IPOB and its leader Nnamdi Kanu will now be treated as terrorists by the Nigerian State.
"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 army read tersely.
The Terrorism Prevention Act (TPA) didn’t grant the Defence Headquarters (DHQ) those powers.
It is little wonder that after the army made the declaration, it was rightly carpeted on all sides for trampling on the laws of the land. Senate President Bukola Saraki held nothing back when he said IPOB wasn’t yet a terrorist organisation because due process hadn’t been followed by State actors.
"I also wish to state that the announcement of the proscription of the group known as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by Governors of the South-east states and the categorization of the group as a 'terrorist organisation' by the Nigerian military are unconstitutional and does not follow due process", Saraki said.
"Our laws make clear provisions for taking such actions and without the due process being followed, such declaration cannot have effect. I am sure the President will do the needful by initiating the right process".
He was right.
Even the Southeast Governors who ‘proscribed’ Kanu’s IPOB immediately after the army did, went beyond their brief.
Only the National Security Adviser (NSA), the Inspector General of Police (IGP) or the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) have the powers to label an organisation ‘terrorist’ and proscribe accordingly.
The army knew it was in the wrong and took back its declaration days later.
Chief of Army Staff, Tukur Buratai, sought to right the army’s wrong when he said: “You have to get it very clear. First of all, what the Defence Headquarters did was to make a pronouncement. It wasn’t a declaration per se. But this has given room for the right step to be taken. I think the government is doing the right thing.
“It is not that we are overstepping our bounds. We are still within the limits. And I ensure you that what the military said was to set the ball rolling and to bring the awareness to the public that this is what this organisation is all about.”
However, the Attorney General Abubakar Malami, has obtained an order from the Federal High Court in Abuja which states that “the activities of the respondent, IPOB, in any part of Nigeria especially in the Southeast and South-South region of Nigeria amount to acts of terrorism and illegality".
The order also “restrains any group of persons from participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intention or otherwise of the respondent (IPOB) under any other name or platform however called or described as granted”.
The order was granted by Justice Abdu Kafarati. The proscription will now be gazetted after due approval from the President and Commander-in-Chief. It does appear as though President Buhari did the 'needful' before leaving Nigeria for the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York.
With this declaration, IPOB is now officially a terrorist outfit and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu is now officially a terrorist.
Kanu is already facing charges bordering on treasonable felony and illegal possession of firearms. He is due in court for the continuation of his trial next month.
If Kanu continues to organise his Biafra Secret Service (BSS) and galvanize his supporters to hit the streets and chant secessionist agitations, he could be slapped with a terrorism charge and prosecuted accordingly.
The order also means Kanu and his supporters can be haunted and engaged in gun duels like the army does with Boko Haram. It's a sorry place to be in for the separatist who is already on the run.