Police Arrest And Trial Of Praying IPOB Members - Punch Editorial


 May 28, 2018 


POLICE latest arrest of 21 members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, who gathered at the residence of Nnamdi Kanu’s father, for prayers, represents a new low in the clampdown on a group, which has been relatively civil in its agitation for the actualization of the sovereign state of Biafra. But the Fulani herdsmen have continued with their genocidal spiral without any reprimands.

The victims, which include women and children, some of whom are adherents of Judaism and Christianity, were rounded up on May 13 at Afara Ukwu, in Umuahia, Abia State, and immediately charged for terrorism at a magistrate’s court. Kanu, the IPOB leader for the resurgence of Biafra, has not been seen in the public since September last year when soldiers invaded his home upon declaring his group a terrorist organization. He is alleged to have fled the country.

Rallies of IPOB in the South-East in the past three years had been seized by the police and soldiers to exert maximum force on its members, thus leading to the arrest, incarceration, and killing of some of its members. This official response is provocative and perfidious, against the backdrop of the cold response to the terrorist act by the Fulani herdsmen and appeal to Boko Haram mass murderers to surrender their arms, be rehabilitated and re-integrated into the society. So scandalous was the police action that a national daily could not but greet the recrudescence with this cynical headline – “In Abia, police classify praying as a terrorist act.”

Abia State police boss, Anthony Ogbizi, claimed that only eight IPOB militants were arrested after they invaded the state with three trucks from neighboring Rivers State to foment trouble. He is merely hiding behind a finger with this claim. How could only eight persons “invade” a state with three trucks? And why was Ogbizi silent on the “weapons of war” recovered from people purportedly on terrorism mission? More light was shed on his deception in court with the submission of one of the defense counsel, Aloy Ejimako. He drew the attention of U.O. Egwu, the magistrate, to the fact that some of the accused went to Kalu’s home with their children, wondering how “terrorists” would carry their kids along. The children were then filed out at the behest of the bewildered magistrate.

Another attorney, Godwin Chionye, was spot-on here: “Herdsmen with AK47 are roaming about in our backyard and no security agent is touching them. Is this one Nigeria?” His curiosity resonates across the land with the intolerable excuses of federal authorities for the mindless carnage in Benue, Taraba, Kaduna and other parts of Nigeria.

It is only in the South-East that the police and other security operatives are efficient in rounding up “terrorists.”  But such Prussian operational efficiency deserted them on April 19 in Benue, when worshippers, among them two clerics, were gunned to death in a Catholic Church in Guma Local Government Area of Benue State, by Fulani herders; and the earlier January killing spree that claimed 73 lives in Logo and Guma LGAs, among others.

For the authorities in Abuja, the massacres are “communal clashes,” and inevitable as farmers blocked the grazing routes. IPOB has not been ranked outside our shores as a terrorist outfit, but the Global Terrorism Index has since 2015 ranked Fulani herdsmen as the fourth most deadly terror group in the world, trailing Boko Haram, ISIS, and al-Shabab. Still, the government is indifferent to branding them accordingly. On the other hand, the convenience with which government agents descend on a group that has not taken up arms against the state or fellow citizens is the rank display of double standards.

Indeed, the police charge against the eight IPOB members cannot stand on terra firma with the inalienable right to peaceful assembly and association of a citizen in the 1999 Constitution. If the police are looking for terrorists, they should go to the North-East, North-Central, and North-West, where Boko Haram and Fulani herdsmen are daily challenging the authority of the state. So audacious are the herdsmen that they even attended a peace meeting that involved state government and security agencies, with AK47 rifles, which the Nobel Laureate, Wole Soyinka, bemoaned recently.

The IG should appreciate this point: IPOB members do not carry AK47; the killer-herdsmen do.  They have not been identified with Improvised Explosive Devices with which innocent citizens are wantonly killed; Boko Haram elements have. IPOB has not created Internally Displaced Person camps in the South-East or made any of its states ungovernable as a result of its rallies; Boko Haram and herdsmen have done so in some states in the North, thereby throwing them into the valley of grief and homelessness.

Rather than hound a group that seeks resonance in the right to self-determination as contained in the United Nations charter.


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