By Anthony Ogbonna
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed has said that the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu is not being held by the Nigerian Federal government.
This is coming just many days after the Nigerian army clashed with IPOB in Umuahia, Abia state after it launched a military exercise tagged Operation Egwu Eke II or Operation Python Dance II in the south Eastern states of Nigeria.
Ever since the clash which many reports claimed the Nigerian army invaded the IPOB leader’s home and allegedly shot dead many of his supporters, the whereabouts of Kanu has been unknown.
The Nigerian army has however refuted the claims it invaded Kanu’s home nor killed anybody.
In fact, the army accused IPOB members of attacking its personnel with “stones, molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles, among others on a military patrol on Sept. 10, 2017.”
Kanu is currently on bail pending the resumption of his trial in Abuja next month on charges of treasonable felony.
Nnamdi Kanu’s supporters claim the military took away the IPOB leader after the claimed invasion.
But in an interview with AFP shortly after the return to Nigeria from London by President Muhammadu Buhari, Alhaji Mohammed said the IPOB leader could be in hiding. Talking on Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari’s health condition, the Minister disclosed that President Buhari is not in any obligation to disclose his health conditions to anybody even if his medical bills are paid by the state.
According to him, “He’s not being held by government at all.” He said Kanu had “crossed a line” with his agitation for Biafra and that he (Mohammed) suspects the IPOB leader could be “in hiding.”
On the President, he said, “I think there’s so much speculation as to what he’s been treated for.
“I think we would rather respect his privacy. If Mr President feels like telling the world his ailment, so be it. I don’t think he’s under an obligation to tell anyone.”
Recall that the South-East governors had proscribed the activities of IPOB in the region after the army’s pronouncement that IPOB is a terrorist organisation.
Further on the proscription, the federal government of Nigeria had equally and still insists that IPOB is a terrorist organisation, maintaining that the group had printed its currency and was extorting money from innocent citizens of Nigeria.
It gave these reasons for backing IPOB’s categorisation as a terrorist organisation, maintaining, however, that not even the Fulani herdsmen reported to have clashed with and killed farmers, raped women and destroyed farm lands could be placed on the same level with IPOB which it said had carved out a territory of its own within Nigeria.
In fact, the federal government had even said it had begun processes of blocking foreign sources of funding to IPOB.
Nigeria had equally accused both the governments of France and the United Kingdom of being in support and as well as funding IPOB’s activities in Nigeria but the two governments of France and UK denied the allegation.
Recall also that barely 24 hours after the Nigerian army pronounced IPOB a terrorist organisation, the President of the Nigerian 8th Senate, Dr. Saraki condemned the categorisation of IPOB as a terrorist organisation, saying it was unconstitutional.
However, after Saraki’s comments, the Federal Government of Nigeria had immediately taken its quest for IPOB’s proscription to court where it obtained a court’s order proscribing IPOB.
The order the federal government obtained from a Federal High Court in Abuja, ruled that IPOB is a terrorist organisation.
But IPOB had equally approached the court, demanding it to quash the order, saying the court order that said it was a terrorist organisation was a black market order.
It argued that the said order violated its right to freedom of assembly, expression and a right to demand freedom as enshrined in the United Nation’s charter on Human Rights as well as other national and international rights treaties to which Nigeria is a signatory.
Despite its argument, the Nigerian government maintains IPOB is a terrorist organisation, especially with the signing of the group’s proscription by the Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari.