CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

Banning of Nigerian secessionist group likely to provoke protests and riots but reduce civil war risks

22 September 2017

Key Points

  • The judicial ruling provides a definitive decision on the status of the group led by Nnamdi Kanu, who has gone into hiding to avoid re-arrest on charges of treasonable felony.
  • Protests from Biafran activists are likely in the five southeastern states, particularly Abia, but are likely to remain limited and controlled by Nigerian security forces.
  • The much greater risk of major violence between Nigeria's main ethnic groups has been further reduced by the prohibition of IPOB.

Event

The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) organisation has been listed as illegal after a decision of Nigeria's Federal High Court.

IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu at his family home in Umuahia in May. IPOB has been effectively proscribed by a Nigerian Federal High Court ruling on 20 September. (Stefan Heunis/AFP/Getty Images)IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu at his family home in Umuahia in May. IPOB has been effectively proscribed by a Nigerian Federal High Court ruling on 20 September. (Stefan Heunis/AFP/Getty Images)

Nigeria has banned the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) organisation after days of confusion over the status of the increasingly vocal secessionist group. IPOB is effectively proscribed after the Federal High Court in Abuja on 20 September granted an order filed by the attorney-general, Abubakar Malami, declaring the activities of the group to be "acts of terrorism and illegality". Nigeria's director of defence information had issued a statement on 14 February relaying the army view that it considered IPOB to be a terrorist organisation and listed five reasons – the formation of a Biafra 'Secret Service', claimed formation of a Biafra 'National Guard', unauthorised blocking of roads, extortion, and possession and use of weapons. This was widely reported as being a formal ban, but chief of army staff Tukur Buratai clarified three days later that it was only a "pronouncement" clearing the way for a formal designation and not a "declaration"; however, now semantics have been swept aside by the judicial ruling.

The army is already deployed in the Biafra heartland of the southeast – the states of Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Imo. This is part of Operation Python Dance II, a month-long campaign starting on 15 September, which is ostensibly combating kidnapping, armed banditry, and other crimes including "agitation".

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