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Ivie Omoregie: The Truth about the Indigenous People of Biafra

Ivie Omoregie

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Over the last few months a lot of media attention has been placed on the growing Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement.

Led by the now infamous Nnamdi Kanu, the group is demanding for the right to self determination according to UN Charter and African Union Charter on Human and People’s Rights, which clearly states that:

Indigenous People have the right to Self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development

Many people have asked me many questions on this topic, hence why I want to answer these questions in this article.

What Do They Want?
The harsh truth is that the majority of the IPOB supporters believe they have been marginalized and are not being fairly represented at the federal level. Considering that Igbo people represent roughly 18% of the nation’s population (32 million people), many have noted the fact that since the inception of the country, only 2 Igbo men have held prominent positions in the Federal Government.

Many have stressed that there seems to be clear discrimination – as certain elements of the basic infrastructure, which they believe they need to further develop their business abilities –  have been “intentionally withheld”. They further stress that for the last 3 decades the Igbo population has significantly contributed to the gross domestic product of the country, yet their contributions have not been adequately acknowledged at the federal level (all must agree that with regard to trading, people of Igbo origin tend to have an unrivalled rate of success).

This notion was further antagonized when President Buhari made a statement after his inauguration where he openly declared that he would not be in favor of any section of the country who might have voted against him during the 2015 elections (from official electoral votes, most states in the south-south and south-eastern regions of Nigeria would be captured by this statement).

All these grievances have lead to cries for self-determination; in essence segregating them from governance by the Federal Republic of Nigeria, and creating a new country to be known as Biafra.

We Biafrans, in pursuit of our inalienable, irreducible and God given right to restore our stolen sovereignty, do hereby state that we do not require the permission of the Nigerian State or her government officials to grant us our natural freedoms

How Do They Want To Achieve This?
The IPOB group has demanded for a referendum (or if simply put, a restructuring of the country), whereby a simple question is put to public vote, and the public responds with a simple yes or no answer; for example ‘Should Biafra be an independent country?’.

In other jurisdictions referendums are held where there is a need to make a change to the countries constitution or to change an existing law. Referendums may be done at different levels of government (i.e. Federal or State) and the criteria for each referendum may vary depending on the circumstances, however on average it is by simple majority (i.e. 51% in favor).

Unfortunately under the 1999 Nigerian Constitution there is no such thing as “Referendum”; and thus the term is unknown to Nigerian law. Therefore for a referendum to be held in Nigeria, the National Assembly must first change the Constitution to this effect, before embarking on the actual referendum. As we have seen over the years, since the inception of the 1999 Constitution amendment of same has been extremely complicated, bureaucratic and time consuming.

How Do They Know They Will Win?
Many critics have stressed that seeing as the entire Igbo population only represents 18% of the total population of the country, how do the IPOB intend to achieve the 51% simple majority they might need to have their wishes met. These people empathize that the notion of a “Republic of Biafra” was contrived several decades ago and every Nigerian knows the damaged this notion caused then… why are things different now.

A spokesman for the IPOB has noted that the intended nation of Biafra would not only consist of the existing Igbo states (Abia, Anambra, Ebonyi, Enugu, Imo) but would also include Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Cross River, Delta, and Rivers states as well as Igbanke in Edo state, Igala in Kogi State. With this new geographic region, the IPOB population would be significantly more than the 18% representing the Igbo population.

Why Has Nnamdi Kanu Not Been Re-Arrested For Flouting His Bail Conditions?
The blatant truth is that initially arresting Mr. Kanu was unlawful. By virtue of the Nigerian Constitution every Nigerian has: –

1. The right to Freedom of Expression – every individual has the right to hold their own opinions and the right to express these opinions/ideas without interference.
2. The right to Freedom of Assembly and Association – every individual has the right to freely associate and assemble with whom ever they wish to associate and assemble with. They may freely belong to any political party, trade union or other association.

Based on the above premise I believe it was against Mr. Kanu’s Constitutional rights to imprison him in the first instance, thus any bail condition deriving from this illegal arrest is invalid and cannot be enforced. This could also be the reason why Mr. Kanu has so brazenly disregarded and flouted these bail conditions.

Conclusion
One thing that I must stress is the fact that it is not all Igbo people whose beliefs align with that of the IPOB, many don’t; even where they do share the same grievances as the IPOB, many do not support the manner in which the issue is being addressed.

Many have claimed that although the IPOB’s demand for self-determination is not synonymous with war or violence, given the history of the issue, this is a highly likely outcome. The truth is, discussions have not been exhausted… yet we are already seeing anarchy and disharmony in some of the states of the country.

Using Lagos State as an example, the Lagos State Government, like many other state governments, also have their own issues with the Federal Government, but rather than requesting for severance from governance by the Federal Government, the Lagos State Government is working around the issues to come to an amicable and legal compromise. Lagos state can survive on its own, without any proceeds from the oil revenues of the country, but still the Lagos State Government chooses to cooperate and does not encourage violence or separative tendencies.

However, in saying this, I cannot help but wonder what would have been of the IPOB movement if Mr. Kanu had not been arrested in the first place. To many, he was simply a rambling lunatic saying his own, but his arrest seems to have agitated certain groups and brought thoughts of “what if” to their minds.

Ivie Omoregie is the Founding Consultant at Skye Advisory. Skye Advisory is a boutique business advisory firm with locations in London, England, as well as Lagos, Nigeria. Skye Advisory offers bespoke Legal, Financial and General Business advisory services to small and micro businesses. Ivie is a duly qualified lawyer with years of cross border experience in the areas of Corporate Advisory, Energy and Projects, Finance and Litigation.  Ivie is also an active member of the Nigerian Bar Association as well as an avid woman's and children's rights promoter. View more details about her at www.IvieOmoregie.com. Follow her on Twitter @Ivie_Omoregie and Instagram @Ivie.Omoregie "

41 Comments

  1. amaria

    September 19, 2017 at 6:04 pm

    My dear he was a rambling lunatic saying his own till this government decided to make a minigod out of him. Your article is so on point

    • Donny

      September 25, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      Can’t help but question the IPOBs motives for their recent onslaught. As we can see the right to self determination is either cannot be achieved or statistically against them.

  2. A Real Nigerian

    September 19, 2017 at 6:31 pm

    Great read. You are quickly becoming one of the best writers on this site.

    • Lolz

      September 19, 2017 at 7:51 pm

      …said by oneof the worst commenters on this site. How apt!

    • Iffy

      September 20, 2017 at 10:28 am

      Madam LOL, abeg sit down. You can’t even type comment properly. #LoverNot

  3. simple

    September 19, 2017 at 6:44 pm

    I’m sorry, but I disagree with you on the point about Lagos. Although I admire their seeking a “amicable and legal compromise” with the Federal Government, Lagos cannot survive without oil revenue from Nigeria. The taxes and much hyped IGR in Lagos is as a result of the operation of companies and individuals whose sustenance is directly linked to oil revenues. Say for example Lagos state decides to “go it alone”. What will be their source of foreign revenue? What do they have the rest of the world will be prepared to pay foreign currency for in large enough quantities to sustain the kind of wealth inflow that we have witnessed in the last few decades as a result of oil exploitation in Nigeria? Its simple economics

    • Olly

      September 20, 2017 at 10:32 am

      Their source of foreign revenue will be trade, or don’t your realise that we have many factories in lagos state.

      Where their taxable persons get their revenue from is not their concern. What is their concern is the fact that these groups of people fall within their catchment area.

    • Didi

      September 20, 2017 at 4:42 pm

      You are right “Simple” Lagos survives on it’s own because virtually all the most institutions are sited there, e.g the most busiest international airport, the seaport, all the companies; all telecom, all Bank, oil , food/beverage companies have their head quarters here, Where do you think their tax go to: all to the Lagos state government revenue. Move most of this institutions to the east then you will see how Lagos will shake. There is a non functioning seaport in Calabar and govt has been doing everything to suppress it for fear of what happened in the civil war repeating itself. Have you ever thought that if there is a functional seaport in Calabar the average commercial eastern business man will have any business in the west. Their import and export business will move there. The govt know all this that is why they are doing everything to frustrate the Igbo man.

  4. Me

    September 19, 2017 at 6:46 pm

    The truth is that Nigeria Government does not honor our constitution….,.

    • Razz N Bougie

      September 19, 2017 at 7:10 pm

      We only honour the constitution when it suits us.

  5. momo

    September 19, 2017 at 9:40 pm

    has the inclusion of these other non igbo tribes been discussed with them.??..i haven’t heard the igalas,,isokos ,urhobos,itsekiris and kalahari agree to this union o..or did they have a secret summit??

    • Pangolo

      September 20, 2017 at 2:49 pm

      Don’t mind them. And what’s the proof that these other tribes will not be sidelined (the way Igbos claim they have been) if their Biafra dream comes true?

    • Nationalsquirrel

      September 20, 2017 at 4:21 pm

      Are we in igbo states? NO.

  6. Bowl

    September 19, 2017 at 9:50 pm

    When the passion for self determination becomes a collective “will” not amount of anomie ( by way of these many needless analysis ) nor the corruption of a constitution can stop it . Before then let’s keep deluding ourselves !

  7. Bowl

    September 19, 2017 at 10:00 pm

    Oh I forgot the census figure is also very political. The Igbos are the largest ethnic group in Nigeria actually (you are free to laugh ). There over 5 million Igbos in Cameroun. A significant proportion of Bata( capital city of Equatorial Guinea) population is made up of Igbos.

    • Diamond

      September 20, 2017 at 10:04 am

      You are even going too far. Igbos form major parts of Delta and River states; minor parts of Akwa Ibom, Bayelsa, Benue, Cross River, Edo and Kogi states

    • momo

      September 20, 2017 at 12:56 pm

      @ diamond ..i like your analysis but when you make unsubstantiated claims that igbo are majority in delta and rivers ..meaning that urhobo, itsekiri,jaws,isokos together are minority in delta????makes us in ND know that we will receive the short end of the stick if a succession led by biafra come up and we will likely resist it …biafra should be taking steps to unite everyone in SS not creating more enemies its better you face one battle not several at same time.

  8. nadine

    September 19, 2017 at 10:23 pm

    But even all Igbos are not for Biafra so the issue of dragging the SS into this matter is dead on arrival. The reason we are even having this stupid discussion is because our President owns a hammer and in his eyes, all problems are nails that need to be hammered.

    • I_I

      September 20, 2017 at 3:49 pm

      Every time I hear people say the government made a hero of Kanu, I just conclude they never listened to Kanu’s broadcasts prior to his arrest. Dude was advocating very deep hatred and threatening other tribes making statements like “by the time, we are done with that zoo, it would be worse than Biafra” e.t.c. This is someone who is on video requesting for arms and ammunitions to fight the nigerian government. That the government allowed his nonsense to even go on for so long shows how unserious we are in this country.

  9. Ade

    September 19, 2017 at 10:34 pm

    Nice write up, but I disagree with you on a few issues. Firstly, the right to freedom of expression and association are not inalienable rights. These rights come with limitations under the constitution of Nigeria and most societies. If both freedoms are left unchecked, it is sure to be abused by members of the society and I’m sure you understand this. Section 39 (3) and S. 45 (1) of the Constitution provides that the provisions of S. 39 would not invalidate any law that is reasonably justifiable in a democratic society.
    Now S 50 (2) of the criminal code provides for the offense of sedition which Mr Kanu is guilty of. He cannot therefore claim his right to freedom of expression when he has committed an offense under the criminal code

    • Ada

      September 20, 2017 at 1:06 am

      Yes but even with the limitations the federal government still acted illegally as his actions are not caught within the limitations. They want to intimidate him and now it has backfired majorly.

    • Self determination

      September 20, 2017 at 4:09 am

      “Now S 50 (2) of the criminal code provides for the offense of sedition which Mr Kanu is guilty of. He cannot therefore claim his right to freedom of expression when he has committed an offense under the criminal code”
      Ade,
      Can you tell us when Kanu was charged with sedition and found guilty? Which court entertained the case? Do you realise that what you typed can mislead some people who do not really know how the law works?
      Ivie, nice piece. It’s just that my understanding of the applicability of the right to self determination is a bit different from yours. Many analysts have argued that since Nigeria domesticated the African Charter making it a part of our laws and the Charter providing for the said right, then it cannot be validly argued that the right is not recognised by our laws. I agree with them.
      I’ve not practiced for a while. I can’t even remember the exact title of the case I’m about to cite. It could be Fawehinmi v. State or Abacha v. State. Honestly, I’m not sure. But I remember the judgement of the court on a relevant issue and I remember also that it was reported in 2000.
      The act of infringement took place during military rule. The state argued that the appellant was not entitled to those rights because the rights were suspended when the military assumed power. We can recall that each time the military takes power their first act will be to suspend certain laws and provisions of the constitution that may lead a citizen to challenge them in court.
      But the appellant argued- and the court ruled in his favour- that the military decrees did not affect the African Charter. That the appellant’s fundamental human rights were breached because they were safeguarded under the African Charter which had been indoctrinated into our laws. The decrees did not mention African Charter and the provisions were binding on Nigeria. I remember that somewhere in the judgment the learned justice commended the lawyer to the appellant for such novel argument. It’s a locus classicus. You probably didn’t avert your thoughts to it. But this is the much I can recall about it, it’s been a long time since I left.
      All the same, some of these cases are for textbooks sometimes. There’s high degree of lawlessness in Nigeria. There’s an impression that there are different laws for different people. Politicians, government and some privileged people always do as they please and nothing happens.
      Nevertheless, good write up.

  10. Tee

    September 20, 2017 at 12:38 am

    Well done Ivie, another fantastic and well written article. Soo soo informative.

  11. Proudly not Biafran

    September 20, 2017 at 1:07 am

    I fail to see all of the “truth” you claim to speak of. For example, in the section”how do they know they will win”, you stated a claim by the Biafrans that Biafra will consist of the Southeast and South South states. If you were really pointing out the truth about the IPOB, you would not leave this ridiculous claim unchecked. The people of the Niger Delta (Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, in proper definition) are not Biafrans and will never be, nor do we want to. Why would we want to join a secessionist group led by ethnocentrists who believe Igbos are superior to other ethnic groups and seek to land grab? Why would we wish to voluntarily join a new nation dominated by one ethnic group, which feels free to rewrite history so as to claim our land and resources? Why would we want a repeat of the Biafran War, where the Biafran army invaded the Niger Delta and destroyed lives and property? Guess what, the Igbo are not the only ones who suffered during the civil war! They inflicted harm as well, by invading homelands of other ethnic groups who had nothing to do with their war! Guess what, the IPOB is criminal! I have no problem with their right to self determination but lying and rewriting history to claim that the Niger Delta is historically Igbo land and that we are Biafrans is wrong! It is denying others their identity, right to self determination, while brainwashing a generation of Igbo children to believe that they have a right to other people’s ancestral lands. Until the IPOB leaves us alone, I will not consider them legitimate.

    • Ezi

      September 20, 2017 at 10:37 am

      Please you need to speak to a naija delta militant and see where their alliances lie.

      I believe for them it is a case of the lesser of 2 evils.

    • I_I

      September 20, 2017 at 3:54 pm

      @Ezi: LOL. Millitants or self-serving criminals? All the “Generals” from the first wave of millitancy minted a shiny penny from their “struggles” – from Ayiri the warri billionaire of phantom sources to Tompolo the security contractor for NIMASA to Asari Dokubo who owns an oil-well in neighbouring Benin republic. All these lads are sure the shining lights of the struggle for independence.

    • I_I

      September 20, 2017 at 3:55 pm

      Sorry I meant university, not oil-well.

    • Didi

      September 20, 2017 at 5:25 pm

      Mr or Mrs Proudly not Biafran, please go and do your research properly. The Nigerian army invaded your lands and not the Biafran soldiers. Even if Biafran is achieved, the proposed system of govt would not allow an Igbo man to go to Rivers State to dictate to them what to do with their oil like a Rivers man doing the same. It will be every state, take care of your own. I pity most of this Niger Deltans who call the Igbo man his enemy, you sit back and see how your own resources are used to build another man’s land other than yours. The Igbo man is never superior to anyone but just as Joseph was favored and hated among-st his brothers, that is how the Igbo man is. Your hate for the Igbos will not take you anywhere because he who is blessed is blessed, That is why an Igbo man does not need to steal oil money to become rich, he is industrious, he creates wealth with his hands.
      So drop the hate, swallow your pride and tap into that blessing. Most of you are examples of the below quote by a great man.
      “There are many Negros who will never fight for freedom, but they will gladly accept it when it comes” .Martin Luther King

  12. Stan Lee

    September 20, 2017 at 2:33 am

    Problem with Nnamdi Kanu is
    1. He publicly stated he will behead the president.
    2. He declared that he will march to Abuja  with 2 million Ipob members to go to war.
    3. He tried to solicit funds for the purchase of arms.
    4. He created an IPOB Navy
    5. He created an IPOB secret service.
    All stated can be found on youtube straight from his own Ipob/radio biafra videos.

    I mean let’s be very clear this would have NEVER happen in the USA without him being detained or neutralized even without commotion. FBI, secret service, would have been all over his yansh. I don’t agree with Ipob being terrorist. But from an army Intel standpoint, there’s more than enough evidence from Kanu for the Nigerian Army to keep him in jail or be stationed outside his house.

    Comedian Kathy Griffin joked about beheading Trump. She was detained and questioned with Secret Service watching her family and her. War is very real and not a child’s game

    • Gee

      September 20, 2017 at 10:38 am

      I now wish the federal gov had quietly dealt with this issue as opposed to giving him more publicity than he deserves.

  13. Lyly

    September 20, 2017 at 4:07 am

    You made sense till you used lagos as an example. Those two issues are world apart.

    • Diamond

      September 20, 2017 at 10:26 am

      For me, the Lagos comparison was lame too. Lagos is the only state that has a working seaport, despite not being the only state with intentional water ways. Do you realize how much revenue that generates for Lagos? Talk about Airways, you can’t fly internationally from the east, but you can from the North and Lagos.

      You can talk what you know or don’t know about Nnamdi Kanu, but don’t tell IPOB not to agitate because Lagos isn’t. Because this way different. Don’t simplify the Igbo man issues in Nigeria.

      P.S How did you even conceive to compare Igbo people with Lagos state? Not intelligent.

    • Tasha

      September 25, 2017 at 4:18 pm

      Madam calm down. The comparisons was with 2 aggrieved states. Also the article is her opinion. Everyone has a right to their own opinion.

  14. maya

    September 20, 2017 at 7:16 am

    actually the federal government did not act unlawfully in initially arresting Nnamdi. As held in the case of DOKUBO ASARI V FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA 2007 ALL FWLR (PT 375) 588, The supreme court per muhammed JSC (CJN RTD) said; “where the national security is threatened, human rights or individual rights of those responsible take second place. human rights or individual rights must be suspended until national security can be protected or taken care of………once the security of this nation is in jeopardy and it survives in pieces rather than in peace, the individual liberty or right may not even exist.”

    • Path

      September 20, 2017 at 10:40 am

      Why have they not re-arrested him?

  15. simple

    September 20, 2017 at 7:46 am

    I wonder why my comment wasn’t published @BN? Surely you can’t expect everybody to be singing the same tune? This is not N. Korea??

  16. ChrisGanachi

    September 20, 2017 at 11:50 am

    Thoughtfully written. Thanks for clarifying.

  17. Bowl

    September 20, 2017 at 5:25 pm

    But referendum is supposed to be for the Igbo people only. I mean Igbos from the 5 core Igbo states. The Igbos of the south south already identified with other tribes not with the Igbos . So , whenever Biafra happens it will be only be the Igbos of the core east . It was Nnamdi Kanu who was trying to robe them into Biafra against their wish .

  18. beautifulsoul

    September 21, 2017 at 9:03 am

    Good writeup to an extent. Some so called south south people claiming not to be part of biafra with uninformed points please do ur research welll to realize that biafra simply refers to the old eastern rregion of Nigeria so u can stop exposing ur ignorance. Biafra was coined by an ijaw man n its not even igbo word. Same attitude from u lot led to loss of the civil war then as u opened up for Nigerian troops. Receive sense as 3 igbo states have oil with anambra having highest gas reserve in Nig n very good in agriculture . Enugu has coal while Ebonyi has salt , lime n is very good in agriculture. So dont sweat it.

  19. Proudly not Biafran

    September 24, 2017 at 9:18 am

    Dear “Didi”, “So-called Beautiful Soul” and co. It’s funny that you think you can school me using the brainwashed ideology you’re succombed to. It will not work for you, so stop wasting your time spreading IPOB lies. I do not hate Igbos, I just hate being oppressed. Biafra as it’s being used in this article does refer to the statehood construct, so no I’m not “exposing my ignorance”. Thank you for exposing yours. I’m Ogoni, and while in the colonial Eastern state, we were very much oppressed, as Igbos dominated the state. My great-grandparents, for example, was not allowed to learn our languages in school, only Igbo was taught, so as to force us to assimilate to Igboculture. During the civil war, yes, Biafran forces invaded our land against our consent. The Nigerian army is the furthest thing from being a friend to Ogonis, but we supported them defeating the Biafrans who claimed us and our land without our consent. As for your claims that we would not be oppressed in Biafra, only a Niger Deltan living under a rock would believe that. We’ve been oppressed before, and with the anti-other ethnic group sentiments coming from IPOB, I really doubt anything has changed. You keep saying you don’t need our oil or our ports, but we both know that’s a lie. The Nigerian economy is built on oil exploitation in the delta. Most businesses in Nigeria, including Igbo ones, directly or indirectly are supported/connected by oil profits, so so much for your theory about being such independent business people.
    In any case, your dream of laying claim to our land, port access, and resources is a pipe dream. Enjoy your land-locked, port-less country of Biafra with it’s ineffectual leadership (because let’s get real, getting your own country isn’t going to solve existing issues between Igbos or teach your politicians restraint or accountability). I just find it telling that you automatically assume that everyone is out to get you and that if someone doesn’t want to be part of Biafra they are stupid or anti-Igbo. Good luck with your “blessing”. We worship God, not Nnamdi, so we’re already plenty blessed lol. If Nigeria is the fire, Biafra is hell stoked by brimstone and molten lava.

  20. Tasha

    September 25, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    Two things I picked out from this submission on IPOB are:

    Firstly, there is no provision for a referendum in the 1999 Nigerian constitution. The more reason why that 1999 constitution should be ditched and thrown inside the bin.
    Secondly, our law makers are corrupt and insensitive to the yearnings of Nigerians. They have deliberately decided to hold on to the status quo for very obvious reasons.
    We have evolved over the years and a suitable and meaningful constitution that addresses modern day human challenges should be produced for our country.
    Anything short of that is delaying the inevitable.

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