Abuja — The federal government hinted yesterday that it has traced the financial headquarters of indigenous people of biafra (IPOB) to France.
It also confirmed that President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the process of proscribing the group.
The minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohammed, who gave the hint after the Federal Executive Council (FEC) meeting presided over by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo at the presidential villa, maintained his earlier position that some politically-disgruntled persons and treasury looters were the ones sponsoring IPOB.
He commended governors of the South East states for making it clear to IPOB that it has no support for its violent campaign, saying by their action, the governors have cut off the oxygen that IPOB needed to survive.
According to him, if the elected governors of all the states in the South East have banned the activities of IPOB, then the organisation can no more claim it is fighting for anybody.
Stating that IPOB's headquarters is in France, Mohammed said, "We have the records; we know IPOB collects money from many people from the 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 but can you as a government stop sending money to your parents? You have to block the sources of finance. That is what I said recently. It is incontrovertible that some people in the diaspora contribute money to IPOB. Where does he get his money from? We know this as a fact.
"Again, there are a few very naughty diplomatic issues which you need to skip. For instance, 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 that are done but they don't see it that way. For them, it is about freedom of expression.
"If we have 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? This is a country that also has had a history. What did IRA do to be labeled a terrorists organisation? They were planting bombs; they were fighting the British Army. I don't want any diplomatic row; we know for a fact where the funding is coming from and we are going to stop them but it is difficult to stop them and we have been working on it and we will not stop".
Noting that it is within the rights of individuals or groups to seek self-determination, the minister said this pursuit must be non-violent, adding that "where any group crosses the line by engaging in violence, it risks being cut to size and that's exactly what has happened to IPOB".
He said he is not interested in the semantics or legality of troops' deployment or the proscription of IPOB as far as it is an established fact that the organisation has engaged in terrorist activities.
He listed IPOB's activities to include setting up of parallel military and paramilitary organizations, clashing with the national army and attempting to seize rifles from soldiers, using weapons such as machetes, molotov cocktails and sticks and mounting roadblocks to extort money from people, among others.
"To those who have engaged in semantics or legality, I ask: which country in the world will tolerate those activities I have listed above? Which national army will look the other way when it is being attacked by a band of thugs?" He queried.
Announcing that President Buhari has approved the proscription of IPOB, he said, "For those who are fixated with legality, I have goodnews for them: President Muhammadu Buhari has approved the process of proscribing IPOB and the procedure is on as I speak.
"But I ask if the president had been overly concerned with legality, where would Nigeria have been today? If attacks in the South East had attracted reprisals elsewhere in the country, what would have happened? But for the quick action of state governors in the South-east and the North, there would have been a conflagration of immense proportions.
"I did state, during my earlier interactions, that IPOB is a contraption against the Buhari Administration, and that it is being sponsored by those I call the Coalition of the Politically-Disgruntled and the Treasury Looters. I stand by that statement despite the noise emanating from the usual suspects. To quote the title of a James Hadley Chase novel, The Guilty Are Afraid. I will add: The guilty are always overly agitated. Good for them".
The minister further stated that IPOB has decided to externalize its campaign by writting to governments and parliaments in the West alleging genocide in the South East.
Observing that even a dictionary definition of 'genocide' does not support that claim, he said IPOB has also engaged in using highly emotive videos of killings, which it harvested from other lands and doctored to hoodwink the international community.
Explaining further why the federal government has moved to proscribe IPOB, he said, "I think anybody who has watched Nnamdi Kanu's videos will see that anywhere he goes to he openly solicits for arms and for funds. I have a lot of quotations from him as to the violence 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 noise and disturbing his sleep, and his boys stopped them.
"I ask him, which country in the world would tolerate this? Unfortunately, we Nigerians have short memories at times or we tend to be very mischievous because this thing is being turned into, 'oh the North is persecuting the South East 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 Buruku they were again crushed by Shagari.
When Buhari became Head of State, the same Maitatsine raised their head; he chased them far into the Chad republic. As then Head of State, I remember that time he was accused by America of trying to expand Ghadafi's agenda.
"Abacha, in his own time, dealt also with Maitatsine and he was a Muslim. 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".
The minister further noted that Nigeria has been very lucky because last week there would have been massive bloodshed if reprisals had taken place outside the South East but it didn't take place following the intervention of traditional rulers, governors and other leaders who went out to pacify the people .
He pointed out that 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.
His words: "To pacify the situation and they think it's a joke, you can imagine what would have happened if the people of Kano or Kaduna started retaliation. So, we are in a very dangerous situation and actually we are 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.
"Is there anybody here who can tell me which part of Nigeria genocide is taking place? It is not true but of course we are in the era of fake news and artificial intelligence where you can make a video of what is happening in Iraq super impose pictures in Nigeria and voices and send it. People are gullible, including some foreign countries.
On those behind the funding of IPOB, Mohammed said, "I think this is not rocket science. Any treasury looter would do everything possible to distract government. If by any act, God forbids it, Nigeria is today engulfed in war, and Nigeria is now involved in trying to quell unrest, will the courts be spared?
"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. So, it is not rocket science that a person today who has a case in court or almost going to jail will try and cause confusion.
Court Affirms Declaration Of IPOB As Terrorists Group
While the Nigerian government named France as the finance headquarters of IPOB, a Federal High Court in Abuja has given judicial backing to the executive order of President Muhammadu Buhari, proscribing and declaring the indigenous people of biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group.
The Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdu Kafarati, heard and granted the exparte motion filed by the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr Abubakar Malami (SAN), in his chambers.
Besides the declaration of IPOB as terrorist organization, the court also restrained "any person or group of persons from participating in any of the group's activities".
Justice Kafarati ordered the federal government to publish the court order on IPOB proscription in its official gazette and two national dailies.
In his motion for an exparte order, the federal government had prayed the court for "an order, declaring the activities of the respondent - Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) - in any part of Nigeria especially in the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria amount to acts of terrorism and illegallity, is granted".
It also prayed for an of the court "proscribing the existence of the respondent (IPOB) in any part of Nigeria, especially in the South-east and South-South regions of Nigeria either in groups or as individuals by whatever names they are called and publishing same in the official gazette and two national dailies" an order which was granted.
Finally, the AGF also sought for an order of the court "restraining any person or 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" be granted.
Malami (SAN) led the Solicitor General of the Federation (SGF), Tayo Apata; Acting Director, Civil Litigation, Mrs. Maimuna Shiru; T. A. Gazali, Oyin Koleosho and other lawyers in the Federal Ministry of Justice to the court.
In his submission, Malami argued that IPOB has all the ingredients of a terrorist organization and indeed exhibited acts of terrorism in the country by forming its own army , intelligence organisation, importation of arms and confronting the troops of the Nigerian Army on their duty post as well as attempting to seize their rifles.
Last week, the federal government had placed a terroism tag on IPOB, even as the governors of the South East also placed a ban on the acitivies of the group in the region.
A lot of controversies trailed the activities of the secessionist group, while some persons lauded the decision of the federal government and the South East governors on the matter, others condemned it, saying the federal government and the governors have no power to take such decision.