…awards N500, 000 cost against IPOB
…as group heads to Appeal Court
By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, on Thursday, declined to set-aside the order that designated the Indegeniuos People of Biafra, IPOB, as a terrorist organisation.
The court, in a ruling that was delivered by the Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Abdu-Kafarati, dismissed the application IPOB filed to challenge the September 20, 2017, order that outlawed its activities in Nigeria.
Justice Kafarati said he was persuaded by an affidavit evidence and exhibits the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, adduced before the court, which he said showed that existence of the IPOB constituted a threat to national security.
Though he acknowledged that every Nigerian citizen has the right to assemble freely and to form or belong to any association for the protection of his interests, Justice Kafarati however stressed that under section 45 of the 1999 Constitution, as amended, such right could be curtailed “in the interest of defence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health”, as well as “for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons”.
He further dismissed the argument of counsel to the IPOB, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, that the group, not being a registered entity in Nigeria, could not be validly sued by the Federal Government.
The court maintained that the fact that IPOB claimed that it was registered in so many countries aside Nigeria, did not exculpate it from legal liabilities if it was found to have by its activities, violated any law in Nigeria
“The question is whether a foreigner in Nigeria is subject to Nigerian law? Can that foreigner be arrested and prosecuted in Nigeria? The answer is yes.
“It is therefore my considered view that argument of Ejiofor has no basis. I hold that the applicant is subject to Nigerian law and courts”, the Judge added.
More so, he held that the proscription order he issued against IPOB in chambers was proper in law since it was based on an ex-parte motion that was anchored on provisions of the Terrorism Prevention Act, adding that the motion was backed with “Presidential approval”.
The court insisted that the proscription order did not amount to an infringment of rights of IPOB members.
Consequently, it resolved all three issues that were formulated against the proscription order against the IPOB, and also awarded a cost of N500, 000 against the outlawed group.
Meanwhile, shortly after the judgment, IPOB’s lawyer, Ejiofor, vowed to take the case before the Court of Appeal.
Ejiofor decried that the Judge failed to consider fundamental issues that IPOB raised in its application.
IPOB had asked the court to vacate the proscription order which it said was surreptitiously obtained by the AGF.
The court had in the ruling last year, declared as illegal, all activities of the IPOB, particularly in the South-east and South-South regions of the country.
It specifically restrained “any person or group of persons from participating in any of the group’s activities”.
Justice Karafati directed the AGF to ensure that he published the order proscribing IPOB in the official gazette, as well as in two national dailies, an order FG had since complied with.
However, the IPOB, in a motion it filed pursuant to Section 6(6) (1) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, maintained that the proscription order “was made without jurisdiction”, adding that it was “granted against an entity unknown to law”.
IPOB queried the legal validity of the order, saying there was “clear suppression and misrepresentation of facts”, in the affidavit evidence the AGF submitted, upon which the order was granted.
It argued that the proscription order was tantamount to declaring over 30million Nigerians of Igbo extraction as terrorists.
Besides, IPOB which sought nullification of the proscription order on 13 grounds, told the court that its member does not carry arms and has no history of arm struggle in the exercise of their constitutionally guarantee rights to self determination.
It said: “The Indigenous People of Biafra who are majorly of Igbo extraction, have no history of violence in the exercise of their right to self determination.
“That prior to and during the military invasion of the South Eastern States, members of the Indigenous People of Biafra had never at any time resorted into arm struggle or engage in acts of violence capable of threatening the National Security.
“That the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Per Justice Binta Nyako of Court No 4, had in its Rulings delivered on the 1st day of March, 2017 held that the Indigenous People of Biafra is not an unlawful Organization.
“That the Ex-parte application for the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its activities in the South Eastern States pursuant to which the order was granted, was politically motivated, and will in essence amount to suppression, of the wishes and aspirations of the Indigenous People who are now being intimidated using the state force, for expressing their disenchantment with the administration that has relegated them to third class citizens.
“That the hasty manner through which the process leading to the proscription of the Respondent’s activity and its declaration as a terrorist organization, was activated/initiated, shows a clear manifestation of high powered ethnic conspiracy against the Respondent in particular and the Igbos in general. It started with the Arewa Youth Coalition Group’s declaration on the 24th August, 2017, that the Respondent should be declared a terrorist organization, among other far reaching terms, as part of their condition to suspend the quit notices given to Igbos and Southerners living in the North, which was in quick succession followed by the military invasion of the South-East (a relatively peaceful region), their murderous attack in the home of the leader of the Respondent, illegal declaration by the Nigerian Military that a non-violent group such as the Respondent is a terrorist organization, and the speedy but clandestine manner the Attorney General approached the Court Exparte, for an order proscribing the Respondent’s activities and declaration as a terrorist organization”.
IPOB, maintained that the court “has the inherent powers to set aside its orders when either granted without jurisdiction or granted in error”.
It said the Order was unconstitutional, as it was made in clear violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right of the Indigenous People of Biafra to self determination; Article 20(1) of the Africa Charter on Human & Peoples Rights, now domesticated into our Law under (Ratification and Enforcement Act) (Cap 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990; Right to fair hearing, Right to freedoms of expression, and the press and Rights to peaceful Assembly and Association; clearly provided for under Sections 36, 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as (Amended) 2011.
It was IPOB’s contention that a declaratory order could not be made pursuant to an Ex-parte application, without hearing from the party against whom the order was made.
More so, in a 40-paragraphed affidavit deposed to by one Prince Mandela Umegborogu, IPOB, told the court that its members are lawful and non-violent socio-ethnic pressure group, largely made up of Indigenous People of Igbo extraction, and of Igbo neighboring states of Biafra region/origin.
“That as Indigenous People of the Igbo speaking states, and neighboring states of Biafran origin, they are a Community of individuals, and not registered as a registered as a legal entity.
“That the Respondent are merely a community of Indigenous People exercising their constitutionally guarantee right to self determination freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association”.
It further told the court that the South Eastern States of the Country, largely made up of Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Abia and Ebony, have no history of violent crime, in recent times, before the soldiers were deployed to the South East on the Operation Python Dance.
“That Police Authority has been in effective policing of the entire South Eastern States”.
IPOB told the court that it is registered across many countries of the world, saying its activities have always been in conformity with the International Covenants and laws.
It said that its members do not pose any threat to any country, adding that recently, its members residing in the United Kingdom and United States of America were granted permission to protest within a designated place in the ongoing United Nations Conference.
IPOB also told the court that pictures (photographs) and video footages the AGF attached in the affidavit he used to secure the ex-parte order, “were all concocted and video/photo shopped to make it appear real, and do not represent the true images/impression of the Respondent/Applicant’s members”.
However, FG, in a counter-affidavit it filed against the suit, alleged that IPOB were behind cache of arms that were intercepted in Lagos by the Nigeria Customs Service, NSC.
FG, while justfying its decision to apply for the IPOB to be outlawed, told the court that its investigations revealed that members of the group imported arms, comprising of pump action rifles, from Turkey.
It said the deal was brokered by a Turkish national that allegedly visited the ‘missing’ leader of the IPOB, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, shorty after he was released from detention.
The Solicitor General of the Federation, Mr. Dayo Akpata who represented FG, urged the Acting CJ to dismiss the motion IPOB filed to quash the proscription order.
In its 23-paged counter-affidavit dated September 21, FG told the court that the secessionist group “have been associated with violent activities”.
It said: “Furthermore, the leader of the Respondent/Applicant, one Nnamdi Kanu has been openly advocating for armed struggle via his speeches, calling Nigeria a zoo, threatening that Nigeria will burn if he is arrested, etc. The intent of the Respondent/Applicant from the onset is to cause confusion and plunge the country into crisis.
“That Biafra is not a region in Nigeria and there are also no States known as Biafran States under the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended.
“That in opposition to the depositions in paragraph 6 of the supporting affidavit, I am aware that the Respondent/Applicant’s activities havr been targeted at causing a violent break up of Nigeria.
“That as a confirmation of the fact that the intentions of the Respondent/Applicant from the onset is to cause a violent breakdown of law and order in Nigeroa, Nnamdi Kanu openly solicted for arms to wage war against Nigeria at the World Igbo Congress held in California, USA in 2015.
“That a Turkish citizen, Abdulkadir Erkahraman, visited Nnamdi Kanu the leader of thr Respondent/Applicant in Isiama Afara, Umuahia, Abia State sometimes in July 2017, and has been canvassing support for the secessionist agenda of the Respondent/Applicant. He also admonished ‘Biafrans to rise up and fight a good fight for freedom’.
“That the Nigerian Customs Service had on four occassions this yeat intercepted pump action rifles totalling 2,671 illegally imported into the country from Turkey”.
FG insisted that the proscription order was obtained based on events it said occurred mostly after Justice Binta Nyako before whom Kanu and four other pro-Biafran agitators are facing five-count treasonable felony charge, had earlier declined to declare IPOB a terrorist organisation.
It argued that Justice Nyako did not however rule that IPOB was a lawful organisation.
“The court only ruled that there was no evidence before the court to show that the Respondent/Applicant is an unlawful or proscribed societu as at then in order to justify the count 3 in Charge No. FHC/Abj/CR/383/15 whic relates to managing an unlawful society”.
It told the court that activities of IPOB “has been hampering effective policing of the South East region”, adding that the Inspector General of Police had directed his men to deal decisively with Biafra agitators who it said ordered closure of markets and restriction of movement in the South East to mark the Biafra Day celebration.
More so, it alleged that IPOB members had on September 14, launched vicious attacks on police formations that resulted in the total destruction of Ariaria Police Divisional Headquarters in Aba, theft of police weaponry, attacks on police patrol teams.
It said that a good number of police personnel have sustained varying degrees of injuries while one policeman died in the Aba attack, adding that a commercial bank was also attackes with its ATM machines damaged by IPOB members.
Aside its allegation that IPOB members in Oyigbo LGA of Rivers State had on September 12, mobilised and attacked some northerners in the area, FG further told the court that a police sergeant, Mr. Stephen Daniel and one Umar Mainasara, a shoe shiner, were killed by the attackers who its said carted away an AK 47 Rifle belonging to the slain policeman after they burnt two police vans.
“That the Commissioner of Police in Abia State, Mr. Anthony Ogbizi, disclosed on 13th October, 2017 that patrol bombs, double-barrel gun were recovered from the residence of Nnamdi Kanu and that training of Biafra Secret Service members were still ongoing after the proscription of IPOB.
“That a detailed report on the violent activities of members of the Respondent/Applicant against security personnel and other citizens as well as their inciting speeches (particularly by Nnamdi Kanu) as compiled by the Office of the National Security Adviser are attached herewith and marked as Exhibit FGN 8”, FG added in the counter-affidavit that was deposed to by one Ayuba Adam.
More over, FG told the court that “the leader of Biafra Independent Movement, BIM, and founder of the renowned Movement for Actualisation of Soverign State of Biafra, MASSOB, Ralph Uwazuruike, attested to the violent conducts of IPOB members”.
It said there was no bloody onslaught in Kanu’s house during the Operation Python Dance II, adding that is not responsible for the whereabouts of the IPOB leader.
FG mainatined that there was no report to the Nigerian Police Force to the effect that Kanu was missing.
It said that Kanu “has deliberately gone into hiding ostensibly to avoid his adjourned trial and also to avoid the likely legal consequences of the activities of himself and his group”.
FG decried that Kanu had through Radio Biafra, labelled Nigeria as a zoo which he said should be razed down, as well as called President Muhammadu Buhari unprintable names.
“He also claimed that the Nigerian government hired a Sudanese man to come and impersonate President Buhari”.
It told the court that part of the factors that fueled crisis that culminated in the Rwandan genocide was the labeling of the Tutsis as cockroaches who should be exterminated.