In a move to take the heat off the Nigerian Army and ensure that due process is followed, President Muhammadu Buhari has signed a presidential proclamation proscribing the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) over the group’s involvement in terrorist activities.
Making this known yesterday, sources in the Office of the Attorney General of the Federation informed THISDAY that the president signed the declaration on Sunday before his departure for the 72nd United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, where he will be expected to address other world leaders today.
Buhari’s decision to sign the proclamation was a fallout of the sharp criticism that followed the declaration of IPOB as a terrorist organisation by the Nigerian Army at the weekend and the group’s proscription by the South-east governors.
Although the Chief of Army Staff, Lt.-Gen. Tukur Buratai yesterday made a half-hearted attempt to deny that the army had declared IPOB a terrorist group, this did not stop the President of the Senate, Dr. Bukola Saraki from insisting that due process should have been followed before the declaration and proscription by the army and South-east governors respectively.
With the signing of the proclamation by Buhari, a source in the attorney general’s office explained that the presidency had effectively initiated the formal process of proscribing IPOB in accordance with the provisions of the Terrorism (Prevention) Act, 2011.
It also paved the way for the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF), Mr. Abubakar Malami (SAN) to head to court to give legal backing to the presidential proclamation.
Section 2 (1) of the Terrorism Act states that “where two or more persons associate for the purpose of, or where an organisation engages in: (a) participating or collaborating in an act of terrorism; (b) promoting, encouraging or exhorting others to commit an act of terrorism; or (c) setting up or pursuing acts of terrorism, the judge in chambers may on an application made by the Attorney General, National Security Adviser or Inspector General of Police on the approval of the President, declare any entity to be a proscribed organisation and the notice should be published in the official gazette”.
Sub-section 2 goes further to state: “An order made under sub-section (1) of this section shall be published in the official gazette, in two national newspapers and at such other places as the judge in chambers may determine.”
The sources further added that Buhari was keen on signing the declaration before his departure for New York in order to have the right response in the event that the question over the declaration by the army was posed by other world leaders who have been watching events unfold in Nigeria.
“The issue was extensively debated between Buhari, the AGF and other aides before he left for the UN General Assembly and the president decided to sign the declaration before leaving for New York, so he could say that due process was being followed if the question was raised by other world leaders at the UN,” the sources explained.