How Much of a Terrorist Group is IPOB?

Onikepo Braithwaite
The Advocate By Onikepo Braithwaite, Email:

 Terror, Terrorism and Terrorist Group

Terror is defined as “extreme fear, dread, horror”. The Oxford Living Dictionary defines Terrorism as “the unlawful use of violence and intimidation, especially against civilians, in pursuit of political aims”. It has also been defined as “the use of violence, especially murder and bombing, in order to achieve political aims or to force a government to do something”.

It seems that there exists no legally binding definition of terrorism or a terrorist group, but the common thread that runs through the definitions includes fear, violence (even murder) to achieve a specific political agenda, like “the desire for ethnic or national liberation”. One can safely say that, a terrorist group is a group which instills fear in people and uses extreme violence to achieve its political goals.

Understanding Terrorism by Harry Jackson

In “Understanding Terrorism”, A Thesis by Lieutenant Harry R. Jackson of the United States Navy, the author identifies five crucial components of terrorism, namely, “an involvement of an act of violence, an audience, the creation of a mood of fear, innocent victims, and political goals or motives”.

The first question that comes to my mind is, “does the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), fit into these definitions of terror, terrorism and terrorist group?” Yes, it has its political goals or motives, the fifth component of Harry Jackson’s definition. But what about the other four components? Does IPOB create any mood of fear in anybody? I do not want you to say that this is a doltish or unintelligent question to ask, especially from someone sitting far away in Lagos. So, over to you, people of the South East Zone, were you scared of IPOB? For instance, when you were asked to do a sit-at-home protest by IPOB on May 30, 2017, did you do it out of fear, because you were constrained to, or because you believed in the cause? By the way, which Terrorist Organisations like Boko Haram, have you heard organise protests or call for Referendum? Do they not just regularly go on rampages, bombing and killing innocent people?


To the best of my knowledge, IPOB is not particularly known for violence, at least not for murder, bombing and the extreme violence that is typical of terrorists (correct me if I am wrong). Let us draw a comparison with the Fulani Cattle Herdsmen, who have unleashed so much violence against innocent, defenceless rural communities in various parts of the country, senselessly and selfishly invading and destroying their farms and means of subsistence, so that their own cows can graze, killing and maiming people, raping their women, looting and carting away the little valuables that these rural people have struggled for. But because we all love to eat meat, these Herdsmen are being placated and rewarded with grazing ranches, and those that have perpetrated these horrible crimes, instead of being denounced and punished for being the violent criminals that they are, they seem to be getting away scot free.

Though Kanu is on record for sourcing for funds to, in his own words, “buy guns and bullets”, since he was unable to secure the required funds, and therefore, probably not able to buy the weapons, does this qualify him and IPOB to be terrorists? Can mens rea (guilty mind) with no actus reus (guilty act), constitute a crime?

Some have argued that, since IPOB set up a quasi military wing, the Biafra National Guard and Biafra Intelligence Services, kitted in uniforms and engaged in training, it qualifies as a terrorist group. Or the fact that Kanu threatened to ensure that the November election in Anambra State does not hold, is terrorism, as he would only have been able to achieve this obstruction with the use of force and intimidation.


Yes, some have accused IPOB of setting up road blocks/toll gates to extort money from innocent passers-by. Hello! We go through that with Area Boys and other Government Agencies on the roads here in Lagos, on a daily basis. There will always be bad eggs in any group. Does that make the extortionists, terrorists?


Harry Jackson goes on to say that “They (Terrorists) endeavour to legitimise their activities in their own eyes, as it is to convince the public of their worthiness”. I do not believe that Nnamdi Kanu has had to convince most people of Igbo origin, of his worthiness or that of his cause. Though some may have found his position to be somewhat extreme, that is, the Separatist/Secessionist/ Biafra point of view, there is still a common denominator. The South East Zone believes that within the Nigerian entity, it has been marginalised. It seems that especially within the ranks of young Igbo men, Nnamdi Kanu enjoys a strong followership, and successive governments, the present one included, have no one but themselves to blame, for his ‘popularity’.

The issue of the marginalisation of the South East Zone, is not a new one. Seven years ago, Dr Olisa Agbokoba, SAN, filed suit No: FHC/EN/M/301/2010 against the Federal Republic of Nigeria; a Fundamental Rights Class Action on behalf of himself and the South East Zone, on grounds of discrimination pursuant to Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (the Constitution).

Arguments as to whether IPOB is a non-juristic body that cannot sue or be sued, or that the right to fair hearing was violated, because IPOB was proscribed by virtue of an ex-parte motion (Section 36 of the Constitution), the Terrorism Prevention Amendment Act and so on, in my humble opinion, can only kick in if IPOB is established to be a Terrorist Group. I am not certain that this has been established, especially going by Harry Jackson’s five crucial components. While the military accused IPOB members of throwing stones (missiles!) at them, it was IPOB who accused the military of murdering some of its members and Nnamdi Kanu’s family dog!

Counter-Terrorism: Diplomacy

One of the strategies which Harry Jackson recommends that Government should adopt in fighting terrorism, is Diplomacy. I concur. Instead of proscribing IPOB, in order to clamp down on Nnamdi Kanu and his fellow IPOB agitators, and send a veiled threat or message to other agitators or perceived trouble makers, it is time for Government and all the players, to engage the South East Zone and indeed, all the other Zones, in talks, so as to forge a way ahead. Proscribing IPOB, is not a magic wand, that can be waved to make the frustrations and discontent that many Igbo people feel, vanish.

We are not in a military dictatorship, where laws are ignored, stretched or misinterpreted, just to suit Government’s purpose. We are in a civilian dispensation, where the rule of law is paramount, and our right to freedom of expression and association, are enshrined in Sections 39 & 40 of the Constitution respectively. While some may argue that Section 39 does not extend to inciting people against Government and the polity, with regard to a lot of the issues that have been raised in the various agitations, it is my humble opinion that, no one really needs to be incited, the writing is there on the wall, plain, for all to see.

Readers Notice

We have been consistent in our call for the need to reform our Administration of Justice System. Indeed, we have been clear that, achieving any level of development in our socio-economic and political life, requires a strong commitment and serious intervention in our justice system. Current realities in Nigeria-insurgency, militancy, and high levels of criminality, have heightened our citizens’ concern as regards insecurity. In certain parts of the country, it now takes a brave Nigerian, to sleep with two eyes closed.

Our country is struggling to maintain law and order. This, in our view, is the direct result of the inability of successive governments, to prioritise and invest in our justice system. The Judiciary, Police Force, Prisons Service and other access to justice institutions, are struggling to work in the interest of justice. Public confidence in the justice system, remains at very low levels.

A combination of limited political will, poor understanding of what needs to be done, the lack of merit based appointments to leadership positions of key justice sector institutions, and the appointment of persons without subject-matter appreciation or passion for reform, have proven to be stumbling blocks to achieving reforms in this sector.

This page has suggested various legal, policy and administrative interventions, for managing the transformation of the justice system and the institutions that deliver justice. We have mapped out the specific steps that should be taken, and how the system might be made accountable. The slow pace of reforms in the justice system, is unacceptable. Nigerians deserve better.

Commencing next week, we shall dedicate one page in each of our next five editions, to remind the key persons and institutions in our justice system, of the unsatisfactory state of Administration of Justice in Nigeria. Olawale Fapohunda, Managing Partner, Legal Resources Consortium and Onikepo Braithwaite, will articulate the concerns of justice sector stakeholders on the state of our justice system. Key institutions that will be subject of our focus, include the Presidency, Judiciary, Nigeria Police, Nigeria Prisons Service, and Access to Justice institutions – Ministries of Justice, Legal Aid Council, National Human Rights Commission.

  • Samuel

    Well let me say well done to the critical appraisal done to some parts of the post and as well dissagree with the part that says that ipob extorts money from people.any group that takes money from people is not ipob.Who are this ipob.ipob is the indigenous people of biafra and this comprises of all the old eastern region,how can the indigenes be extorting money from themselves,Nigeria should grant biafra referendum plz.this terrorist organisation that does not have guns or any weapon,this terorist organisation that u knw their adresses even the house of the leader,this terrorist organisation tht is only demanding for a referrend.this terrorist organisation that is following the world legal system.i think the world should pay more attensdion to them #upipob #freedomforbiafra

  • Mystic mallam

    The federal govt is playing crass politics with terrorism, wishing on iyself an evil no sane country wants near its shores; as if Boko haram is not bad enough. Soon Nd Militants, then Oduduwa agitators will all become terrorists leaving only herdsmen as mere criminals. The world will then know Nigeria as the nation of terrorists.

  • Jon West

    Becaus we all love to eat meat ………. Really? That is why the Boko Haram herdsmen can terrorise everyone? Don’t beat about the bush Madam, you are the scion of a no-nonsense truth sayer. We are under attack by Islamic Fundamentalist madmen unleashed on us by Sidon Look opportunists in 2015. Now they regret at leisure.

  • Iskacountryman

    fulani cattle herdsmen is oxymoronic…

    • Jon West

      You are right. Fulanis will do just fine, since they are all herdsmen and terrorists. To hell with Nigeria!!

      • Iskacountryman

        there is nothing like fulanis…and nigeria is already a hell…so where are you going to end up?…and, where else would you buy subsidised ngwo ngwo?

    • Don Franco

      Do you mean with emphasis on the second syllable?

      • Iskacountryman

        of which word…are you by any chance trying to confuse me?

  • American

    IPOB is never and can never be a terrorist organization. We don’t care about the trash coming out from the hater of Igbo people Mohamed buhari. The chameleon who sings anti corruption but continues to waste nigerias money in foreign hospital every now and then as if he could have afforded it if he was still a cattle rearer up kastina state. Nigerians are now wiser about this hypocrite in Aso Rock. Thanks to this writer for this painstaking analysis. It seems like all those at the top of nigerias leadership right now are fools and morons especially buhari and buratai or they are just expressing their deep hatred for a people already burdened by their irresponsible policies and programs skewed against their well being. Otherwise, how come they did not know that IPOB is not a boko haram in any form or shape. This is a group loved and cherished by every Igboman actively or passively at home or in diaspora but boko haram is dreaded by everyone up north. They are too afraid to conduct a referendum because they are already aware that it will be a 95% yes to Biafra. I have never seen this level of hatred exhibited by a sitting president against a people in all my years of political consciousness. Not even obasanjo was this bad. I will What President Donald Trump told kim jung un and his foreign minister is the most appropriate words for buhari right now. He who has ear let him hear.

    • yusuf bell

      IPOB is a hate/terrorist group. Hate; I have never seen such hatred till I watch Osama Kanu’s videos on Youtube. Terrorist: They terrorize people including the same people they claim to represent! You do no need weapons to be called a terrorist, please look up the defination in the dictionary.

      While a lot of people agree that Nigeria needs restructuring I believe there is a more logical way to go about it; devoid of hate. I personally think we need it more badly in the North because it’s high time our youths are weaned off laziness. However, any genuine move for self determination has to be founded on principles and not because power was lost in 2015 and a certain tribe can no longer dominate govt offices and appointments. We are all witness to the tribal atrocities perpetuated by Anyim and Iweala. And please do not come with the argument about the recent employment in the DSS because what is happening now is just rebalancing. When Ita, the former DG SS was in office, I recall he employed 76 officer cadets in one fell swoop from Cross Rivers State whilst Kano got 13 and Osun and Ekiti States go & each!! So i dont see anything wrong if Kano, OSun and Ekiti states are favoured now. That’s Nigeria for you.

      Igbos ought to have put forward best brains in their agitation and NOT the deluded and moronic Osama bin Kanu and his Ipopigs clowns! They forget that economy is important to nation building yet they go about insulting their potential target market (North and SW) should they get their wish to seccede. You hear them say we can have our Biafra and trade with our neigbours. NOT in this part of our world though! You get along in a mutually respectable divorce and not a bitter divorce. You dnt expect to hate people in the ZOO and expect them to trade with you or host your tribe in their region. Our matuarity hasnt reached that level yet.

      • ychukwuka

        Please give us proof of those NOI and Anyim employed and also 76 cadet cadet officers from Cross River that Ita employed in one swoop neglecting other states. It seems I am getting the reason why he was relieved of the job. The current DG DSS Daura’s own is not in doubt! out of 479 recruits, 51cadets were taken from Katsina while the whole of SE got 44(Anambra-10, Enugu-9, Imo-11, Abia-7, Ebonyi-7) and the whole of South-south 42 cadets (Rivers-7, Cross Rivers-9, Bayelsa-7, Delta-8, Edo-6. Akwa Ibom-5). Please use facts to match facts and not hear say. Is this fair in your thinking? The explanation/thought that since 76 cadets were employed in one swoop(pls provide proof) hence you can employ 54 cadets from only Katsina to be more than all the states in SE or SS is warped. Who will balance the warped LGAs in Nigeria in favour of North(North-417 LGAs, South-357 LGs)? who will balance the total number of States in favour of North(North-20 states including Abuja, South-17 States)? Who will balance the number of security personnel especially the military skewed in favour of North and even recent admittance of Boko haram members into the military? My dear, be honest and admit that the structure of Nigeria is tilted, faulty, unjust and that has made her a mockery of a nation in the International scene. Something must give way. IPOB has never been and is not a terror organisation. if you are in doubt, ask Igbos, the average Nigerians, EU, UK, US and many countries all over the globe where they operate.

        • yusuf bell

          Please remove the speck in your eye before you mislead others. I presume you live in Nigeria and (though I do no agree with the thinking) in Nigeria this is the way the pendulum swings. Research the heads of all the parastatals under Ngozi:

          – Mustapha Chike-Obi: DG, AMCON
          ·Arunma Oteh: DG, Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC)
          ·Abraham Nwankwo: DG, Debt Management Office
          ·Osita Onyema: DG, Nigerian Stock Exchange (NSE)
          – PENCOM
          – NSIA- Uche Orji
          – PENCOM- Chinelo Anohu-Amazu
          – FIRS- She refused to push forward Kabir Mashi for confirmation after senate rejected her candidate.

          Go to NCC, literally walk in there and tell me if you wont think you are at Ariaria market. The norm is when a particular tribe heads an organization the CEO tends to employ more from their section. In fact, I believe the Hausa man(with the exception of Buhari) are the least tribalistic. I challenge you to visit the offices of the Govt CEOs in Abuja> Chances are you will find the CEOs office dominated entirely by their tribe. Every CEO replaces the staff in their office and look for their tribesmen. Only hausas rarely do that. We tend to retain those we meet there or ask HR to post competent people.

          Regarding 20 vs 17 states, I believe you are being ignorant or downright mischievious. Even in the US( the country you tend to worship) you dont have even number of states spread across the east coast, west coast, etc ( The landmass varies between North and South, so does the population size.

          Analysing security personnel, you have different tribes gravitate towards a particular type of employment. Northerners love the army while SE people do not. I recall, as hard as Ihejirika tried to recruit massively from the SE alot of them turned out to be deserters!! Do a layman survey in you very area; give your people option of either joining NNPC or the army! I bet you almost all wud say NNPC. DO a similar survey in the Hausa FUlani comunmity(assuming you hve one) and let me know the outcome. A sizeable number of them will forgo the comfort of NNPC and opt for the military. This is how it works in Nigeria.

          No structure is tilted when you analyse stuff objectively and not thru the lens of tribalism. Each structure of every region is disadvantaged because of leadership. Some are luckier than the others though. For eg, I believe Katsina State has the 2nd best road network after Abuja. And this isnt because of OYel money. its because they are lucky to have governors who (though stole money) were able to at least plough their allocation into the development of their state. Constrast that with the southeast!!

          I suggest you ought to ponder about the situation in equitorial Guinea. SMALL STATE, PLENTY OIL REVENUE BUT VERY POOR. It’s leader my brother, NOT structure

        • American

          Thank you.

      • kalu9909

        Some simple illustrations would convince you that IPOB is not a terrorist organisation, unlike BOKO HARAM, which is well documented as a terror organisation. (1) Have you ever since Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of ipob, carrying AK 47 machine gun? But Shakau has been seen in videos and pictures carrying guns and surrounded with gun wielding members. (2) Have you ever seen boko haram members protesting in any of the streets in the north, unlike ipob members who organise protests everywhere in the south east and south south? (3) ipob members and the Nigerian police interact from time to time without harm on both sides, but boko haram and Nigerian police do not see eye to eye. (4) have you ever heard of any bomb explosion in the south east or south south? But in the north east, bombs explodes on daily basis. (5) have you ever since boko haram members protesting in UK, Canada, USA, France, Ghana, Germany etc? But ipob members freely protest without any molestation from the government of these countries. Has the UK, UN or USA labeled ipob as terrorist organisation? These countries and UN have labeled boko haram is the most deadliest organisation in the world. Even the hausa fulani herdsmen has joined them and been recognised as the 4th dealiest terrorist organisation in the world. Are you not ashamed? The Nigerian government is just trying to ridicule herself before the eyes of the world. The international communities are making jest of your country as lacking in knowledge to different a terror organisation from freedom agitators. All the indices put forward by Buhari and the north to categorize ipob as a terror group does not add up at all. The earlier you understand this the more you will be enlightened.

  • Paulocaesar

    Thanks for your most carefully thought out write-up Ms Braithwaite.

    Every Igboman, Yorubaman, Hausaman and all others are IPOB followers and just don’t know it.

    All our “founding fathers” employed IPOB’s arguments and sometimes crazy seeming strategies and tactics in seeking independence from the British.

    Nnamdi Azikiwe had to run a newspaper in Ghana to get news to the people instead of the government filtered politically correct clap-trap that muzzled their ability to speak freely among themselves.

    I feel for all the Igbo bad mouthing NK’s approach, but have either come up with nothing or been infiltrated with veiled threats, murder, or alternatively a taste of the good life. I don’t blame them.

    Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King would have been brutally tortured and murdered by fellow countrymen in a place like Nigeria for peacefully protesting civil rights or canvassing independence.

    —Activism is an affront to baba!
    —Peaceful protest is an affront to baba!
    —Violent protest is never a legitimate option!
    —if you go to war, be ready for the outcome; win, lose, or draw, and none will look glamorous.

    So while the caliphate expands with the Fulani herdsmen as the advance guard and the python dancer storm troopers as the rear guard, we’re back to the Abacha days of military domination and lack of imagination, only this time in mufti, and lulled into a belief that we are patriotic and safe.

    Now is the time for Nigerian luminaries to take to the streets!!!… or stay docile and complicit in our own guaranteed demise.