Asylum for IPOB/MASSOB members
FG to summon British envoy,
Ohanaeze, Afenifere Hails UK Government
On Tuesday, the Federal Government expressed its dissatisfaction with the United Kingdom’s decision to grant asylum to “persecuted” representatives of the Indigenous People of Biafra and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra.
In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria in Abuja, the Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, said the proposal was disrespectful to Nigeria as a country.
On Tuesday, there were rumblings that the Federal Government would summon Catriona Laing, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, over the asylum bid.
However, socio-political organisations such as the Middle Belt Forum, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere, and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum endorsed the UK’s asylum offer and chastised the Federal Government for the rise.
The UK Visas and Immigration department has released new guidance to its decision-makers on how to consider and grant asylum applications from representatives of Nigerian Biafran separatist groups.
Asylum will be given to “persecuted” representatives of IPOB and MASSOB, according to guidelines published on assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government.
IPOB, which was established in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu, was classified as a terrorist organisation by the Federal Government a few years ago. Ralph Uwazuruike founded MASSOB in 1999.
The Igbo in the South-East and many other ethnic nationalities in the South-South are pressing for Nigeria’s independence from the two parties.
The UKVI, a division of the Home Office, instructed its decision makers to consider whether an individual “who actively and openly supports IPOB is likely to be at risk of arrest and detention, and ill-treatment that is likely to lead to persecution” in the guidelines titled “Country Policy and Information Note Nigeria: Biafran secessionist groups,” released in March.
It went on to say that the UK should wonder whether the Federal Government’s actions were acts of prosecution rather than persecution.
“Those who are avoiding prosecution or punishment for a criminal offence are not generally considered refugees. Prosecution, on the other hand, can be considered persecution if it requires victimisation by the authorities,” according to the 56-page text.
“When it is the vehicle or justification for or if only those groups are punished for a specific offence and the effects of that prejudice are sufficiently severe,” the UKVI said. Persecution may also include cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment (including punishment that is out of all proportion to the crime committed).”
‘’Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari has been viewed by some as dismissive and unsympathetic towards the citizens of the South-East, especially with regard to the appointment of senior government officials that seemed to favour his northern constituents,” it said of the alleged marginalisation of the Igbo, which it said led to the current agitation by IPOB.
“Some Igbo complain of under-representation in the federal government, marginalisation, and deficient infrastructure as a result of a lower allocation of federal resources than other areas, as well as a sense of historical resentment against a state that they say does not represent them.”
New independence movements were allegedly fueled by a sense of unequal treatment and marginalisation, according to the UK government.
It was revealed that while MASSOB and IPOB had generally called for peaceful reform, they had occasionally used language that could promote violent resistance. It was also revealed that IPOB, in particular, had fueled secessionist ambitions and promoted resistance to the authorities through its online forum, Radio Biafra, and the online comments of its chief, Nnamdi Kanu.
While MASSOB was not a prohibited organisation and continued to engage in public activities, the guidelines acknowledged that a number of its members had been arrested – and some had been killed during demonstrations.
‘’MASSOB has clashed with security forces since its establishment in the late 1990s,” it said. Several participants have been killed, injured, or arrested, usually during protests. Over a hundred arrests were made in September 2018, at least ten in 2019, and members of MASSOB were detained after clashes with the police in July 2020.
“In recent years, the IPOB has emerged as the most powerful Biafran party. Since 2015, security forces are said to have killed tens of its supporters and leaders extrajudicially and wounded hundreds more, mostly by using disproportionate force to control demonstrations.
“Hundreds of IPOB supporters have also been arrested by security forces at various events, most notably while disrupting demonstrations or marches to promote Biafran independence, particularly between 2015 and 2017, as well as raids on the homes of IPOB leaders. Sources also record clashes with authorities in 2018, and Amnesty International confirmed that security forces detained at least 200 supporters and killed ten at various times in 2019.
“There were further clashes and violence between security forces and IPOB in August 2020 in Enugu, when police raided an IPOB conference, and in October 2020 during confrontations in Rivers State. While there seems to be conflicting reporting on the exact numbers, these events resulted in the arrest and deaths of IPOB supporters as well as security force personnel.”
The UKVI also alluded to rumours that some IPOB members, supporters, and leaders had been arrested and charged with treason, which is punishable by death.
“A risk of persecution will depend on their role, profile, and activities for the group, as well as previous arrests by the state,” the UK agency said of cases being considered for asylum. A person who openly and actively supports IPOB is likely to face arrest and detention, as well as ill-treatment that amounts to persecution. Each case will need to be carefully considered on its own merits, with the applicants bearing the burden of proving that they are likely to face persecution.”
While acknowledging instances of IPOB members attacking security forces, the agency stated that where members of MASSOB or IPOB incited or used violence to disrupt public order, the government may have legal grounds to arrest and prosecute those individuals.
“Where the government has arrested and detained persons who, for example, peacefully participate in demonstrations and then charged them with treason, or the person is subjected to periods of detention in degrading or inhuman conditions, such treatment is unlikely to be fair or proportionate, and is likely to amount to persecution,” it argued.
According to a senior government official who spoke to one of our correspondents, the government will seek an explanation from the UK for its decision, which Nigeria views as unacceptable and a veiled support for the outlawed party that has been agitating for the country’s disintegration.
“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs will certainly take up the British High Commission’s offer of asylum to IPOB,” the source said. The government may summon the High Commissioner and demand an explanation for their decision, which is completely inappropriate and shows support for the banned group.”
It’s sabotage, says Lai Mohammed, because the plan is disrespectful to Nigeria.
Mohammed, the Minister of Information and Culture, said the UK offer was unacceptable to Nigeria in an interview with NAN on Tuesday.
“Let me state right away that this matter falls under the purview of the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs, and I am confident that he will handle it appropriately,” he said.
“However, as the spokesman for the Federal Government of Nigeria, I will state unequivocally that if the report that the UK will grant asylum to allegedly persecuted IPOB and MASSOB members is true, then something is seriously wrong.
“In light of the fact that IPOB is not only banned but also designated as a terrorist organisation in Nigeria, the UK’s decision is insulting to Nigeria as a country.
“The decision amounts to undermining Nigeria’s security and sabotaging the fight against terrorism. He described it as “not only unconscionable, but also inexplicable.”
The minister recalled that security agencies in the South East Zone had been targeted more frequently.
Despite its denials, he claimed that IPOB was linked to the attacks.
“For the UK to choose this time to lend support to IPOB beggars belief and calls into question the UK’s true intentions,” Mohammed said.
“If we go back in time, what the UK has done is similar to Nigeria offering asylum to IRA members prior to the 1998 Good Friday Peace Agreement,” he said.
The Middle Belt Forum accuses the government of protecting terrorists.
The Middle Belt Forum, in response to the development, stated that the UK’s action did not surprise it.
Dr Isuwa Dogo, the Middle Belt Forum’s National Publicity Secretary, said in an interview with one of our correspondents in Jos on Tuesday that the group believed the UK decision was based on what it believed was the right thing to do given the situation in Nigeria, which had deteriorated for the worse.
“Why should I be surprised by the UK’s decision on IPOB or MASSOB?” Dogo wondered. The Nigerian government has labelled them as terrorist organisations, despite the fact that known terrorist groups responsible for the country’s worst terrorist acts have not been labelled as such, and the government has instead allowed them to continue their terrorist attacks against citizens. We in the Middle Belt are opposed to the government’s so-called branding.”
The Middle Belt Spokesman, on the other hand, claimed that IPOB and MASSOB would not be allowed to leave their path in Nigeria in order to seek asylum in other countries.
Ohanaeze supports the United Kingdom and encourages the Federal Government to engage in dialogue with IPOB and MASSOB.
Ohanaeze Ndigbo, the apex Igbo socio-cultural group, stated that any favour extended to any Igbo man deserved the Ohanaeze’s praise.
In an interview with The PUNCH, Ohanaeze spokesman Chief Alex Ogbonnia reported that the point of convergence between Ohanaeze Ndigbo, IPOB, and MASSOB was far more than the point of divergence.
“One big point of convergence is that Ohanaeze Ndigbo, IPOB, and MASSOB are all Igbo,” he explained. The solution to the movement against the marginalisation of the people of the South-East is the only point of divergence.
“So Ohanaeze Ndigbo owes it a duty to protect the Igbo wherever they are, whether they name it IPOB, MASSOB, or whatever nomenclature is used, Ohanaeze Ndigbo owes it a duty to protect the Igbo.
“We appeal to IPOB and MASSOB on a daily basis to come to us and discuss and hold dialogues with us so that we can formulate a shared approach to the issue of the condition of Igbo in Nigeria. Ohanaeze Ndigbo has consistently made this argument. IPOB’s inability to come to terms with this appeal is very disappointing.
“While the IPOB’s method of bullying others is a point of contention, their complaints are real. All of the young people will graduate from universities; some will receive honours and be denied jobs, while others will barely pass and be given a federal appointment before you know it. It’s excruciating.”
“Any favour done to an Igbo man, therefore, is worthy of Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s appreciation. Whatever favour is extended to a disciplined Igbo man is worthy of Ohanaeze Ndigbo’s praise.”
Instead of retaliating against the UK’s gesture, he believes the federal government should engage in consultation with IPOB, MASSOB, and other agitation parties.
It demonstrates the international community’s recognition of the Buhari regime’s bias – PANDEF
PANDEF, for one, called the UKVI’s decision to grant asylum to persecuted members of IPOB and MASSOB a “welcome creation.”
Ken Robinson, a spokesman for PANDEF, said this showed the international community’s attitude toward Nigeria during a telephone conversation with one of our correspondents on Tuesday.
“That signals the international community’s attitude or feelings toward what is happening in the country,” he said. It expresses how they feel about what’s going on and that they are uncomfortable with what’s going on. That acknowledges the government’s bias and prejudice in dealing with some of the country’s issues.
“In the North-West, we have a situation where bandits are terrorising villages and kidnapping people at random. Boko Haram is active in Nigeria’s north-east. In some cases, neighbourhoods have been violated, with helicopters flying all over the ground, doing nothing.
“In the South, especially in the South-East, the Eastern protection network is a lovely arrangement for safeguarding people’s lives and property.
“However, it is clear that they are being pursued. As a result, it’s a positive move, and it should serve as a reminder to the government that it needs to change its attitude toward some of the country’s issues.
“However, the international community, especially the United Kingdom government, should do more to persuade Nigeria to do the right thing.”
Afenifere, a Yoruba socio-political organisation, also stated that the government’s inability to provide healthcare for its people caused Nigerians to flee the country.
Bashorun Sehinde Arogbofa, the association’s Secretary-General, stated that the country was clearly in turmoil, which caused IPOB and MASSOB representatives, as well as other people, to flee the country.
“First and foremost, the government should not have pushed its own people to extremism,” he said. If it comes to a case where people leave their birthplace, it is very unfortunate.”
CNG chastises the United Kingdom, accusing it of offering a forum for Kanu to incite chaos in Nigeria.
However, Abdul-azeez Suleiman, a spokesperson for the Coalition of Northern Groups, chastised the UK in an interview with The PUNCH.
“We at the CNG are not shocked by this development because we predicted it a long time ago and gave an early warning,” he said. Although we do not agree with the Nigerian government’s opposition to the UK’s asylum bid, we would like to remind the international community that Nigeria has extended a reasonable amount of goodwill and assistance to its friends around the world.
“With the exception of efforts to maintain peace and foster mutual relationships, Nigeria has never done anything to damage its foreign allies and partners.
“However, available evidence suggests that these long-time friends and supporters have been directly or indirectly complicit in IPOB’s xenophobic, hateful, and aggressive movement for Biafra.
“For example, the United Kingdom has given Nnamdi Kanu a forum to taunt and threaten Nigeria and Nigerians with violence and anarchy. In one instance, he stated flatly that if Nigeria did not grant them Biafra, “Somalia would appear to be a paradise.”
We need a referendum because we’re tired of the enslavement you’ve developed, says IPOB to the UK.
IPOB’s Director of Media and Publicity, Emma Strong, said in a statement that what the group wanted was a referendum, not political asylum.
It expressed gratitude to the United Kingdom, saying that Biafrans were tired of living in a state of slavery known as Nigeria.
“The global family of the Indigenous People of Biafra, led by our great and indomitable leader Mazi Nnamdi Kanu, has noted with satisfaction the news that the United Kingdom has agreed to offer asylum to persecuted Biafra agitators living in the United Kingdom,” the statement read.
“While we applaud the UK for taking this bold step, we would like to respectfully remind them that what we Biafrans most need and cherish is a referendum, not asylum in the UK. We’re sick of being enslaved in the devilish abomination they’ve made, Nigeria.”
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