The United States (U.S.) says it does not consider Nigeria’s pro-Biafra group as a terrorist organization even though the U.S. remains committed to a united Nigeria.
Their position over the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was echoed over the weekend by spokesman for the American Embassy in Abuja, Russell Brooks.
“The United States government is strongly committed to Nigeria’s unity. Important political and economic issues affecting the Nigerian people, such as the allocation of resources, are worthwhile topics for respectful debate in a democracy.”
Brooks was responding to an email inquiry by a local newspaper, The Punch. An Abuja High Court last week okayed proscription and granted orders to the effect that the separatists group based in south-east was a terrorist organization.
“Within the context of unity, we encourage all Nigerians to support the de-escalation of tensions and peaceful resolution to grievances. The Indigenous People of Biafra is not a terrorist organization under U.S. law,” Brooks added.
Lawyers for IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, late last week challenged the court order that labeled them a terrorist organization. The lawyer said IPOB was not a non-violent group and could not be said to be a terrorist organization.
Kanu’s lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, argued that the court order was heard ex parte – i.e. without notice to the other interested party. A move he described as injurious to his client and therefore illegal.
Before the court declaration, the army had the week before, slapped a terrorist tag on the group but the Army Chief said it was more of a pronouncement than a declaration. The U-turn came on the back of criticism that it was not for the army to declare one group or the other as terrorists.
Kanu was detained for over a year and half on charges of treason and was only released on strict bail conditions in April this year. He recently went missing after the military clashed with IPOB members at his home in Umuahia in Nigeria’s Abia State.
The 50-year-old who holds Nigerian and British nationalities is pushing for a separate republic of Biafra nearly 50 years after a previous declaration of independence sparked a civil war which left more than a million people dead.
Members of the group have occasionally clashed with members of Nigeria’s security apparatus during protests. Human rights groups have reported that the army’s highhandedness has led to death of scores of IPOB members.