Karumi v. FRN (2016) LPELR-40473(CA), p. 25, paras. A-D, per IKYEGH, JCA:
“The gravity of the offence of terrorism which involves the use of violence or force to achieve something, be it political or religious, is a grave affront to the peace of society with attendant unsalutary psychological effect on innocent and peaceful members of the society who may be forced to live in perpetual fear. It is an offence that may even threaten the stability of the state. The sophisticated planning and execution of the acts of terrorism show it is an offence that requires premeditated cold-blooded organisation. The circumstances under which such a crime is organised calls for appropriate sentencing to deter its recurrence by potential or prospective offenders.”
Click here and here for further discussions on the concept of terrorism which is a concept that cannot be easily defined. We are however guided by the opinion of his Lordship quoted above.
Is Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) a terrorist organisation?
It is submitted that the Nigerian Military was wrong in declaring IPOB a terrorist group and the South East Governors were wrong in proscribing the association.
In an article, Terrorism and Human Rights Protection: Nigerian Perspective, published in 2015, B. E. Ewulum prophesied: “It is not doubtful that in a short while the nation may witness a barrage of proscription of certain societies and associations in the name of fighting terrorism.” The learned writer proceeded to give an insightful opinion on the necessary steps to be taken before the proscription of a society. He said: “It is therefore very essential that before a society should be proscribed there must be a legislation which will be subject to judicial opinion on the issue where a challenge is raised. As such, the onus must be on the State to show that the measures taken fall within the permissible aims under the national and international human rights law. This implies that States must not claim that the rights-limiting measures taken to preserve national security when they are in fact taken to effectively stifle all opposition or to repress its population. Apart from this, care should be taken to ensure that the principles of necessity and proportionality are respected in all cases; specific safeguards are required to ensure that the limitations to the right to freedom of association are construed narrowly. These measures include ensuring that the principle of legality is respected in the definition of terrorism, terrorist acts and terrorist groups. The courts shall ensure that such definitions are not too wide or vague as such definitions may lead to the criminalization of groups whose aim is to peacefully protect, inter alia, labour, minority or human rights. Any decision to proscribe a group or association needs to be taken case by case, treated on their individual merits or otherwise and no two cases shall be given the same treatment. To do so, there shall be need to ensure that the assessment is based on factual evidence of the group’s activities, which implies that the government may not make the determination before registration has taken place and before the group has started to exercise its activities. The assessment must be made by an independent judicial body, with full notice to the affected group as well as the possibility of appealing the decision.”
Flowing from the above, we maintain that the Nigerian Military and the South East Governors were wrong in their approach.
Photo credit: Channelstv.
Now, regarding the recent military action in the South East, which action has been widely condemned, though supported by some, it is our position that the Federal Government must show maximum respect for the life of every Nigerian. The Nigerian Military, the Police as well as other arms wielding agencies of Government must not put on the character of terrorism which they are mandated to combat; characters such as uncontrollable hunger to maim and destroy even on the slightest provocation must stop.
There is nothing to justify the ultimate decision of the Federal Government to carry out the recent military operations in the South East. This is notwithstanding the style and seemingly thoughtless disposition of IPOB in pushing for Biafra in exercise of their rights to self-determination.
IPOB has severally canvassed, and brilliantly too, that they are open to a referendum and other peaceful means of determining whether or not the people of the South East region (and other areas mapped as Biafran region) are still interested in remaining in Nigeria, in view of the claims based on marginalization.
Sadly, the IPOB leader, Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, does not appear to be employing enough intelligent means to push for this. While he advocates for peaceful means in one breath, in another breath, he sings the songs of war (while keeping his family abroad) in a distasteful manner that ridicules Nigeria. The sovereign state called Nigeria which is peopled by a large population with corresponding right to remain Nigerians must be accorded due regard and respect.
Until Biafra is achieved, it is absolutely wrong to be going about and carrying on as if Biafra is here already. For instance, declaring that there will not be election in Anambra State this year was utter wrong (although this threat has been withdrawn). Without missing the point, asking for Biafra in exercise of the right to self-determination is a serious political question. This means that high level politics need to be played with high level skills. It may take years but it is achievable. For instance, it took a patient play of politics for the peaceful voting that brought about Brexit to take place; so too, the voting concerning the fate of Scotland. Since IPOB and others have often cited these instances as well as other similar examples, it is important to understudy what made the events possible. You need a disposition that will connect not only politicians to the struggle but the large body of elites who detest associating with anything dishonourable. The South East for instance, is rich and blessed with this class of human resources and incredible number of successful businessmen and women who value their investments all over Nigeria and the world.
Finally, the enlightening opinion of Senator Ekweremadu is worth reading. We must learn crucial lessons from developments in other parts of the world. If care is not urgently taken, another civil might be staring at our faces. Indeed, the situation at hand triggered by Nnamdi Kanu through spearheading the Biafran struggle is currently exposing more significant issues concerning our national life. We must give heed to these issues.
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