John Alechenu, Eniola Akinkuotu, Ade Adesomoju, Tony Okafor and Gibson Achonu
The Federal High Court in Abuja has given judicial backing to the executive order of President Muhammadu Buhari, outlawing the Indigenous People of Biafra and its activities in every part of Nigeria.
The Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdu Kafarati, granted the order proscribing the group on Wednesday.
It declared that the activities of the group constituted an act of terrorism and illegality.
The Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN), with the Solicitor General of the Federation and Permanent Secretary of the Federal Ministry of Justice, Mr. Dayo Apata, and some other lawyers from the ministry appeared before Justice Kafarati for the Federal Government.
The AGF, argued the ex parte motion in which IPOB was joined as a respondent inside the chamber of the judge.
The Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2013, under which the Federal Government’s ex parte motion was brought, permits the judge to choose to hear it inside the chamber.
Malami and Apata arrived at the courtroom on the fifth floor of the Federal High Court complex in Abuja at about 12.15pm on Wednesday.
The duo were immediately led to the judge’s chamber where the proceedings lasted about an hour.
A copy of the court’s enrolled order, sighted by The PUNCH, on Wednesday, declared that the activities of the group in any part of Nigeria, especially in the South -East and South-South regions of Nigeria “amount to acts of terrorism and illegality”.
It also restrained “any person or group of persons” from participating in any form of the activities involving or “concerning the prosecution of the collective intention or otherwise” of the group.
The order read, “That the application is granted as prayed.
“That an order declaring that the activities of the respondent (Indigenous People of Biafra) in any part of Nigeria, especially in the South-East and South-South regions of Nigeria, amount to acts of terrorism and illegality is granted.
“That an order proscribing the existence of the respondent (Indigenous People of Biafra), 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, is granted.
“That an order 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 (Indigenous People of Biafra) under any other name or platform however called or described is granted.”
Speaking with one of our correspondents on the telephone on Wednesday, Malami said IPOB stood proscribed as the court order had sanctioned the presidential approval proscribing the group.
He said, “It is true that IPOB was proscribed by the court today. It was the Federal High Court presided over by Justice Kafarati.
“The presidential approval proscribing the group has been sanctioned, confirmed and affirmed by the court. The group stands proscribed.”
On the next step the government would take, he said, “Gazetting is the final stage and that takes an executive procedure not legislative or judicial.
“As I have said, the executive aspect has been concluded by presidential approval and the judicial aspect has equally been concluded by the granting of the order by the court.
“That means the executive and the judicial processes have been concluded.
“It clearly remains the official gazetting which is the last thing to do.”
IPOB receiving funding from France, says FG
The Federal Government, on Wednesday, alleged that apart from receiving money from looters in Nigeria, secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra, was receiving a large chunk of its financing from France.
The Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said this during an interview with State House correspondents after the Federal Executive Council Meeting at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
Mohammed said it would, however, be difficult to block the funding because some innocent Nigerians were receiving money from France for legitimate reasons.
He said, “We have the records, we know IPOB collects money from many people in 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 you see, can you, as a government, stop people sending money to their parents? 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.”
The minister said one of the measures the government employed in tackling IPOB before the deployment of soldiers in the South-East, was to reach out to foreign governments for collaboration.
He, however, said the process was long and not always successful.
Mohammed said, for instance, the Federal Government asked the United Kingdom to help shut down Radio Biafra in London from where Kanu was transmitting hate speeches the UK Government rejected the request based on the need to protect freedom of speech.
The minister added, “In tackling IPOB again, there are a few very naughty diplomatic issues which you need to skip. For instance, who does not know that the IPOB international radio is located in London? We know the diplomatic moves we have been taking and approaching the UK and all the damage it (Radio Biafra) has done but they don’t see it that way; for them, it is about freedom of expression.”
Mohammed rejected the argument that IPOB was not a terrorist group.
He argued that Kanu was caught on video in London in 2015 soliciting money for weapons.
He added, “I think anybody, who has watched Nnamdi Kanu’s videos, knows that anywhere he goes, he openly solicits arms and funds. I have a lot of quotations from him as to the violent nature of IPOB.
“In one of his videos, he said if he was arrested, his boys should burn down the country.
Also, a Non-Governmental Organisation, Project Nigeria First, has expressed support for efforts so far made by the Federal Government and governors to forestall a breakdown of law and order in the South-East.
The National Coordinator of the group, Mr. Uche Nwabukwu, said this at a media briefing in Abuja on Wednesday.
He said but for the timely intervention of government at the federal and state levels, especially in the South-East, the activities of IPOB would have thrown the country into chaos.
Kanu, parents might have been killed –IPOB
Meanwhile, IPOB, on Wednesday, alleged that the Nigerian Army might have killed its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, during the invasion of his house at Afaraukwu in Abia State.
In a statement made available to The PUNCH in Awka, Anambra State, by IPOB’s Media and Publicity Secretary, Emma Powerful, the secessionist group said it had been searching for its leader since the attack but had failed to find him.
It maintained that it had reasonable suspicion that Kanu and his parents had died.
IPOB stated that from its record, no fewer than 38 persons were whisked away by soldiers during the attack, adding that up until now, nothing had been heard about them.
The statement read in part, “The Indigenous People of Biafra and its leadership worldwide, under the command and leadership of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, wish to alert the whole world again that our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s whereabouts is still unknown till date.
“IPOB has gone deep in search of the whereabouts of our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and his parents and they are nowhere to be found.
“We are using this opportunity to inform the whole world, including the United Nations, that the Nigerian Army killed our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, during the attack and invasion of his compound in Umuahia, Abia State.”
The group added, “After going through the record of IPOB members in the compound on the day of this heinous attack and invasion, we discovered that about 38 members were arrested and up till now, nobody has seen or heard from them.
“We also discovered that the Nigerian Army left the compound of our leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, in Isiama Afaraukwu, Ibeku, with 22 dead bodies on the same day.
“We are once again raising the alarm for the United Nations and other relevant bodies across the globe to ask the Nigerian government and its security operatives to give details of IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, and parents, including those dead bodies and those picked up alive during the attack and invasion of our leader’s compound in Isiama Afaraukwu, Ibeku, Umuahia.
“Okezie Ikpeazu, who was mandated by the Federal Government and other South-East governors to lead the fight against Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB members in Abia State, must be held responsible for this action in no distant time.”
It, however, maintained that the absence of its leader would not deter it from continuing its struggle for Biafra independence.