Ifeanyi Ejiofor, one of the lead counsel for the detained leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has clarified reports that the United Kingdom government designated the agitators as terrorists, noting that such is not correct.
Ejiofor in a release on Friday explained that the UK government at no time in the said document referred to IPOB group as terrorists, but only used the word as was commonly employed by the Nigerian government.
The lawyer said Kanu's legal team was finalising plans to make a presentation to the UK government to correct all misconceptions about IPOB and to prove that the group had never been violent.
The United Kingdom Visas and Immigration office in its May 2022 policy update, said, “IPOB is proscribed as a terrorist group by the Nigerian government, and members of the group and its paramilitary wing – the Eastern Security Network (created in December 2020) – have reportedly committed human rights violations in Nigeria.
“If a person has been involved with IPOB (and/or an affiliated group), MASSOB or any other ‘Biafran’ group that incites or uses violence to achieve its aims, decision-makers must consider whether one (or more) of the exclusion clauses under the Refugee Convention is applicable.
“Persons who commit human rights violations must not be granted asylum.”
The Nigerian government, in its statement issued by the presidency’s spokesman, Garba Shehu, had said the UK’s stance was a welcome development and should be followed up with appropriate actions.
But reacting, Ejiofor said, “In view of the obvious sponsored false narrative ostensibly orchestrated by mischief-makers, the facts need to be set right. Following the UK Government's update vide the UKVI, which is clear and unambiguous in every respect, the direction contained in the referenced update is that the Indigenous People of Biafra's (IPOB) affiliated applicants seeking ASYLUM status in the UK, should not be considered on the merit of such claims without a thorough review of their level of involvement in uncivil activities.
“Obviously making reference to the proscription of IPOB in Nigeria, and relying on such sub-judicial subject, to insist that the granting of Asylum status on the basis of IPOB related persecution claims, can no longer be as a matter of course.
“It is pertinent to point out that the leadership of the IPOB has severally distanced the peaceful movement, from the increasing violent activities of some blood-sucking monsters going on in the South East under the name of UNKNOWN GUNMEN, and in most cases, offered to join in the fight against these monsters.
“The leadership of the Indigenous People of Biafra has never supported the nefarious activities of these enemies of our people, neither have they, in any of their publications approved such inhuman and barbaric activities of the UNKNOWN GUNMEN.
“Moreover, the UK Government needs to be aware that the proscription status of the IPOB is a subject matter before the Court of Appeal, currently pending before the Court of Appeal, Abuja Division in Appeal Number: CA/A/214/2018 between IPOB VS ATTORNEY GENERAL OF THE FEDERATION, now coming up on the 12th day of October, 2022 for definite hearing.
“Therefore, all foreign governments are persuaded not to rely on largely fabricated publications on the pages of Nigerian Newspapers in arriving at such far-reaching decision, which is capable of endangering millions of innocent lives who are being persecuted in Nigeria for being members of the IPOB.
“In the coming days, the IPOB legal team will make formal representation to the UK Government on this subject via the British High Commission in Nigeria, accompanied with verifiable facts and evidence, to persuade the UK Government to review their recent position.
“For clarity, the Government of the United Kingdom has not designated the IPOB as a terrorist organization, rather, reference was made to the proscription of the Organization in Nigeria, and also the heinous crimes being perpetrated by some dissidents in the South East, which said crimes are totally condemnable and have nothing whatsoever to do with the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) which is a peaceful, non-violent self-determination group.
“The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) remains a lawful and peaceful movement.”