There is mounting pressure on the United States government to designate secessionist group, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), a terrorist organisation.
An article in Washington Times is calling on US authorities to designate IPOB a terror group following acts of violence and mindless killings linked to it.
The article, noted that, IPOB had curiously sued the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary, Lloyd Austin in a U.S. federal court.
Dr. Chike Akunyili, widower of former NAFDAC DG and Minister of Information, the late Dr. Dora Akunyili and eight others were killed in Onitsha, Anambra State, last week, including several other assassinations and killing of security agents linked to the group.
Others killed in the same gruesome manner included a former Head of Scientific Equipment Development Institute, Enugu, Professor SN Ndubisi; a federal high court Judge, Justice Stanley Nnaji; a former presidential aide, Ahmed Gulak; a traditional ruler, Chief Alexander Eduzueuno; Anglican priest, Rev. Emeka Merenu; and a young lawyer, Darlington Prime, among many others.
There were, however, arguments that there might be other groups exploiting the situation in the South-eastern part of the country to perpetrate criminal activities.
The piece written by the Executive Director of the School of Public and International Affairs at the University of Baltimore, Ivan Sascha Sheehan, expressed displeasure that, “the violent secessionist group in question – the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) – is yet to be designated a Foreign Terrorist Organisation (FTO) by the US Department of State.
“This is despite repeated pleas to do so by longstanding U.S. ally, Nigeria, where IPOB is based and carries out its murderous activities. It is difficult to explain how U.S. interests are served by inaction and complacency on IPOB. The listing costs nothing. But the designation would have significant implications for the group’s continuance.”
The publication noted that as soon as the designation was applied, no organisation that utilises U.S. currency would be able to legally conduct transactions with the organisation.
“By cutting off IPOB’s funding, the U.S. would weaken the 50,000 strong paramilitary outfit and provide Nigeria’s security forces room to train their sights squarely on ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram in the Northeast of the country. Counterterrorism operations against Boko Haram have long been assisted by U.S. agencies working in close coordination with the West African government,” it said.
It contended that though IPOB might appear to be Abuja’s problem alone, the militants had served as a distraction and bled precious resources, noting that over the past eighteen months, Boko Haram had regrettably been able to regroup and rejuvenate.
“The same is true of Al-Qaeda-affiliated groups across the volatile Sahel region. That the African continent is rapidly becoming a staging ground for global terror operations should concern U.S. officials. But Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB’s leader, is clearly unconcerned. That he feels no need to even disguise his support of terrorism is worrisome.
“Though IPOB’s principal aim is to restore a breakaway state of Biafra in the Southeastern parts of Nigeria, Mr. Kanu’s rhetoric, has become increasingly strident. ‘I don’t want peaceful actualisation (of Biafra),’ Mr. Kanu has said through his Radio Biafra channel, used to project threats, instructions, and propaganda into Nigeria from the safety of London. ‘If they don’t (give us Biafra), they will die.’
“Neither does Mr. Kanu make idle threats. The December revelation of IPOB’s 50,000 strong-armed paramilitary wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), complete with a Swastika-style flag, marked the end to all pretences of being a peaceful movement. What had been largely unspoken was publicly declared. Since then, violent IPOB attacks on both security personnel and civilians have surged by a terrifying 59%; deaths by 344%”, it said.
The report noted that more than 20 attacks were carried out in the first three months of this year alone, including the retribution-style bombing of a local state governor’s home, where four were killed, and an attack on a prison that freed some 2,000 dangerous criminals. Even neighboring states were forced to impose curfews to protect their citizens from marauders.
“There is also a nasty racial element to the IPOB attacks. In addition to attacks on the state, much of their violence is directed towards the Fulani people, a nomadic tribe of herders that roam across West Africa. Through Biafra Radio, IPOB regularly calls on its supporters to not only kill the Fulani, but to kill “any landlord that gives accommodation or rents his house or her house to a Fulani person.
“In one recent attack on a Fulani community, six young children were butchered with machetes – one, a baby, was burned alive. Their bodies were discarded in mass graves,” it said.
Criminal herdsmen have also been accused of embarking on a campaign of kidnapping, killing and rape of women across Nigeria.
Fulani militant group operating in Nigeria and parts of the Central African Republic was described in the Global Terrorism Index as the fourth deadliest known terrorist group operating in Nigeria and parts of the Central African Republic.
The GTI stated that in 2013, the Fulani killed around 80 people in total – but by 2014 the group had killed 1,229.
The Washington Times report cited an example of all the governors of Southeast Nigeria bowing to a 14-day ultimatum to ban open grazing in their districts – a move targeting the livelihoods of the Fulani – rather than face the wrath of the ESN.
“Similarly, it enforces a sit-at-home day every Monday, intended to economically cripple the region, through acts like the torching of passenger buses.
“The U.S. has correctly prescribed terror labels to other secessionist groups that employ these tactics – the ETA in Spain, the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka, and the PKK in Turkey. Now, the people IPOB claims to represent, the Igbo, are even seeking to distance themselves from the group”, it said.
The publication raises posers as to the reason the group was yet to be labelled a terror group.
“One reason may be the group’s million-dollar contracts with prominent American lobbying firms paid to whitewash the group’s reputation and lobby on Capitol Hill. It is impossible to believe that IPOB and Kanu’s deep pockets are not being lined by external organisations.
“A terror designation would put a stop to this influence peddling. It would also mean the group could not use the US or its Western allies, like London-based Radio Biafra, to further their cause,” it said.
The report wondered why “an African terrorist organisation is suing U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in U.S. federal court,” saying, “It beggars belief”.
The Washington Times report said, “The group’s outsized influence – a function of its radio station, paid hands, and US lawyers – would be severely curtailed. Law enforcement in the US, the U.K., and elsewhere would be obligated to act by shutting down these activities.
“That a small terrorist organisation can bully senior U.S. officials in American courts and leverage the influence of foreign agents to challenge an ally’s security would be laughable were it not so alarming. Washington must not ignore Nigeria’s terrorists any longer.”