The Government of the United Kingdom (UK) has changed their stance on IPOB which it formerly considered granting asylums as oppressed people, 9News Nigeria has learnt today.
According to investigations carried out by 9News Nigeria International Correspondent, the government of the United Kingdom did not state that they are in the same opinion as the Nigerian government which proscribed IPOB as a terrorist organisation.
The UK in their “Country policy and information note: separatist groups in the South-East, Nigeria, March 2022 (accessible),” reviewed their stance in accordance with Refugee Convention Requirements.
According to March 2022 assessment report by the British Independent Advisory Group on Country Information, IPOB has been excluded from the Refugee Convention status for the reasons that: 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.
The British IAGCI’s assessment also reported that persons who commit human rights violations must not be granted asylum. It continued to state that 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, asylum status decision-makers must consider whether one (or more) of the exclusion clauses under the Refugee Convention is applicable.
The report also cited that “MASSOB has been banned, but is not a proscribed terrorist group in Nigeria. It too has reportedly been involved in violent clashes with the authorities.”
In their risk assessment, IAGCI recognised that in a political context, ‘Biafra’ is a loosely defined area in the South-East of Nigeria that roughly corresponds to the states of Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu and Anambra. The area is inhabited principally by Igbo (Ibo) people who are one of the country’s 3 largest ethnic groups.
IAGCI’s analysis also recognised that since the 1990s new ‘Biafra’ separatist movements have been established, reportedly driven by a perceived sense of unfair treatment and marginalisation. While several groups have formed with the goal of achieving ‘Biafran’ secession, the 2 main groups are: (i) the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of ‘Biafra’ (MASSOB); and (ii) the Indigenous People of ‘Biafra’ (IPOB)
The British Advisory Group also recorded that while during the early 2000s MASSOB was the foremost ‘Biafran’ group, in recent years reports suggest it has become divided splitting into several smaller groups and has become less active. IPOB grew out of MASSOB between 2012 and 2014 and has a presence outside of Nigeria, including the UK, Germany and elsewhere. There is limited information in the sources consulted on the organisational structure or membership procedures for either IPOB or MASSOB. There are also reported to be a number of other ‘Biafran’ groups but these do not seem to have a significant presence in Nigeria.
It concluded that although both MASSOB and IPOB have advocated for peaceful change they have also used rhetoric that may encourage violence and, in some instances, used violence directly, against the state and its agents. In recent years, IPOB appears to have become the publicly dominant ‘Biafran’ separatist group.