By officially proscribing the Indigenous People of Biafra, perhaps, the prevailing tension in the land is expected to subside considerably, writes Olawale Olaleye
The seeming indiscretion by the Nigerian military the previous week had almost set the nation on fire. Although the plight of the military, which had been drafted in the South-east state of Abia, using Operation Python Dance II to quell some of the growing disorder as well as the simmering lawlessness in that region, must have been agitated to take the position it took by first designating IPOB as a terrorist group by virtue of what it described as its analysis of the group’s activities. That the development would later become very controversial was also not unexpected.
The military was however made to recant its position and consequently, President Muhammadu Buhari took the initiative to take the heat off the military when he first signed a declaration proscribing IPOB, shortly before he left for the 72nd United Nations General Assembly in New York, the United States.
Sources in the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation had informed THISDAY earlier in the week that the president signed the declaration last Sunday before his departure to New York.
Thus, with the signing of the proclamation by Buhari, the presidency effectively initiated the formal process to proscribe IPOB in accordance with the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011. It also paved the way for the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) to head to court to give legal backing to the presidential proclamation, which he eventually did, using a Federal High Court, Abuja.
Section 2 (1) of the Terrorism Act states that “where two or more persons associate for the purpose of, or where an organisation engages in: (a) participating or collaborating in an act of terrorism; (b) promoting, encouraging or exhorting others to commit an act of terrorism; or (c) setting up or pursuing acts of terrorism, the judge in chambers may on an application made by the Attorney General, National Security Adviser or Inspector General of Police on the approval of the President, declare any entity to be a proscribed organisation and the notice should be published in the official gazette”.
Sub-section 2 goes further to state that: “An order made under sub-section (1) of this section shall be published in the official gazette, in two national newspapers and at such other places as the judge in chambers may determine.”
The acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdul Adamu Kafarati, who granted the order proscribing IPOB, approved of all the prayers brought before him by the justice minister.
While granting the prayers that were signed by the court’s registrar Babatunde Ashada, the Judge said: “Upon reading through the affidavit I support, certificate on compliance with Section 84 of the Evidence Act 2011 both sworn to by CPL Kolawole Mathew of the Nigerian Army and written address attached thereto all dated and filed at the court registry, Abuja.
“It is hereby ordered as follows: That the application is granted as prayed. That an order declaring that the activities of the respondent (IPOB) 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 IPOB 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 (IPOB) under any name or platform however called or destined, is granted.”
At this point, no excuses in support of IPOB will suffice anymore. Those challenging the proscription against the mindset that IPOB was never registered in the first place and therefore not recognised in law might also have to answer a related question, which borders on whether or not Boko Haram was registered by the CAC.
Attempt to turn the law or the constitution on its head by those, who should know better, is a major problem that confronts the nation today beyond the leadership quagmire. There is no debating the fact that IPOB had begun to constitute a huge nuisance if not threat to the corporate existence of Nigeria, notwithstanding the legality or otherwise of their demands.
Indeed, its activities had peaked to the point that questioned the existence of a government, hence the swift intervention of President Buhari, who not only salvaged the initially flawed process by going ahead to ensure that the right thing was done, completely bringing to a close, any debate about the process leading to the proscription and or designation of any group or person as terrorist.
It is therefore imperative that the South-east leadership takes this initiative a step further and explain the implications of this development to a majority of the people in the zone, who have blindly bought into the Nnamdi Kanu folly and fantasies. These fanatic followers must avoid activities that could lead to deadly encounter with the military. As far as the government of Nigeria is concerned, the IPOB ideology remains in the past and attempts to bring it up by any means possible could attract the wrath of the law and genuinely so.