THE United Kingdom (UK) has officially recognised the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation and declared that its members should not be granted asylum.
This was contained in the UK Government May 2022 updated Asylum Policy issued by its Visa and Immigration (UKVI) Department.
The UK noted that IPOB has been linked to violence in the South-East.
“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 (see Indigenous People of ‘Biafra’ (IPOB) and various media articles in Activities and Clashes between state and IPOB),” the UKVI policy read.
IPOB is a secessionist group seeking the breakaway of the territories of the defunct Republic of Biafra from Nigeria.
The group was declared a terrorist group by a Federal High Court in Abuja in September 2017.
Like IPOB, the UK government also excluded another separatist group, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB) from its Asylum Policy.
It noted that although MASSOB has been banned in Nigeria, it is not a proscribed terrorist group, but it has reportedly been involved in violent clashes with the Nigerian authorities.
“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.
“If the person is excluded from the Refugee Convention, they will also be excluded from a grant of humanitarian protection,” the UK government said.
This is in contrast with the UK decision on Asylum Policy for IPOB members in April 2021, when it announced that asylum would be granted to the pro-Biafra agitators.
The UK government’s decision was criticised by the Nigerian government, which declared IPOB a terrorist organisation.
Minister of Information Lai Mohammed described the UK’s earlier Asylum Policy as sabotage to Nigeria’s war against terrorism.
“Against the background of the fact that IPOB is not only proscribed but also designated as a terrorist organisation here in Nigeria, the UK’s decision is disrespectful of Nigeria as a nation.
“The decision amounts to sabotaging the fight against terrorism and generally undermining Nigeria’s security. It is not only unconscionable, it is inexplicable,” Mohammed said.
The government’s displeasure and continuing allegations of violation of human rights, killings and destruction against IPOB have led to the suspension of the Asylum policy for the pro-Biafra group.
Many allegations against IPOB
The leader of IPOB, Nnamdi Kanu, is currently facing terrorism charges over the activities of the secessionist group.
In 2020, IPOB created its armed wing called the Eastern Security Network (ESN), which has been accused of killing innocent civilians and security agents. The ESN is also accused of destroying state properties.
The ESN operatives have been blamed for several killings in the South-East.
The IPOB also declared a Monday sit-at-home order in the South-East to protest against the detention and trial of its leader, Kanu.
The sit-at-home has had a negative impact on the economy of the South-East.
In enforcing the sit-at-home order, many innocent civilians who are deemed to have disobeyed the directive have been killed or attacked.
A report by The ICIR revealed that between October 2020 and April 2021, not fewer than 21 police stations were attacked by hoodlums in Southeastern Nigeria. Fifteen officers lost their lives in the attacks.
On Saturday, an Army couple, identified as Mr and Mrs A. M. Linus, who were travelling to Imo State to perform traditional wedding rites, were killed.
A man who claimed to be one of the unknown gunmen claimed responsibility for the killing. The Nigerian Army also said the ‘brazen act’ was perpetrated by IPOB/ESN members.