IPOB is not a terrorist group – Saraki

Senate President Bukola Saraki on yesterday faulted the declaration by the Nigerian military that the Indigenous People of Biafra is a terrorist organisation and the ban placed on the group’s activities by South-East Governors, saying due process was not followed.

“The announcement of the proscription of the group known as Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) by Governors of the South-east states and the categorisation of the group as a ‘terrorist organisation’ by the Nigerian military are unconstitutional and does not follow due process,” Saraki said in a statement on Monday.

“Our laws make clear provisions for taking such actions and without the due process being followed, such declaration cannot have effect. I am sure the President will do the needful by initiating the right process.”

The Senate President believes that “initiating the right process” will go a long way in demonstrating to the world at large that Nigeria “is a country that operates by laid down process under every circumstance”.

Saraki said the National Assembly will also investigate the crisis in the South East and join all Nigerians in finding the right solution to the crisis rather than worsening it.

“We want to be able to sift the facts from the fiction and determine who did what. It is quite clear that all the facts are not yet known. We assure Nigerians that there will be no cover-up. We intend to lay the facts bare,” he said.

He called for calm pending the investigation and urged Nigerians to remain law abiding.

“Our brothers and sisters in the South-east, in particular, should continue to maintain peace and tranquility and go about their lawful business. This crisis will not benefit anybody but would only expose innocent people to unwarranted danger,” he said.

The Nigerian military had declared IPOB a terrorist organisation on Friday, five days after soldiers were involved in a clash with supporters of the group near its leader Nnamdi Kanu’s home in Abia State.

Reasons given by the military for the declaration include formation of Biafra National Guard, unauthorised blocking of public access roads; extortion of money from innocent civilians at illegal roadblocks, and militant possession and use of weapons (stones, Molotov cocktails, machetes and broken bottles among others) on a military patrol on September 10, 2017.

IPOB denied the allegations shortly after the declaration, insisting that it is a non-violent movement.

“IPOB is a non-violent movement,” Mr Emmanuel Kanu, the younger brother of IPOB leader who spoke on behalf of the group said.

“We do not carry arms; we’ve never asked anyone to kill for us neither have we killed anyone. If you look at our records, our records are clean and straight.”

Hours after, the South-East Governors Forum banned the activities of the group and asked it and other aggrieved groups in the region to compile their grievances and submit them to the Chairman of the South-East Governors Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, and members of the National Assembly.

Although the Senate President disagreed with the declaration by the military and the action by the South-East governors, he said the military and all those that have worked to ensure peace deserve commendation.

“At this point, Nigerians outside the South-east who have worked to ensure that the crisis does not spread to other parts of the country deserve our commendation.”

“I, therefore, call for continued efforts to sustain peace, unity, and stability in all our communities so as to ensure that all residents, no matter their religion, tribe and creed remain protected and safe under the law.”

Saraki also appealed to the military to show restraint in the face of provocation.

He said, “We must commend the military for their efforts in restoring peace to different parts of the country and sustaining the unity of the country.

“However, in the face of provocation, the military should allow themselves to be guided by their training which emphasises respect for human rights, even in war. Also, giving the nature of this particular situation, the military has every reason to be hesitant in the use of force.”

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