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The Nigerian Defence Headquarters acted outside the law when it unilaterally declared the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a “militant terrorist organisation” on Friday.
The Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011, which was amended in 2013, is clear on the steps to be taken before a group may be proscribed as a terrorist group and the military has no part to play in it at all.
Section 2 of the act provides that the power to make such declaration belongs to a judge at the advice of the Attorney General of the Federation, the National Security Adviser or the Inspector General of Police.
Here is what the section says:
2. Proscribed Organisation.
(1). Where two or more persons associate for the purpose of or wherean organization 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 organization and the notice should be published in official gazette.
(2) 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 act also provides that “a person who belongs or professes to belong to a proscribed organisation commits an offence under this Act and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a maximum term of 20 years”.
Binta Nyako, Justice of the Federal High Court, Abuja, who is presiding over Nnamdi Kanu’s treason case, had struck out six of the 11 count charges against the IPOB leader and his co-accused persons.
The charges, which were struck out on March 1, include allegations that Kanu belongs to an unlawful organisation, among others.
Justice Nyako held that the the federal government provided no evidence whatsoever to sustain the charges.
While there may be arguments to support the claim that some of the activities of the IPOB in recent times were bordering on acts of terrorism, as defined by the Terrorism Act, the military overreached itself by making a pronouncement that it was not authorised by law to make.