19 January 2018

Nigeria: Court Refuses to Vacate Order Proscribing IPOB

Photo: The Guardian

Abuja — A Federal High Court in Abuja has refused to vacate its earlier order proscribing the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and designating it a terrorist organisation.

Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Kafarati, in a judgment delivered thursday, dismissed IPOB's application challenging the order.

The judge held that the memo written by the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami, upon which the president gave the approval, stands.

Kafarati, in addition, awarded a cost of N500,000 against the group.

The acting Chief Judge had on September 20, 2017, issued the proscription order following an ex parte application filed by Malami.

Unsatisfied with the decision, IPOB, through its counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, in an application, urged the court to set aside the proscription order.

But delivering judgment thursday, Kafarati held that the federal government was right in issuing the order based on the activities of IPOB prelude to the proscription.

The judge held that IPOB, being a foreign registered organisation, could be prosecuted and punished in Nigeria, since it was in Nigeria and its members are Nigerians.

On Ejiofor's position that the process through which the order was obtained was defective, as according to him, it was at variance with the provisions of the Terrorism Act, the acting CJ held that Section 21(a) gives the AGF powers to act on any issues relating to terrorism.

"It is my considered view that the memo written by the Attorney-General of the Federation upon which the president gave his approval, stands," Kafarati held.

Also while stating that the applicant's right to fair hearing had not been violated, Justice Kafarati held that Section 45(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria provides that nothing in Sections 37, 38, 39, & 41 of the Constitution shall invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democracy.

Justice Kafarati had fixed thursday for judgment on the suit challenging the federal government's proscription of IPOB, after counsel in the matter concluded their submissions.

He had in September, while delivering ruling in an ex parte motion brought by the federal government, issued an order proscribing the activities of IPOB and branding it a terrorist group.

The federal government, in the suit was represented by the Solicitor General of the Federation, Dayo Apata, while Ejiofor stood in for IPOB.

Ejiofor, in his submission, had urged the court to vacate its order which proscribed IPOB and declared it a terrorist organisation.

He premised his argument on the grounds that the process followed in obtaining the proscription order was defective.

Ejiofor said that the Terrorism Act is explicit and specific on who can give approval for an organisation to be proscribed, adding that President Muhammadu Buhari who the Act specifically empowered to approve the proscription order, did not give his approval as required by the law.

According to him, a letter written by the AGF to the president did not amount to an approval, nor the letter signed by the Chief of Staff to the President, Abba Kyari conveying approval, as the duty of the president under the Act cannot be delegated.

He submitted that "the order of the court did not comply with the processes of Section 40 of the Terrorism Act which defines the Office of the President and all actions that are to be taken by him under the Act. In the instant case, no approval was given by the president".

Ejiofor further argued that IPOB never engaged on any terrorist activities, adding that the processions and rallies which the group was engaged in were not terrorist acts.

He disclosed that IPOB was registered in England, India, and several other countries and her members have the right of self-determination under the United Nations Chapter.

Ejiofor also denied claims by Apata that IPOB was linked with the importation of arms into the country through a Turkish citizen.

Responding, Apata told the court that he was opposing the application in the interest of justice, public peace, constitutional order, territorial integrity and national security.

He urged the court to refuse the application, claiming that IPOB was engaged in terrorist activities.

The Solicitor General of the Federation presented 11 exhibits showing instances when the activities of IPOB were classified by the security agencies as terrorist acts, including the killing of a policeman.

He further submitted that Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed group, had severally called Nigeria a zoo that must be scattered, stressing that no sane government will allow the activities of such an organisation to go unchecked.

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