By Anthony Ogbonna
The United States government has said that it does not see the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, as a terrorist organisation.
While the Federal Government of Nigeria has proscribed IPOB and labeled it a terrorist organization, the US government, however, said it does not see IPOB as a terrorist organisation.
It said, although US is strongly in support of a peaceful resolution of internal crisis in Nigeria, however, under the United States’ laws, IPOB does not fit in as a terrorist organisation.
Recall that the Nigerian army’s Director of Defence Information, Major General John Enenche, had pronounced that IPOB was a terrorist organisation after a reported clash between military personnel and IPOB members in Umuahia, Abia state.
Maj.-Gen. Enenche had given reasons for pronouncing IPOB a terrorist organization to include that IPOB members used “stones, molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles, among others on a military patrol on Sept. 10, 2017.”
Also, the South-East governors had equally proscribed the activities of IPOB in the region after the army’s pronouncement on IPOB.
Further on the proscription, the federal government 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 categorization 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.
Saraki had said that only a legislation from the Nigerian National Assembly could make such a pronouncement valid.
Dr. Saraki had said, “I also wish to state that the announcement of the proscription of the group known as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by Governors of the South-east states and the categorization of the group as a ‘terrorist organisation’ by the Nigerian military are unconstitutional and does not follow due process.
“Our laws make clear provisions for taking such actions and without the due process being followed, such declaration cannot have effect. I am sure the President will do the needful by initiating the right process.”
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.
However, the spokesman for the American Embassy in Nigeria, Russell Brooks, in a response to question by Sunday Punch, maintained that IPOB is not seen under US laws as a terrorist organisation. Brooks however assured that the US government was committed to Nigeria’s unity and would support a peaceful resolution of any crisis in the country.
According to him, “The United States Government is strongly committed to Nigeria’s unity. Important political and economic issues affecting the Nigerian people, such as the allocation of resources, are worthwhile topics for respectful debate in a democracy.
“Within the context of unity, we encourage all Nigerians to support a de-escalation of tensions and peaceful resolution of grievances. The Indigenous People of Biafra is not a terrorist organisation under US law.”
The US embassy, however, declined to state whether the Nigerian government had approached it to regard IPOB as a terrorist organisation and or block sources of funding to IPOB from the country.
Brooks also did not state the US’ position on the agitation for a Biafran state.