By Ikechukwu Nnochiri
ABUJA – The Federal High Court in Abuja, on Monday, deferred hearing on the suit challenging the proscription and declaration of the Indegeniuos People of Biafra, IPOB, as a terrorist organisation, till November 14.
The Acting Chief Judge of the High Court, Justice Abdu Kafarati who initially fixed Monday to hear the matter, was said to be absent on an official assignment.
The Judge was said to have gone for a seminar. However, he directed the court registrar to hand the new date to counsel to the IPOB, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor.
Meanwhile, investigation by Vanguard revealed that the federal government had yet to file its reponse to the suit, one month after it was lodged by the IPOB.
It will be recalled that the high court had in a ruling on September 20, outlawed IPOB on the strength of an ex-parte motion the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami, SAN, filed on behalf of the government.
Justice Kafafati declared as illegal, all activities of the group, particularly in the South-east and South-South regions of the country.
He further restrained “any person or group of persons from participating in any of the group’s activities”.
The Judge directed the AGF to ensure that he published the order proscribing IPOB in the official gazette, as well as in two national dailies, an order FG had since complied with.
However, the IPOB, in a motion it filed pursuant to Section 6(6) (1) of the 1999 constitution, as amended, maintained that the proscription order “was made without jurisdiction”, adding that it was “granted against an entity unknown to law”.
IPOB queried the legal validity of the order it said was surreptitiously obtained by the AGF.
It told the court that there was “clear suppression and misrepresentation of facts”, in the affidavit evidence the AGF submitted, upon which the order was granted.
It argued that the proscription order was tantamount to declaring over 30million Nigerians of Igbo extraction as terrorists.
Besides, IPOB which sought nullification of the proscription order on 13 grounds, told the court that its member does not carry arms and has no history of arm struggle in the exercise of their constitutionally guarantee rights to self determination.
It said: “The Indigenous People of Biafra who are majorly of Igbo extraction, have no history of violence in the exercise of their right to self determination.
“That prior to and during the military invasion of the South Eastern States, members of the Indigenous People of Biafra had never at any time resorted into arm struggle or engage in acts of violence capable of threatening the National Security.
“That the Federal High Court of Nigeria, Per Justice Binta Nyako of Court No 4, had in its Rulings delivered on the 1st day of March, 2017 held that the Indigenous People of Biafra is not an unlawful Organization.
“That the Ex-parte application for the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) and its activities in the South Eastern States pursuant to which the order was granted, was politically motivated, and will in essence amount to suppression, of the wishes and aspirations of the Indigenous People who are now being intimidated using the state force, for expressing their disenchantment with the administration that has relegated them to third class citizens.
“That the hasty manner through which the process leading to the proscription of the Respondent’s activity and its declaration as a terrorist organization, was activated/initiated, shows a clear manifestation of high powered ethnic conspiracy against the Respondent in particular and the Igbos in general. It started with the Arewa Youth Coalition Group’s declaration on the 24th August, 2017, that the Respondent should be declared a terrorist organization, among other far reaching terms, as part of their condition to suspend the quit notices given to Igbos and Southerners living in the North, which was in quick succession followed by the military invasion of the South-East (a relatively peaceful region), their murderous attack in the home of the leader of the Respondent, illegal declaration by the Nigerian Military that a non-violent group such as the Respondent is a terrorist organization, and the speedy but clandestine manner the Attorney General approached the Court Exparte, for an order proscribing the Respondent’s activities and declaration as a terrorist organization.
“The Ex-parte Order proscribing the activities of the Respondent and declaring the Respondent a terrorist organization is prejudicial to the subsisting criminal charge/trial pending before His Lordship, Hon. Justice Binta Nyako of Court No. 4, Federal High Court, Abuja, in Charge No: FHC/ABJ/CR/383/2015 Between F.R.N. V. Nnamdi Kanu & 4 Ors, wherein the Court had in the course of the proceedings, held that the Respondent is not an unlawful organization.
“The Military has in an officially approved ethnic cleansing exercise, presently going on in the South East, massacred over 200 (two hundred) members of unarmed and defenseless members of the Respondent, under their coded Operation Python Dance in the South East, including the invasion and unprovoked bloody attack in the home of Nnamdi Kanu, whose whereabouts has remained unknown, since their murderous attack in his home on the 14th day of September 2017”.
Consequently, IPOB, maintained that the court “has the inherent powers to set aside its orders when either granted without jurisdiction or granted in error”.
It said the Order was unconstitutional, as it was made in clear violation of the constitutionally guaranteed right of the Indigenous People of Biafra to self determination; Article 20(1) of the Africa Charter on Human & Peoples Rights, now domesticated into our Law under (Ratification and Enforcement Act) (Cap 10) Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990; Right to fair hearing, Right to freedoms of expression, and the press and Rights to peaceful Assembly and Association; clearly provided for under Sections 36, 39 and 40 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as (Amended) 2011.
It was IPOB’s contention that a declaratory order could not be made pursuant to an Ex-parte application, without hearing from the party against whom the order was made.
More so, in a 40-paragraphed affidavit deposed to by one Prince Mandela Umegborogu, IPOB, told the court that its members are lawful and non-violent socio-ethnic pressure group, largely made up of Indigenous People of Igbo extraction, and of Igbo neighboring states of Biafra region/origin.
“That as Indigenous People of the Igbo speaking states, and neighboring states of Biafran origin, they are a Community of individuals, and not registered as a registered as a legal entity.
“That the Respondent are merely a community of Indigenous People exercising their constitutionally guarantee right to self determination freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association”.
It further told the court that the South Eastern States of the Country, largely made up of Anambra, Enugu, Imo, Abia and Ebony, have no history of violent crime, in recent times, before the soldiers were deployed to the South East on the Operation Python Dance.
“That Police Authority has been in effective policing of the entire South Eastern States”.
IPOB told the court that it is registered across many countries of the world, saying its activities have always been in conformity with the International Covenants and laws.
It said that its members do not pose any threat to any country, adding that recently, its members residing in the United Kingdom and United States of America were granted permission to protest within a designated place in the ongoing United Nations Conference.
IPOB also told the court that pictures (photographs) and video footages the AGF attached in the affidavit he used to secure the ex-parte order, “were all concocted and video/photo shopped to make it appear real, and do not represent the true images/impression of the Respondent/Applicant’s members”.
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