Is the designation of IPOB a terrorist group right?

•. Mr. Ikenna Mbazuike-Amechi (A Lagos-based legal practitioner)

Designating the Indigenous People of Biafra a terrorist group is not the right step to take. The decision to tag them a terrorist organisation is also procedurally wrong.

Again, IPOB is not known to carry arms, though I do not agree with what IPOB is fighting for because I do not think that the issue of Biafra is necessary at the moment. I believe in the corporate existence of Nigeria, but the group still has a right to agitate if its members feel they want a new country. It, however, does not mean that they are speaking the mind of all those who fall within the same geographical expression. I, for instance, fall within the same geographical area with those agitating for Biafra, but I do not agree with them. Much as they are not speaking for everybody, it should be noted that they are not carrying arms.

If Nnamdi Kanu commits an offence, he should be dealt with as an individual. The sins of Nnamdi Kanu should not be visited on the entire Igbo race.

Besides, I do not know if IPOB is registered; if they are not, you cannot proscribe them. For these reasons, I think it is a bad move to declare them a terrorist organisation; by doing that, you have given security operatives the opportunity to carry out extrajudicial killings. It is not the function of the military to declare a group a terrorist organisation; it is an executive function.

• Mr. Olusegun Fanibe (Chairman, Osun State chapter of Accord Party)

The categorisation of the Indigenous People of Biafra as a terrorist organisation by the military is premature. I expected the government and the military to exercise some caution before making that conclusion.

I see them as agitators; although they are going about it the wrong way. Whatever rights they think they have to start agitating to break away from Nigeria, the Yoruba and other ethnic groups have the same. So, it is not their exclusive right. Even this IPOB agitation is not an all-Igbo agenda.

What the government should have done was to address the issue calmly. The government has its faults and it is too early to jump into conclusions that they are a terrorist group, instead of agitators.

For the IPOB, their approach from the beginning was wrong. We have seen how people, who want their sovereignty in other climes, carry out their agitations. There are ways to do these things and it is not by threatening a government. They said if the government touched Nnamdi Kanu, the country would go up in flames. Threats won’t solve the problem. That is why I think they are behaving like terrorists, though I see them as agitators.

• Mr. Emenike Eke (A Port Harcourt-based legal practitioner)

The declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation by the Federal Government is not the appropriate step to take. It’s like the Federal Government is jumping the gun. IPOB is an organisation of disgruntled Nigerians, and they have respective demands that are allowed within a democracy.

Under military rule, it may not be out of place for the Federal Government to make such a unilateral declaration, but in a democracy, the Federal Government cannot make such a declaration. There are processes that the executive needs to comply with. It should liaise with the National Assembly and table the necessary motion to be debated and agreed upon by members of the National Assembly before such a declaration can come to effect.

But the unilateral declaration by the Federal Government is beyond the contemplation of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The military too does not have the power to declare a group as a terrorist organisation. It is beyond them.

I expect the Federal Government of Nigeria to do is to embrace dialogue to find out the grievances of this organisation and try to find a way to address them because in a democracy, grievances are part of the ways of building society. Everybody cannot be on the same page. When you see people complaining of marginalisation, you have to set up machinery to address such grievances peacefully.

An adage says those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable. In order to avoid violence, it is better to engage IPOB in discussions. I also expect IPOB to be reasonable in their demands and ensure that they pursue their demands legitimately. The IPOB leader, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, was released on bail under certain conditions; he should try to operate within the law so that people can be sympathetic to his cause.

• Debo Adeniran (Director, Centre for Anti-Corruption and Open Leadership)

First and foremost, it is only the security agencies that can determine the veracity of that claim, whether the IPOB are a terrorist organisation or not. This is because there are conditions to be fulfilled by any organisation to be tagged a terror group.

However, what we could see is that the organisation, especially the leader, Nnamdi Kanu, made a number of statements that pointed towards insurgency, not terror. When someone is seen on social media (whether in a fake or an authentic video) openly soliciting arms and ammunition to fight the battle for self-determination in the country, that is a step beyond the red line.

Yes, people have a right to associate, to hold an opinion and propagate that opinion within the ambits of existing laws. The United Nations also said people have a right to self determination; but a situation where you want to wage war against your own country has a different connotation. That is the area we are looking at. The IPOB has set up some outfits which are confrontational to the existing government. It is like belittling the capacity of the existing government and no government will accept that.

If the movement does not use arms against security agencies, fine. If you ask the Department of State Services and the National Intelligence Agency, they are the ones to determine what the status of IPOB is. Government must also take the path of dialogue, which the IPOB should initiate by stating their grievances in writing to the Federal Government.

• Mr. Oladele Ojogbede (Principal Solicitor, Dele Ojogbede & Co.)

The declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation by the Federal Government is not the appropriate step to take. It’s like the Federal Government is jumping the gun. IPOB is an organisation of disgruntled Nigerians, and they have respective demands that are allowed within a democracy.

Under military rule, it may not be out of place for the Federal Government to make such a unilateral declaration, but in a democracy, the Federal Government cannot make such a declaration.

There are processes that the executive needs to comply with. It should liaise with the National Assembly and table the necessary motion to be debated and agreed upon by members of the National Assembly before such a declaration can come to effect.

But the unilateral declaration by the Federal Government is beyond the contemplation of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.

The military too does not have the power to declare a group as a terrorist organisation. It is beyond them.

I expect the Federal Government of Nigeria to do is to embrace dialogue to find out the grievances of this organisation and try to find a way to address them because in a democracy, grievances are part of the ways of building society. Everybody cannot be on the same page. When you see people complaining of marginalisation, you have to set up machinery to address such grievances peacefully.

An adage says those who make peaceful change impossible, make violent change inevitable. In order to avoid violence, it is better to engage IPOB in discussions.

I also expect IPOB to be reasonable in their demands and ensure that they pursue their demands legitimately.

The IPOB leader, Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, was released on bail under certain conditions; he should try to operate within the law so that people can be sympathetic to his cause.

Copyright PUNCH.

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