The Nigerian Bar Association Ikeja Branch has issued a press statement on what it calls the situation in the South Eastern part of Nigeria. According to the Chairman of the Branch Mr. Ogunlana Adesina, the decision to hold the press conference was made at an emergency meeting held by the Branch on Monday 18th September wherein members of the association decided to issue an official statement on the current situation in the South East.
The press conference which was held on Wednesday, 20th September at the Bar Center, Ikeja High Court Premises afforded the branch the opportunity to present their position on the issue as well as their demands
Below is the uncut Press Release:
PRESS CONFERENCE OF THE NIGERIAN BAR ASSOCIATION (NBA) IKEJA BRANCH ON SOUTH EAST NIGERIA SITUATION HELD ON 20TH SEPTEMBER 2017 AT THE BAR CENTER, IKEJA HIGH COURT PREMISES.
I, on behalf of the leadership and the entire membership of the Nigerian Bar Association Ikeja Branch welcome all particularly ladies and gentlemen of the “Fourth estate of the Realm the press to this conference.
The purpose of the conference is to afford the Ikeja Branch of the Nigerian Bar Association in line with our customary progressive, patriotic and pan-Nigerian antecedents a forum to express our view on the current situation in the South East Nigeria with an end view in contributing our quota to the continuous efforts of building a better and more fulfilling Nigeria.
The decision to hold this press conference was taken at an emergency meeting of the Branch which held on Monday the 18th September, 2017 in this very venue, the NBA Ikeja Secretariat.
THE IPOB SITUATION IN SOUTH EAST NIGERIA
The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) up till 2015 was on the fringe attention of most Nigerians; despite the many inflamatory broadcast of her main organ, the Radio Biafra. The basic demand of the organization was and remains the secession of the South Eastern part of the country from Nigeria, derisively dubbed the ‘Zoo’ by IPOB and creation of the State of the Biafra.
However greater attention was diverted its way when the Nigerian statue arrested Nnamdi Kanu the leader of IPOB upon his arrival in Nigeria from overseas, he being not ordinary resident in Nigeria.
Due to long incarceration before prosecution , Kanu was quickly cast in the world of a liberation fighter unduly antagonized and oppressed by the Nigerian government. The image was further burnished in the face of his long walk to conditional freedom via the offices of a most unusual and controversial bail whilst standing charges of treason.
Before his arrest and after his bail, the IPOB leader’s constant trademark and the source of his popularity with many South Easterners particularly the unemployed and unpressumable and poor struggling masses of youths is INCIDIENARY LANGUAGE not only against the Nigerian state infamously dubbed the Zoo, but also against the other two major ethnicities in the country.
This trademark to all reasonable minds was seen as a calculated attempt to incite the people of the South East against the other parts of the country and even against fellow South Easterners who do not share the political philosophy, perspectives and methodologies of the IPOB.
To put it mildly, the IPOB phenomenon over-heated the polity, a situation not helped by other heated reactions from other parts of the country particularly the North, resulting into a fire-for-fire situation which began to bring to fore the scepters of the old dangerous and murderous, if not genocidal tribal event in Nigeria that led to the horrible three year civil war of 1967-1970 where millions of our citizens perished and millions more suffered, terrible losses and deprivations in all possible ramifications.
Clearly the IPOB and her leader has become a dilemma. Dismissed as a crazy, naive even a fraudulent narcissist by the political and intellectual elite even among his own kinsmen, yet he is adored and even hero-worshipped by thousands, even millions of young frustrated and angry people of the South East, as a MESSIAH.
Aware of the massive political clout the suddenly emerged star (Nnamdi Kanu) wields, traditional politicians and leading South East Socio-Cultural groups courted him, facilitated his release from prison on bail and started having meetings with him.
Despite all this, the IPOB’s fire and war-mongering rhetoric never abated. Its defiant abusiveness increased in confrontational audacity and bizarre bellicosity, with the IPOB finally directing violent insurrection against the Nigerian Authorities in case of his apprehension; while boasting of the operational capacity and readiness of his organization.
REACTION OF GOVERNMENT
The Nigerian government cannot be fairly accused of NOT responding to the existence and activities of the IPOB. It would appear that there had always been covert monitoring of the IPOB including her RADIO BIAFRA, long before the arrest of her Director Nnamdi Kanuin 2016.
The reaction of the government to arrest, detain and prosecute Nnamdi Kanu and a few others for treason has attracted waves of street demonstrations in different parts of the South East in protest.
The government response to these demonstrations which despite the huge members of demonstrations involved are largely peaceful has been heavy handed.
It was not only the police that has made strenuous attempts at preventing and disrupting the IPOB demonstrations but the Army and the Directorate of state security of the state of Biafra too.
The containment of the IPOB has been rigorous and very physical, not unoccassionaly mortal and even fatal attracting international attention and condemnation. Crowds of demonstrators are regularly rounded up, brutalized and hauled before the courts; where likely to have escaped fatality or grievous injuries. About two weeks ago now, the Army deployed troops to parts of South East ostensibly to execute a military exercise code named Python Dance II to boost security apparatus of the state to deal with violent crimes in the South East.
However, it did not take long before, reports of clashes between the military forces and the IPOB started to emerge, particularly in Umuahia, the home town of the IPOB leader.
Tensions soared and panic spread as many unverified reports and rumors of military brutality, torture, humiliation, intimidation and even execution of people of South Eastern Nigeria, particularly the Igbosere. Some video clips all to this effect, gained wide circulation on the social media.
Around the 10th September, 2017, news suddenly broke that the Nigerian Army had declared the IPOB a terrorist group. The nation was still grappling with the shock of the Army declaration when less than twenty-fours later all the Governors of the South East to wit Abia, Anambra, Enugu, Ebonyi and Imo states declared the IPOB also a terrorist organization and banned all her activities, while calling for the withdrawal of the Army, Shortly after all these significant classification of the IPOB as terrorist, news filtered out that the IPOB leaders had vanished, leading to all manners of speculations as to his whereabouts, on the other hand, peace has started gradually returning to the South East while the Army is said to be withdrawing.
CRIMINALITY, LAGALITY AND RESPONSIBILITY
The following acts of government in the South East Nigeria in the past few days, have generated huge controversies.
The deployment of the Army to the South East.
The classification of the IPOB as a terrorist organization.
In support of her action, government has cited grave security concerns and the imperative of taking urgent steps to protect lives and properties of her people.
Aside citing necessity as basis, the Attorney General of the Federation and the Minister for Justice Mr. Abubakar Malami SAN has also referred to the weighty current in the case of the Asar Dokubo Vs. Federal Government of Nigeria, to the effect that fundamental rights of the individuals can be justly imperiled for overall societal good and protection.
After a due consideration of the fairly veritable facts of the matter, the NBA Ikeja for the records state as follows:
Freedom of Association is the inalienable rights of all human beings, including the citizens of Nigeria.
The demand for a separate statue or country or nation from Nigeria as presently constituted is legitimate and not criminal.
The existence of Nigeria as one indissoluble component, in law cannot be made compulsory on citizens of Nigeria.
The IPOB has far exceeded it rights of freedom of speech, freedom of Association by the use of divisive abusive threatening language, issuance of threats against the government of Nigeria etc and the nation itself and deserves condemnation and prosecution.
All government in Nigeria at all levels are under legal and moral obligation even above citizens to obey the laws of the land and all parts of international law binding on her.
The Nigerian Military and the Governors of the South Eastern states who have declared IPOB a terrorist organization are wrong, for lacking the vires and the locus to so declare. Governments cannot under a constitutional democracy rule by proclamations.
CONCLUSION AND DEMANDS
It is our humble submission here that government has not conscientiously followed the law and the rule of law in dealing with the IPOB challenge, although it was well meaning.
Accordingly we demand as follows:
Government should follow the laid down procedures of law in dele along with the IPOB. The declaration so far that IPOB is a terrorist organization is wrong, illegal, null and void and in fact, hugely libelous.
The government should have serious rethink of the deployment of troops to South East while strengthening police presence and operation therein
The IPOB should moderate its rhetoric and pursue her objectives legally.
Thank you for your kind attention
Adesina Ogunlana, Esq.(Chairman)
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