The United Kingdom has clarified that it did not designate the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation.
The clarification comes after it emerged that the UK sought to exclude IPOB members who have committed human rights abuses from its asylum program.
A statement signed by presidential spokesperson, Garba Shehu, had stated that “Nigeria welcomes the decision by the United Kingdom to proscribe the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist group.”
But the British High Commission in Abuja, in a statement on Friday, said this was not the case.
“We are aware of inaccurate reporting circulating in the media and online that the UK Government has added the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) to the UK’s list of terrorist groups or organisations banned under UK law,” the statement said.
“These reports are untrue. The ‘Indigenous People of Biafra’ (IPOB) is not a proscribed organisation in the UK.
“The inaccurate reporting relates to the 13 April 2022 publication by the UK Government of a revised Country Policy and Information note (CPIN) on separatist groups in SE Nigeria, including the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB). CPINs provide country of origin information (COI) and analysis of COI for use by UK Government decision-makers handling particular types of protection and human rights claims.
“All asylum and human rights claims made in the UK are considered on their individual facts in accordance with our obligations under the UN Refugee Convention and European Convention on Human Rights, taking into account relevant background country information and case law.
“The CPIN on separatist groups in the South East, including the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), provides a general assessment of risks faced by individuals belonging to those groups. These assessments are based on an analysis of publicly available country information obtained from a wide range of reliable sources including media outlets; UK and other governments; local, national and international organisations; and non-government organisations.
“This CPIN also acknowledges that the Nigerian government has proscribed IPOB as a terrorist organisation, some members of IPOB have reportedly used violence against the state and members of the public, and advises that persons who have committed human rights abuses must not be granted protection.”
“Confiscate IPOB assets”
In his Friday statement, Mr Shehu asked the UK to confiscate IPOB assets, shut down their communication channels and sanction the issuance of visas to IPOB’s funders in Nigeria.
“Such sanctions have played a critical role in combatting other terror groups. And make no mistake: today Africa is a breeding ground for terror, with local and international groups alike gaining strength across the continent, thriving on the economic devastation of the pandemic,” Mr Shehu said.
“Nigeria’s intelligence and security forces are the first lines of defence against such groups, including ISIS and Al Quaeda affiliated Boko Haram. We rely on our allies in the West for their support.
“IPOB’s – and its 50,000 strong paramilitary unit’s – reign of terror has seen villages butchered, school buses set alight and politicians’ homes bombed. Through their international network of radio and TV stations, they threaten further violence if their demands are not met, while inciting violence and religious and ethnic tension between Nigeria’s Christian and Muslim populations.
“Their mouthpieces and their wallets are their most effective tools – it is these assets Nigeria’s allies must target next. And there is no time for complacency.”