21 September 2017

Nigeria: Govt - IPOB's Finance HQ in France

Photo: The Guardian
Pro-Biafra activists.

The financial headquarters of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) is in France, Minister of Information, Lai Mohammed, said yesterday.

He said records showed that the secessionist group is getting money both from home and overseas.

The Federal Government knows where the funding is coming from, the minister told reporters after the weekly cabinet meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja,

He said: "We have the records, we know IPOB collects money from many people from Diaspora, they collect money from many people in Nigeria they collect money from some foreign countries, this is clear.

"Let me tell you, the financial headquarters is in France, we know...You have to block the sources of finance that is what I said recently.

"It is incontrovertible that some people in Diaspora contribute money to IPOB, where does he get his money from.

"We know this as a fact again there are a few very knotty diplomatic issues which you need to skip.

Asked to name IPOB's financiers, the minister responded: "I think this is not rocket science. Any treasury looter would do everything possible to distract government.

"If by any act, God forbid, Nigeria is today engulfed in war...what would be the first priority of government? It will be to quell that riot.

"So, it is a way of distraction to ensure that government is not focused."

"I don't want any diplomatic row, we know for a fact where the funding is coming from... we have been working on it and we will not stop," he said.

UK govt refused to shut Biafra radio

The minister also pointed out that despite all the damages done by Radio Biafra, the British government was allowing it to continue to operate, hiding under to right freedom of expression.

"Who does not know that the IPOB internal radio is located in London? We know the diplomatic moves we have been taking and approaching the UK, all the damages it (Radio Biafra) has done, but they don't see it that way, for them (the British government), it is about freedom of expression.

"If we've a person in Nigeria openly soliciting arms to come and fight the UK, what would you think of? Would you consider that freedom of expression? And this is a country that also has had a history; what did Iraq do to be labelled a terrorist organisation?

Asked if President Muhammadu Buhari approved the proscription of IPOB activities, he said: "There is a procedure for proscription; the Attorney General will follow the procedure which he is doing. But for me, do you want the president to wait for this to be put into law before you take action and stop looting or killing? Where will Nigeria be today if there is conflagration in Lagos or Kano? Like the governor of Abia said yesterday (Tuesday), there are about 11 million Igbos living outside the southeast; that is not a small number, it's not a joke."

The minister said but for being very lucky last week, "there would have been massive bloodshed if reprisals had taken place outside the southeast."

Mohammed said this was averted because traditional rulers, state governors and other leaders went out to "pacify people."

He observed that the kind of stories trending on the social media had not helped things, saying "As a matter of fact, there was one stating that a major general had been killed, not knowing that it was a retired major that was killed in Benue State over land matters. That would have set the entire country ablaze."

"We're in a very dangerous situation and actually we're sitting on a keg of gun powder. The peace that you are seeing is deceptive, we must continue to work on it and we must continue to counter this very untrue narrative."

He said "As cosmopolitan as Abuja is, it took the FCT minister to mobilise all the 17 graded traditional chiefs and emirs in Abuja to really hold meetings with all the stakeholders to pacify the situation. You can imagine what would have happened if the people of Kano or Kaduna had started retaliation."

'IPOB petitions western nations, alleges genocide'

The Federal Government said IPOB has decided to externalise its campaign.

Lai Mohammed said the separatist group "has written to governments and parliaments in the West, alleging genocide in the southeast."

The minister, however, stated that "Even a dictionary definition of 'genocide' does not support that claim."

He said the IPOB had also engaged "in using highly-emotive videos of killings, which it harvested from other lands and were doctored, to hoodwink the international community."

"Is there anybody here who can tell me which part of Nigeria genocide is taking place? it's not true, but of course, we're in the era of fake news and artificial intelligence where you can make a video of what is happening in Iraq, super impose pictures and voices in Nigeria and send it. People are gullible, including some foreign countries."

He said despite calls from Nigeria's expulsion from the United Nations on the basis of allegations of genocide, the government "will not stifle anybody's freedom of expression, but when you cross the line we won't allow you."

He added: "I think anybody who has watched Nnamdi Kanu's videos anywhere he goes to, he openly solicits for arms and for funds, I have a lot of quotations from him as to the violent intention of IPOB.

"In one of his videos he said if he is arrested, his boys should burn down the country. The same Kanu went on television a few days ago saying he was sleeping at about 4:30pm in his house in Umuahia and then some soldiers were making noises they were disturbing his sleep and his boys stopped them.

"I ask, which country in the world would tolerate this? Unfortunately, Nigerians we have short memories at times or we tend to be very mischievous because this thing is being turned into the north is persecuting the southeast or Muslims persecuting Christians.

"We have forgotten that in 1983, there was a group called Maitatsine in Kano, they were crushed by Shagari government. They were Muslims and northerners.

When they relocated to Bulunkutu (in Maiduguri), they were again crushed by Shagari. When Buhari became Head of State, the same Maitatsine raised their heads, he chased them far into the Chad republic as then the Head of State. "

"President Yar'adua in 2010 was on his way to the airport when he got a report about Boko Haram, he sent the army to go and destroy them.

"These were Muslims from the north dealing with essentially Islamic Muslim insurgencies. Anything about insurgence or terrorists act you don't think about religion, you don't think about ethnicity, you think about the unity of the country."

Court Okays IPOB's proscription

Meanwhile, Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday granted an order proscribing the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation.

The Acting Chief Judge, Justice Abdu Kafarati granted the order following an application by the Attorney General and Minister for Justice, Abubakar Malami (SAN) seeking a declaration that the activities of the IPOB in any part of Nigeria especially, the South East and South South zones amount to acts of "terrorism and illegality."

The AGF also sought an order of court proscribing IPOB in any part of Nigeria, especially in the South East and South South regions either in groups or as individuals.

The order is to be gazetted and published in two national dailies.

The court said it granted the order as sought after listening to the argument of the AGF who led four other senior officials of the Ministry of Justice and after reading through the affidavit in support of the motion sworn to by CPL Kolawole Matthew of the Nigerian Army.

Ex-Senate President asks UN to act

A former president of the Senate, Ameh Ebute, has called on the United Nations (UN) to commence the process of investigating the activities of leader of the Independent People of Biafra (lPOB), Nnamdi Kanu and members of the organisation.

In a letter to the UN dated September 18, 2017, Senator Ebute said this became necessary because IPOB had "constituted itself into a terrorist organisation and continued to act in ways that terrorise the Nigerian State with intent at plunging the West African country into war."

He recalled that the Nigerian Defence headquarters had issued a proclamation which cited IPOB's gross violation of Nigeria's sovereignty, including the formation of a Biafra Secret Service (BSS); advanced stages in the formation of Biafra National Guard (BNG); militants' possession/use of weapons; physical confrontations and attempts to snatch weapons from soldiers on patrol.

He explained that these activities by IPOB led to it's been tagged a terrorist organisation by army, and therefore enough grounds for the UN to act in order to identity and do the needful.

He said, "It is therefore imperative for the UN through its organ of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC), to invoke suitable laws to intervene in an apparently smouldering crisis in Nigeria.

S/East lawmakers reject IPOB's proscription

Senators and members of the House of Representatives, from the South East geopolitical zone, rejected the categorization of IPOB as a terrorist organization.

In a communiqué issued at the end of the meeting, the lawmakers called on President Muhammadu Buhari to address the perceived marginalisation of‎ Igbo in the country.

The communiqué jointly signed by Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia) and Chukwuka Onyema called on IPOB to suspend all its activities.

"We affirm our support for the unity of Nigeria anchor on justice, equality and fair treatment on all parts of the country," the communiqué reads.

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