The Nigerian army has declared pro-Biafra IPOB a terrorist organisation. Here's what the law says.
The army’s declaration arrived on the back of renewed agitations from IPOB members and bloody clashes between military personnel and pro-Biafra separatists in Abia State in recent times.
The army has apparently had enough.
“After due professional analysis and recent developments, it has become expedient to notify the general public that the claim by IPOB actors that the organisation is non-violent is not true”, announced John Enenche, Director, Defence Information (DDI) at army headquarters.
The army listed its reasons for labelling IPOB a terrorist organization to include the latter’s formation of the so-called Biafra Secret Service, clandestine activities of IPOB, its violent acts against members of the public, possession of weapons by members of IPOB, confrontations between IPOB members and law enforcement and an attempt by IPOB members to snatch a female soldier’s rifle.
"From the foregoing, the Armed Forces of Nigeria wish to confirm to the general public that IPOB from all intent, plan and purpose as analysed, is a militant terrorist organisation," the statement from the military read tersely.
To be fair, IPOB which is led by the eccentric and foul mouthed Nnamdi Kanu, had it coming.
Kanu has been cheered on by the gullible and fawning in his country home while calling for Nigeria to be burned to the ground.
When Kanu inspected a guard of honour mounted by scruffily adorned members of his Biafra Secret Service, he crossed the “national red line”.
Kanu has flouted his bail conditions bar none and continues to spew hate and vitriol from the comfort of his dad’s compound.
The Southeast Governors have finally grown a pair as well and have banned activities of IPOB in all States in the region. They should have done this months ago.
Kanu and his followers are now essentially persona-non grata in their own base.
But was the military right to have labelled IPOB a terrorist organisation?
According to the laws of the land, not quite.
The Terrorism Prevention Act (TPA) says the power to “proscribe” an organisation belong in the offices of the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Honourable Attorney General of the Federation (HAGF) or that of the Inspector General of Police (IGP).
And when these offices are done “proscribing”, their “proscription” has to be gazetted after due approval from the President and Commander-in-Chief.
IPOB wasn’t gazetted before today’s pronouncement. Boko Haram has been designated, proscribed and gazetted as a terrorist organisation alongside Ansaru.
Some parts of Section 2 of the TPA reads as follows:
"In promoting, encouraging or exhorting others to commit an act of terrorism; or setting up or pursuing acts of terrorism, the judge in Chambers may on an application made by the Attorney General, National Security Adviser or Inspector General of Police on the approval of the President; declare any entity to be a proscribed organisation and the notice should be published in the official gazette.
"(2) An order made under sub-section (1) of this section shall be published in the official gazette, in two national newspapers and at such other places as the judge in Chambers may determine.
"(3) A publication made under sub-section (2) of this section shall contain such relevant particulars as the judge in Chambers may specify:
"(i) A person who belongs or professes to belong to a proscribed organisation commits an offence under this Act and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a maximum term of 20 years".
Just maybe the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) went beyond its brief by declaring IPOB a terrorist organisation.
But could one class activities of IPOB as “terrorism”?
Section 1 of the TPA says:
An "act of terrorism" means an act which is deliberately done with malice, aforethought and which:
"(a) may seriously harm or damage a country or an international organisation;
"(b) is intended or can reasonably be regarded as having been intended to—
"(i) unduly compel a government or international organisation to perform or abstain from performing any act;
"(ii) seriously intimidate a population;
"(iii) seriously destabilize or destroy the fundamental political, constitutional, economic or social structures of a country or an international organisation; or
"(iv) otherwise influence such government or international organisation by intimidation or coercion; and
"(c) involves or causes, as the case may be.
(i) an attack upon a person's life which may cause serious bodily harm or death;
(ii) kidnapping of a person;
(iii) destruction to a Government or public facility, a transport system, an infrastructure facility, including an information system, a fixed platform located on the continental shelf, a public place or private property, likely to endanger human life or result in major economic loss."
You could infer that by its actions in the last couple of months, IPOB ticks most of the boxes above and then some. IPOB was heating up the polity with its actions and utterances. The group has also been sparking reprisal attacks across the country.
The group had become a threat to Nigeria's existence and had to be stopped--willy nilly.
The military usurped the powers of the AGF, NSA and IGP by declaring IPOB a terrorist organisation, make no mistake. However, given its modus operandi, IPOB will have few complaints about its sudden emasculation by the powers that be.