of force in order to find a solution to Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB’s matter.

Odumakin said, “President Muhammadu Buhari should show more traits of a statesman rather than posing the image of somebody that believes only in the use of force in finding solution to any national problem.

“He is much unlike the late President Umaru Yar’Adua who showed more maturity while dealing with the problem of militants in the Niger-Delta then.

“Why declare IPOB a terrorist group when the organization has not engaged in any acts of violence?

“President Buhari should tread carefully, otherwise his actions may lead to the break-up of Nigeria. Buhari met a united Nigeria, he should not let it be during his own time that the nation will break up. There is nothing dialogue can’t resolve.’’

Afenifere also described the on-going Operation Python Dance II by the military in the South-East as provocative and unnecessary, noting that the military operation can lead to reprisal attacks in Northern parts of the country.

Similarly, constitutional lawyer and rights activist, Chief Mike Ozekhome SAN, has said he doesn’t believe the instances cited by the DHQ provided any justification for declaring IPOB a terrorist organisation.

He stated: “The last time I checked, I can’t remember any of such groups operating in the country being declared terrorist organisations. The herdsmen who go on rampage daily, maiming, raping, and killing innocent Nigerians, what about those responsible for the Agatu massacre, Shiites massacre, Southern Kaduna pogrom, indiscriminate killings, brazen quit notices givers across Nigeria, etc., all these people have never been arrested, prosecuted, let alone being proscribed and stigmatized as terrorist organisations.

“We surely have and operate two sets of laws for two sets of peoples in Nigeria. Nigeria, we hail thee. A government should be seen to be fair to all component parts of Nigeria.”

However in his own view, former Lagos Commissioner of Police, Alhaji Abubakar Tsav, said that Federal government deserved kudos for declaring IPOB a terrorist organisation. “President Buhari deserves commendation for deciding to take the bull by the horn.

“What Kanu has been doing with IPOB clearly amounts to acts of terrorism. No sensible leader or government would fold its arms while somebody like Kanu wants to set Nigeria on fire.

“Kanu and IPOB want to plunge Nigeria into crisis, and I like the way Federal government and the military are handling the issue. It is the right decisions they are taking”, he declared.

Author: Cerebral Lemon