26 September 2017

Nigeria: How Much of a Terrorist Group Is IPOB?

Photo: The Guardian
Biafra.

Terror is defined as "extreme fear, dread, horror". The Oxford Living Dictionary defines Terrorism as "the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in pursuit of political aims". It has also been defined as "the use of violence, especially murder and bombing, in order to achieve political aims or to force a government to do something".

It seems that there exists no legally binding definition of terrorism or a terrorist group, but the common thread that runs through the definitions includes fear, violence (even murder) to achieve a specific political agenda, like "the desire for ethnic or national liberation". One can safely say that, a terrorist group is a group which instills fear in people and uses extreme violence to achieve its political goals.

Understanding Terrorism by Harry Jackson

In "Understanding Terrorism", A Thesis by Lieutenant Harry R. Jackson of the United States Navy, the author identifies five crucial components of terrorism, namely, "an involvement of an act of violence, an audience, the creation of a mood of fear, innocent victims, and political goals or motives".

The first question that comes to my mind is, "does the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), fit into these definitions of terror, terrorism and terrorist group?" Yes, it has its political goals or motives, the fifth component of Harry Jackson's definition. But what about the other four components? Does IPOB create any mood of fear in anybody? I do not want you to say that this is a doltish or unintelligent question to ask, especially from someone sitting far away in Lagos. So, over to you, people of the South East Zone, were you scared of IPOB? For instance, when you were asked to do a sit-at-home protest by IPOB on May 30, 2017, did you do it out of fear, because you were constrained to, or because you believed in the cause? By the way, which Terrorist Organisations like Boko Haram, have you heard organise protests or call for Referendum? Do they not just regularly go on rampages, bombing and killing innocent people?

Violence

To the best of my knowledge, IPOB is not particularly known for violence, at least not for murder, bombing and the extreme violence that is typical of terrorists (correct me if I am wrong). Let us draw a comparison with the Fulani Cattle Herdsmen, who have unleashed so much violence against innocent, defenceless rural communities in various parts of the country, senselessly and selfishly invading and destroying their farms and means of subsistence, so that their own cows can graze, killing and maiming people, raping their women, looting and carting away the little valuables that these rural people have struggled for. But because we all love to eat meat, these Herdsmen are being placated and rewarded with grazing ranches, and those that have perpetrated these horrible crimes, instead of being denounced and punished for being the violent criminals that they are, they seem to be getting away scot free.

Though Kanu is on record for sourcing for funds to, in his own words, "buy guns and bullets", since he was unable to secure the required funds, and therefore, probably not able to buy the weapons, does this qualify him and IPOB to be terrorists? Can mens rea (guilty mind) with no actus reus (guilty act), constitute a crime?

Some have argued that, since IPOB set up a quasi military wing, the Biafra National Guard and Biafra Intelligence Services, kitted in uniforms and engaged in training, it qualifies as a terrorist group. Or the fact that Kanu threatened to ensure that the November election in Anambra State does not hold, is terrorism, as he would only have been able to achieve this obstruction with the use of force and intimidation.

Extortion

Yes, some have accused IPOB of setting up road blocks/toll gates to extort money from innocent passers-by. Hello! We go through that with Area Boys and other Government Agencies on the roads here in Lagos, on a daily basis. There will always be bad eggs in any group. Does that make the extortionists, terrorists?

Worthiness

Harry Jackson goes on to say that "They (Terrorists) endeavour to legitimise their activities in their own eyes, as it is to convince the public of their worthiness". I do not believe that Nnamdi Kanu has had to convince most people of Igbo origin, of his worthiness or that of his cause. Though some may have found his position to be somewhat extreme, that is, the Separatist/Secessionist/ Biafra point of view, there is still a common denominator. The South East Zone believes that within the Nigerian entity, it has been marginalised. It seems that especially within the ranks of young Igbo men, Nnamdi Kanu enjoys a strong followership, and successive governments, the present one included, have no one but themselves to blame, for his 'popularity'.

The issue of the marginalisation of the South East Zone, is not a new one. Seven years ago, Dr Olisa Agbokoba, SAN, filed suit No: FHC/EN/M/301/2010 against the Federal Republic of Nigeria; a Fundamental Rights Class Action on behalf of himself and the South East Zone, on grounds of discrimination pursuant to Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (the Constitution).

Arguments as to whether IPOB is a non-juristic body that cannot sue or be sued, or that the right to fair hearing was violated, because IPOB was proscribed by virtue of an ex-parte motion (Section 36 of the Constitution), the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act and so on, in my humble opinion, can only kick in if IPOB is established to be a Terrorist Group. I am not certain that this has been established, especially going by Harry Jackson's five crucial components. While the military accused IPOB members of throwing stones (missiles!) at them, it was IPOB who accused the military of murdering some of its members and Nnamdi Kanu's family dog!

Counter-Terrorism: Diplomacy

One of the strategies which Harry Jackson recommends that Government should adopt in fighting terrorism, is Diplomacy. I concur. Instead of proscribing IPOB, in order to clamp down on Nnamdi Kanu and his fellow IPOB agitators, and send a veiled threat or message to other agitators or perceived trouble makers, it is time for Government and all the players, to engage the South East Zone and indeed, all the other Zones, in talks, so as to forge a way ahead. Proscribing IPOB, is not a magic wand, that can be waved to make the frustrations and discontent that many Igbo people feel, vanish.

We are not in a military dictatorship, where laws are ignored, stretched or misinterpreted, just to suit Government's purpose. We are in a civilian dispensation, where the rule of law is paramount, and our right to freedom of expression and association, are enshrined in Sections 39 & 40 of the Constitution respectively. While some may argue that Section 39 does not extend to inciting people against Government and the polity, with regard to a lot of the issues that have been raised in the various agitations, it is my humble opinion that, no one really needs to be incited, the writing is there on the wall, plain, for all to see.

Readers Notice

We have been consistent in our call for the need to reform our Administration of Justice System. Indeed, we have been clear that, achieving any level of development in our socio-economic and political life, requires a strong commitment and serious intervention in our justice system. Current realities in Nigeria-insurgency, militancy, and high levels of criminality, have heightened our citizens' concern as regards insecurity. In certain parts of the country, it now takes a brave Nigerian, to sleep with two eyes closed.

Our country is struggling to maintain law and order. This, in our view, is the direct result of the inability of successive governments, to prioritise and invest in our justice system. The Judiciary, Police Force, Prisons Service and other access to justice institutions, are struggling to work in the interest of justice. Public confidence in the justice system, remains at very low levels.

A combination of limited political will, poor understanding of what needs to be done, the lack of merit based appointments to leadership positions of key justice sector institutions, and the appointment of persons without subject-matter appreciation or passion for reform, have proven to be stumbling blocks to achieving reforms in this sector.

This page has suggested various legal, policy and administrative interventions, for managing the transformation of the justice system and the institutions that deliver justice. We have mapped out the specific steps that should be taken, and how the system might be made accountable. The slow pace of reforms in the justice system, is unacceptable. Nigerians deserve better.

Commencing next week, we shall dedicate one page in each of our next five editions, to remind the key persons and institutions in our justice system, of the unsatisfactory state of Administration of Justice in Nigeria. Olawale Fapohunda, Managing Partner, Legal Resources Consortium and Onikepo Braithwaite, will articulate the concerns of justice sector stakeholders on the state of our justice system. Key institutions that will be subject of our focus, include the Presidency, Judiciary, Nigeria Police, Nigeria Prisons Service, and Access to Justice institutions - Ministries of Justice, Legal Aid Council, National Human Rights Commission.

More on This

Cardinal Criticises Govt for Labelling Biafra Group a Terrorist Organisation

A Catholic cardinal, John Onaiyekan, has criticised the federal government's declaration of the separatist group, IPOB,… Read more »

Copyright © 2017 This Day. All rights reserved. Distributed by AllAfrica Global Media (allAfrica.com). To contact the copyright holder directly for corrections — or for permission to republish or make other authorized use of this material, click here.

AllAfrica publishes around 800 reports a day from more than 140 news organizations and over 500 other institutions and individuals, representing a diversity of positions on every topic. We publish news and views ranging from vigorous opponents of governments to government publications and spokespersons. Publishers named above each report are responsible for their own content, which AllAfrica does not have the legal right to edit or correct.

Articles and commentaries that identify allAfrica.com as the publisher are produced or commissioned by AllAfrica. To address comments or complaints, please Contact us.