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IPOB’s ban: FG writes to US, UK, others, lawyer faults move

 Image result for Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami
Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami

Ade Adesomoju, Abuja

The Federal Government has formally notified the governments of the United States of America, the United Kingdom and other foreign countries about the proscription of the Indigenous People of Biafra, and the designation of the group as a terrorist organisation, The PUNCH has learnt.

The Federal High Court in Abuja had, on August 20, made an order proscribing the group upon an ex parte application by the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN).

The proscription order was published in the Federal Government’s gazette on the same day it was issued.

The US and the UK had indicated that they did not consider IPOB a terrorist group.

Malami, however, confirmed to The PUNCH on Wednesday that the foreign governments had been duly notified of the proscription of the group.

The minister also told our correspondent that following the formal notification, the Federal Government would be seeking a Mutual Legal Assistance from the foreign governments to cut off the funding of the group and deal with it and its members as terrorists.

Our correspondent gathered last week that the Federal Ministry of Justice, through its Central Authority Unit, had sent separate letters to all the foreign missions operating in Nigeria.

It was learnt that the letters, with copies of the Federal Government’s gazette, publishing the order of Justice Abdu Kafarati of the Federal High Court in Abuja, which proscribed IPOB, were served on a majority of the foreign missions in Abuja on September 27.

When asked to give the identities of the specific embassies served with the letter, a top official of the Federal Ministry of Justice said, “Just think of any embassy you know is operating in Nigeria, they have all been served.”

“All we did was to send copies of the gazettes attached to the cover letters to notify them of the status of IPOB as far as Nigeria is concerned.

“Although the proscription widely reported in newspapers, has been published in the Federal Government’s gazette and advertised in newspapers as ordered by the court, we had to formalise it by notifying our foreign friends, I mean the foreign governments, which have embassies in Nigeria; and that was exactly what we did by sending copies of the gazette to them.”

When contacted on Saturday, spokesperson for the US Embassy, Russell Brooks, said he could not comment on whether or not the embassy had received such notification from Nigeria’s Government.

He stated in a text message sent to our correspondent, “Thanks for your inquiry, but we don’t routinely describe government-to-government correspondence.”

Spokespersons for the embassies of the UK, Canada and France did not respond to the text message inquiries sent to them by our correspondent last Friday, and resent to them on Wednesday.

Confirming the development to our correspondent on Wednesday, Malami said the proscription of IPOB had been formally communicated to the foreign governments.

He said a Mutual Legal Assistance request had been “generated” for the blocking of the sources of the funding of IPOB.

“They (the foreign countries) have been communicated formally and a mutual assistance request has been generated requesting them to deal with them (IPOB) as terrorist, block their accounts and sources of funding, among others,” Malami said.

The Acting Chief Judge of the Federal High Court, Justice Abdu Kafarati, had, on September 20, issued the proscription order upon an ex parte application by Malami.

The PUNCH had exclusively reported on September 26 that the Federal Government had gazetted the proscription order as directed by the court.

The gazette, with commencement date of September 20, 2017, reads in part, “Consequently, the general public is hereby warned that any person or group of persons participating in any manner whatsoever in any form of activities involving or concerning the prosecution of the collective intentions or otherwise of the said groups will be violating the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011 (as amended) and liable to prosecution.

“This notice shall be cited as the Terrorism (Prevention) (Proscription Order) Notice, 2017.”

The Special Assistant to the President on Prosecution, Chief Okoi Obono-Obla, had told our correspondent that the Federal Government would write to the foreign embassies in Nigeria about the proscription of IPOB.

Foreign govts won’t recognise FG’s letter –IPOB lawyer

In his reaction on Wednesday, however, Mr. Ifeanyi Ejiofor, lawyer for proscribed group and Nnamdi Kanu, its leader, said the international community had been notified that the proscription order issued against IPOB was being challenged in court.

He said the group’s motion had been slated for hearing before Justice Kafarati on October 23.

Ejiofor stated, “The fact is that each foreign country has its own laws that govern its state. Before now, America has told Nigeria that IPOB is not seen as a terrorist organisation.

“So, as far as we are concerned, once the countries are not satisfied with the claim that IPOB is a terrorist organisation, the letters being written by the Ministry of Justice does not have the force of law and will not be given effect by the international community.

“The international community knows that the proscription of IPOB and designating it as a terrorist organisation has political undertone. So they will not give such letter any recognition.

“It is also important to state that we have filed our application to vacate the proscription order and the hearing is coming up on October 23.”

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