Chief John Nnia Nwodo, the President General of Ohanaeze Ndigbo, at the weekend said that the declaration of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation was an attempt by the Federal Government to profile Igbo people at the international security arena.
Nwodo stated this while delivering a lecture at the Enugu State University of Science and Technology (ESUT) Business School, Enugu, on Saturday.
He also re-affirmed Ohanaeze’s utmost belief in the call by the Southern and Middle Belt Leadership Forum and a number of other well-meaning Nigerians for a new constitution for a politically restructured Nigeria similar to the 1963 arrangement.
Chief Nwodo said he viewed the declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation as hurried, unfair, and not in conformity with the intendment of the law.
The two-time minister said whereas he was not completely in agreement with some of the methods of IPOB, like its inappropriate and divisive broadcasts, the uncontested evidence given by the Attorney General of the Federation in an interlocutory action claiming that IPOB attempted and/or actually snatched guns from law enforcement agents, if proven, were merely criminal offences.
He insisted that the said offences IPOB were accused of did not constitute enough evidence to meet international law definition of terrorism.
Nwodo noted that the United States embassy in Nigeria shared this conclusion and asserted that the United States government did not recognise IPOB as a terrorist organisation.
He said: “This same unarmed IPOB that is being stigmatised by the Nigerian government had its members murdered in Asaba, Nkpor, Aba and Port Harcourt simply for having public demonstrations without the Federal Government ordering a judicial inquiry.
“Instead, after I called for one and Amnesty International provided evidence that 150 of them were killed, the Chief of Army Staff set up an inquiry, composed of serving and retired members of the armed forces, thereby compromising the rules of natural justice which prescribes that you cannot be a judge in your own case.
“The Igbos in Nigeria feel the treatment of IPOB as unfair, discriminatory, and an overkill.
“They see the move as an attempt to encourage a profiling of Igbos in the international security arena.
“We know of other self-determination groups in Nigeria that are armed and have destroyed government and private sector installations and wells that government prefer to negotiate with rather than labelling them as terrorist organisations.
“Fulani herdsmen, otherwise called the Fulani militants, have ravaged farms in Middle Belt, South West, and South Eastern Nigeria, killing several farmers in the process. In January 2016, they killed 500 farmers and their families in Agatu in Benue State.
“This year alone, over 1000 people have been murdered by them in the Middle Belt and many more displaced from their homes.
“In Enugu State, they murdered more than 100 farmers in Ukpabi Nimbo in April 2016.
“Photographs depicting them with automatic rifles trend in the entire world media, yet not one of them is facing criminal charges, nor is ‘Operation Python Dance’ being conducted in the areas where they ravage and kill and the Federal Government describes them as criminals and not a terrorist organisation, notwithstanding their classification by the Global Terrorist Index as the fourth deadliest terrorist group in the world (see British Independent Newspaper of 12th July 2016 which indicated that Fulani herdsmen killed one thousand people in 2014).”
He said the recent deployment of soldiers to South East in ‘Operation Python Dance’ was unfortunate.
According to the Ohanaeze leader, deployment of the army was only allowed in circumstances of insurrection, terrorism, and external aggression not in preventing the killing of priests or fighting kidnapping.
He explained that in those circumstances where they could be deployed, leave of the Senate must be sought, stressing that this brazen impunity in dealing with matters which concerned the South East was provocative.
On the issue of restructuring, Nwodo said: “Now, let us look at the statistical evidence that made the argument for restructuring compelling.