By Chidi Nkwopara, Ikechukwu Nnochiri & Dennis Agbo
ABUJA—The Abuja Division of the Federal High Court, yesterday, declined to set-aside the order that designated the Indigeniuos 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 outside 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 the 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.”
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”.
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 30 million Nigerians of Igbo extraction as terrorists.
Ruling, denigration of judiciary—Ohanaeze
In a related develpoment, President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Chief Nnia Nwodo in his reaction said: “It is unfortunate that our courts are allowing themselves to be used for unlawful and political ends. IPOB has done nothing to qualify, as defined by international standards, to be called a terrorist organisation.
“Sadly, the Federal Attorney General in his parochialism, unmitigated bias and calumny has not found it necessary to classify Fulani herdsmen as terrorists inspite of their classification by the Global Terrorist Index as the fourth deadliest terrorist organization in the world.
“Ohanaeze frowns at this nepotism, this denigration of our judiciary and this stigmatization of our children.”
Similarly, another Igbo group, Aligbo Development Foundation, ADF, said the court decision sounded like a political statement.
President of ADF, Prof. Timothy Nwala said: “the declaration sounds like a political statement. Legal declarations are born out of sound logic. I doubt if there is any rational thought in this case.
“There was no rational basis for the court verdict. The world knows what they are doing. If Fulani Marauders are not terrorists, I wonder what the world would say.”
IPOB not terorist group—Survey
However, an air of disbelief and shock enveloped parts of Imo State yesterday, following the court judgment that confirmed Federal Government’s position that the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, is a terrorist group.
People were seen in groups, discussing the development in hushed tones, as soon as the outcome of the judgment filtered into Owerri municipality.
Efforts made to get some government officials to speak on the issue failed, as they reasoned that “it is a very delicate national issue”.
However, some people who claimed to be IPOB loyalists said they were not surprised by the judgment of the court.
“What did you expect from the court controlled by the same government that called us a terrorist group? It is sheer irony that those who don’t carry firearms and don’t believe in wasting precious human lives are branded terrorists. This is Nigeria for you”, Ikechukwu Okam said.
According to Ikechukwu, “everything about Ndigbo must be treated like our views and aspirations don’t count”.
In her own opinion, Florence, a mother of three queried why the rampaging herdsmen that have killed several people, are still treated with kid gloves, while IPOB loyalists are branded terrorists.
“Go and tell government that they can kill the flesh but definitely not the spirit. Many souls may still be killed by the security agencies, but generations after us will continue from where we stopped”, Florence said.