• Ozekhome, Agbakoba, Sagay react
By WILLY EYA, VINCENT KALU and OKEY SAMPSON, Aba
After the military invasion of Abia State and subsequent proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra(IPOB), members of the Nnamdi Kanu-led group have all gone underground for fear of arrest and brutality from the security forces.
Saturday Sun learnt that the affirmation of the proscription of the group by a Federal High Court in Abuja was like pouring cold water on the teeming IPOB members who are afraid to dare the law.
But a top leader of the group who declined to be mentioned has said that no amount of oppressive and draconian actions by the government would stop IPOB from actualising the Biafra Republic.
He said that what the Nigerian government through the military has succeeded in doing was to make the self-determination group change its strategy which will quicken the actualisation of Biafra.
Our source said that IPOB was not a terrorist organisation, describing those who declared it so as not only playing double standard, but also lacking in the knowledge of the extant national and international laws as they affect terrorism particularly the Terrorist Prevention Act 2011, as amended in 2015.
Reacting to the proscription of IPOB, Chief Mike Ozekhome said that by the clear provisions of section 2 of the Terrorism Prevention Act, the power to declare a group as a terrorist organisation does not lie either with the President, Chief of Army Staff, or the military.
He said the power rests squarely and exclusively with the judiciary.
He said: “Can the Nigerian government honestly proclaim IPOB a terrorist group simply because it peacefully demands self determination and more states for the peoples of the South East, demonstrates on the streets with unarmed groups that carry cardboard placards in their hands, wear berets, matching with sticks, blowing whistles, flutes, singing and clapping? These are young unmasked men who pose no immediate danger to the larger community wherein they attend the same churches, markets, schools, social events and fetch water from the same spirogyra infested streams. They do not, unlike terrorist groups, operate from secluded eerie forests, caves, wilderness, jungles, nor do they maintain unapproachable deadly camps.”
Another Senior Advocate of Nigeria and former President of the Nigerian Bar Association(NBA), Olisa Agbakoba said he did not want to see the whole issue as a legal matter.
He said it is a political problem that deals with marginalisation and expression of many ethnic nationalities of Nigeria and not just the South East.
He said: “I won’t like to look at it from the point of view of law. How can Nigeria survive? That is the real issue.
IPOB has happened and it has been proscribed, how do we get President Buhari to say the same thing he said about North Korea to our own country? If he could go to the United Nations and preach peace for North Korea, then I would expect him to do the same thing here, not arresting people and calling them terrorists because that can inflame the situation. Boko Haram is there, I have not seen the Federal Government intervene in the North East as they have been intervening in the South East, even though Boko Haram is a worst threat to Nigeria.”
But in his reaction, the chairman, Presidential Advisory Committee Against Corruption(PACAC), Prof Itse Sagay(SAN) said freedom of speech and association does not include establishing a private army or a security force to overthrow the government.
He also added: “it does not include burning down police stations and killing policemen. It does not include stopping vehicles and dragging out people of other ethnic groups. If they have been allowed to continue, they would have set this country on fire. They were just about to do that. If they had killed a few Hausa men and burnt mosques and so on, just imagine what would have been the response of the North. There is no way IPOB would have continued.”