Adelani Adepegba, Olaleye Aluko, and Chidiebube Okeoma
The United Kingdom has asked the Federal Government to clarify the status and whereabouts of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu.
The British government said it had asked the government if the British national was alive or dead. However, it could not be immediately ascertained if the Federal Government had responded to the inquiries or not.
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The Press Officer, UK high commission in Nigeria, Joe Abuku, stated that the inquiry followed reports that Kanu had been missing since September 14, 2017 when armed soldiers stormed his residence in Abia State.
Abuku said this in response to questions from Saturday PUNCH seeking to know UK’s concern on the missing IPOB leader.
“We are seeking urgent clarification from the Nigerian authorities about the status and whereabouts of Mr. Kanu, a British-Nigerian man, who has been reported missing since September 14,” Abuku stated in an email on Thursday.
Asked if the UK would strip Kanu of citizenship on account of the declaration by Nigeria that he was leading a terrorist organisation, the mission said it does not comment on individual cases.
“One of the conditions that can make the United Kingdom strip its citizen of nationality is if the person engages in a terrorist activity at home or abroad. And Kanu has dual citizenship and therefore a citizen of Nigeria and the UK,” the mission stated.
When asked if the UK supported the Nigerian government’s proscription of the IPOB, Abuku stated that the group was not a proscribed organisation under the British law.
“The Indigenous People of Biafra is not a proscribed organisation in the UK,” the mission spokesperson stressed.
However, when asked if the group was free to raise funds or hold rallies in Britain, Abuku said he would need to get an official response on that, but subsequently declined to respond to the question.
He also declined comment on whether the IPOB might be designated as a terrorist group or proscribed by the British authorities.
Abuku said, “We do not routinely comment on whether an organisation is or is not under consideration for proscription. A decision to proscribe an organisation must be based on a belief that it is concerned in terrorism as defined in the Terrorism Act 2000, and it must be proportionate.”
The United States had earlier said it did not consider IPOB a terrorist group and urged Nigerians to de-escalate tension and embrace peaceful resolution of grievances.
Spokesperson for the American Embassy in Nigeria, Russell Brooks, had said, “Within the context of unity, we encourage all Nigerians to support a de-escalation of tension and peaceful resolution of grievances. The Indigenous People of Biafra is not a terrorist organisation under US law.”
Igbo groups mobilise SANs to defend IPOB suspects
Meanwhile, a pro-Igbo Group, Igbo National Council, says it is reaching out to lawyers, including Senior Advocates of Nigeria from the South-East, to defend arrested members of the IPOB.
INC explained that the move was based on its members’ conviction that it was legally and morally wrong for the Federal Government to proscribe IPOB as a terrorist organisation.
The president of the group, Chilos Godsent, told Saturday PUNCH in Owerri, the Imo State capital that the pro-Biafra agitators had not violated any section of the constitution, and that INC would give the arrested IPOB members maximum support.
Godsent said, “The Igbo National Council at its last National Executive Council meeting held in Owerri on Friday, September 22, 2017, among other issues, resolved to reach out to progressive lawyers of Igbo extraction, including SANs, to discuss with them on the issue of volunteering to defend members of IPOB who were arrested during the Operation python Dance II in the South-East region.
“INC was dismayed that the Federal Government, through the Attorney General of the Federation, has concluded plans to charge the alleged IPOB members for terrorism. INC notes that IPOB is not a terrorist organisation and members of IPOB have not willfully violated any section of the 1999 Constitution that guarantee the rights to peaceful assembly and the rights to form and belong to any association.
“In view of the above, INC leadership and its contact committee have started reaching out to lawyers in that respect.”
The group said it was aware that the top members of IPOB were also reaching out to many other lawyers for the same purpose and that on its own, the lawyers it had met with so far had indicated interest in defending the IPOB members arrested in the course of the struggle.
Similarly, Concerned Igbo Unity Forum said that some of its members who are lawyers have volunteered to appear in court for the arrested IPOB members on pro bono basis.
The chairman of the forum, Sixtus Nwoke, said, “There are lawyers who have volunteered to take up the case considering the general view that they are not a terrorist organisation. Our stand is to ensure the unity of the Igbo among themselves in any state or country of residence.
“We equally ensure the safety of their lives and property during precarious times such as we are experiencing now.”
Military won’t declare Kanu wanted -DHQ
The Defence Headquarters on Friday in Abuja said that it had no business declaring the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Nnamdi Kanu, wanted.
At a briefing with journalists, the DHQ stated that Kanu was not in military custody and so they couldn’t be held accountable for him.
The Director, Defence Information, Maj. Gen. John Enenche, who made the statement, also claimed that the military did not raid Kanu’s residence.
He said, “Kanu is not in the custody of the military. It is not the responsibility of the DHQ to declare him wanted.
“If the court says that if he does not show up for hearing, it will hold the military responsible, (then) let us wait till that time.
“The military never raided Kanu’s house. I watched the whole operation live on that day. Even I don’t have any right to stop you while passing on a public route. I saw that the Biafran Security Service and the Biafran National Guards mounted roadblocks, and the soldiers came out peacefully and said, ‘Boys, let us pass’. But the Biafrans attempted to collect their guns. Nobody went to Kanu’s house or raided him or took him away.”
On the proscription of IPOB, the defence spokesperson said that the military was not involved in the process.
He said, “The statement of the DHQ on IPOB’s activities is not opposed to what the army chief came out to say. Did we say IPOB was proscribed? No. But some people had a mindset and were in a hurry to attack the military.
“The military did not proscribe IPOB; due process was followed before the proscription. What the military did was to diagnose the security elements and warn of consequences. The military also knows the law.”
Enenche said that the military deployment in states all over the country was to complement the efforts of other security agencies.
He said, “The armed forces of Nigeria are not alarmed by the fear which some expressed that troops are deployed all over the country. The military see and analyse differently, while people see and analyse differently.
“It is the military that can tell you the signs and symptoms of a security element. Other countries passed through what we are passing through before they got to their present developed state.
“For days before Operation Python Dance II started, there were fears, not caused by the military, but by the propaganda of some persons.”
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