The Defence Headquarters on Friday declared the Indigenous People of Biafra a terrorist group, just as it warned parents and residents of the South-East region to advise their children against joining the group.
The Director, Defence Information, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, said recent developments had made it clear that IPOB was violent and possessed militant weapons.
He said the group had become a security challenge in the country and that it had been metamorphosing from one stage to the other.
Enenche said, “After due professional analysis and recent developments, it is clear that the claim by IPOB actors that the organisation is non-violent is not true. The group has been terrorising the general public in ways including: the formation of a Biafra Secret Service, the claimed formation of Biafra National Guard, and the militant use of weapons, which are stones, Molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles on a military patrol.
“Also, there was a physical confrontation of troops by Nnamdi Kanu and other IPOB actors at a check point on September 11 and attempts to snatch their rifles. There was also an attack by IPOB members on a military check point on September 12 at Isialangwa area, where one IPOB actor attempted to snatch a female soldier’s rifle.
“From the foregoing, the Armed Forces of Nigeria confirm that IPOB, from all intent, plan and purpose, is a militant terrorist organisation. Therefore, parents and residents of the southeast should advise their wards against joining the group.”
But reacting to the DHQ’s declaration, Emmanuel Kanu, an IPOB member and brother of the IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, who spoke during a Channels TV programme on Friday evening, faulted the branding of the group as a terrorist organisation.
In the programme, which was monitored by one of our correspondents, Kanu 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?
“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.”
When queried about the formation of the Biafra Secret Service and the Biafra National Guard, which have been described as unauthorised formations, Kanu said the formations were vigilance groups and not secret service.
“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.”
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.
Citing the Terrorism (Prevention) Act of 2011, as amended in 2013, Adegboruwa explained that before the Nigerian government could declare any group a terrorist organisation, 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 said the court would grant such order if convinced by the facts presented before it.
“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 said in spite of the President’s military background, he should “allow Nigeria to practise true democracy where the military is subject to constitutional democracy.
“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.”
Meanwhile, a United Kingdom-based civil society organization, Citizens United for Peace and Stability, said on Friday it had started gathering proofs to send to the UK Government to revoke the British citizenship of Nnamdi Kanu, who is a dual citizen of the UK and Nigeria.
According to the Convener of CUPS, Dr. Idris Ahmed, the move seeking the revocation of Kanu’s British citizenship was connected to alleged acts of “terrorism” perpetrated by IPOB, including the recent attacks on Northerners living in the south-east.
A video clip had emerged recently whereby Kanu said he was gathering an army of two million fighters to march on Abuja and “take the battle to our enemies.” Another video had emerged showing armed IPOB fighters searching for Hausas in buses in the south-east, apparently to attack them.
In several Facebook posts on Friday, Ahmed said, “Beyond any doubt, IPOB is a terrorist organization. I have watched so many video clips on Facebook in which Nnamdi Kanu talked about mobilizing weapons and financial resources to wage war against the Nigerian state.
“The CUPS organization has started compiling evidence to pass to the British Government to strip Nnamdi Kanu of his UK citizenship. Under a new law, over 100 UK citizens who went overseas to commit acts of terrorism or fight for ISIS have been stripped of their citizenship by the Home Secretary (Minister of Internal Affairs). Nnamdi Kanu perfectly falls into this category.”
The UK Home Secretary had yet to respond to Saturday PUNCH’s email inquiring whether the IPOB leader could lose his British citizenship.
Meanwhile, according to the British Nationality Act 1981, S.40(2), the Secretary of State is permitted to deprive a person of citizenship if she is satisfied that deprivation is “conducive to the public good.”
According to the Act, deprivation orders are almost always served while the individual is outside the UK and take immediate effect so that the affected person cannot return to the UK to argue their appeal.
In the Act, those who are British citizens by birth and do not have another nationality cannot have their citizenship removed. However, those who are British citizens by birth and are dual nationals may have their citizenship removed if revoking it is considered conducive to the public good.