The United Kingdom has recognised the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation and a group that uses violence to achieve its aims.
The United Kingdom Visas and Immigration office disclosed this in its May 2022 policy update.
UKVI clearly referred to IPOB whose leader, Nnamdi Kanu is currently in the custody of Nigeria’s Department of State Services (DSS) as a terrorist organisation to be excluded from its asylum programme for violent crimes in Nigeria’s South East.
“IPOB is proscribed as a terrorist group by the Nigerian government, and members of the group and its paramilitary wing – the Eastern Security Network (created in December 2020) – have reportedly committed human rights violations in Nigeria,” UKVI said in its policy notes.
“If a person has been involved with IPOB (and/or an affiliated group), MASSOB or any other ‘Biafran’ group that incites or uses violence to achieve its aims, decision makers must consider whether one (or more) of the exclusion clauses under the Refugee Convention is applicable.
“Persons who commit human rights violations must not be granted asylum.”
In 2017, the Nigerian government declared IPOB as a terrorist organisation.
In recent times, the proscribed group has been accused of perpetrating violent attacks in the South East in order to achieve its secession agenda but IPOB has repeatedly denied being behind the attacks.
Ivan Sheehan, an American academic who is the executive director of the school of public and international affairs at the University of Baltimore recently asked the United States government to designate the group as a terrorist organisation.
According to Sheehan, the establishment of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) by IPOB signalled the end of the group’s “pretenses of being a peaceful movement”.
The American academic also accused IPOB’s leader, Kanu of supporting terrorism and issuing threats via Radio Biafra.
“Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB’s leader, is clearly unconcerned. That he feels no need to even disguise his support of terrorism is worrisome,” Sheehan wrote.
“Through its online platform, ‘Radio Biafra’, and other social media, IPOB have increasingly used inflammatory rhetoric to encourage secessionist aspirations and resistance to the authorities, including violence (see Overview of groups, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of ‘Biafra’ (MASSOB) and Separatist groups outside of Nigeria).
“Sources reported that the security forces have arrested hundreds of IPOB supporters at different events, particularly between 2015 and 2017 and including during raids on homes of IPOB leaders. Since 2015, IPOB has also claimed that the security forces have used excessive force, including killing and injuring hundreds of its supporters (see Indigenous People of ‘Biafra’: Clashes between state and secessionist groups and Treatment of IPOB).
“Several sources also reported clashes between IPOB and the authorities during 2018 and 2019. Further clashes and violence occurred between security forces and IPOB in August 2020 in the city of Enugu, and in October 2020 during confrontations in Rivers State. In November 2020, there were reports that security forces carried out operations against IPOB in the Oyigbo area of Rivers State. However, these reports were denied by state governor Nyesom Wike. These incidents resulted in the arrests and deaths of IPOB supporters as well as security force personnel (see Indigenous People of ‘Biafra’: Clashes between state and secessionist groups and Treatment of IPOB)
“In December 2020, IPOB is reported to have set up the Eastern Security Network (ESN), a para-military force (see Overview of groups, Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of ‘Biafra’ (MASSOB) and Separatist groups outside of Nigeria).
“In February 2021, the Nigerian military launched land and air operations against ESN operatives (see Aims, Activities, Indigenous People of ‘Biafra’: Clashes between state and secessionist groups and Treatment of IPOB).
“Clashes between IPOB and the authorities continued into 2021. The group were involved in attacks reported to have taken place in April 2021 in Imo State where a police headquarters was destroyed and over 1,800 prisoners were reported to have escaped from a prison, although IPOB denied involvement in the attacks. In May 2021, clashes between state security forces and IPOB resulted in the deaths of both members of IPOB/ESN and the security forces. Sources also reported in June 2021 that the Nigerian Army had stated that IPOB/ESN had killed 128 military and police, 15 Civil Defence officers and 31 community policing members as well as over 100 people for not supporting IPOB. Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of IPOB, denied this claim. Clashes between state security forces and IPOB/ESN continued throughout the second half of 2021 into 2022. Media sources reported the deaths of 11 security forces in June 2021, with a further 22 deaths between October and December 2021 inclusive (see Aims, Activities, Indigenous People of ‘Biafra’: Clashes between state and secessionist groups and Treatment of IPOB).
“Following an attack on police stations by IPOB members in Rivers State in October 2020, the governor offered a reward for information that could lead to the arrest and prosecution of the IPOB state leader, Stanley Mgbere. Kanu publicly issued a N100m (c. £170-175,000) bounty on the governor in response. CPIT could find no further information in the sources consulted that Mr Mgbere had been located and arrested. In November 2020, 2 unnamed suspected senior IPOB leaders were reportedly arrested in Rivers State (see Clashes between state and IPOB and Bibliography).
“As well as arrests of IPOB supporters/armed activists, a number of IPOB senior members have been arrested including the IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu, who was originally jailed in 2015 for 2 years and then subsequently released on bail. Following a clash with soldiers at his home in Abia state in 2017, Kanu fled Nigeria whilst on bail facing charges of terrorism and incitement. In June 2021 the Nigerian government announced he had been arrested in a third country and returned. Kanu remains in custody in Nigeria and is subject to ongoing legal proceeding.