The Nigerian Defense Headquarters in the heat of the IPOB-military clash declared IPOB a terrorist group. However Buratai, the army chief has denied the pronouncement.
On 15 September, the military released a statement condemning the agitations of the pro-Biafra group. The statement presented by Maj.-Gen. John Enenche, the Director, Defence Information (DDI) was concluded thus;
“The Armed Forces of Nigeria wish to confirm to the general public that IPOB from all intent, plan and purpose as analysed, is a militant terrorist organisation.”
3 days later, the force takes back its “pronouncement”.
According to Buratai, it was a “pronouncement and not a declaration per se”.
“You have to get it very clear. First of all, what the Defence Headquarters did was to make pronouncement. It wasn’t a declaration per se. But this has given room for the right step to be taken. I think the government is doing the right thing.”
“It is not that we are overstepping our bounds. We are still within the limits. And I ensure you that what the military said was to set the ball rolling and to bring the awareness to the public that this is what this organization is all about. I’m happy that the government has done the right thing right now.”
Following the initial pronouncement, Southeast governors proscribed the activities of the IPOB- an act that is still debated.
The Chief of Army Staff, Lt. General Tukur Buratai denied that the Defence Headquarters did not declare IPOB a terrorist group. He said this during the official launch of Operation Python Dance II on Monday.
Recall that the military invariable the federal government insisted on carrying out to the full, the scheduled Python Dance II in the eastern region.
Buratai considered the “pronouncement” as an advantage that helped the government find a solution to the chaos.
It appears that the Federal government can conveniently make and denounce pronouncements to suit a given circumstance.
The Chief of Army staff, General Tukur Buratai says the operation will be carried out within the confines of the rule of law.
“The army is very sensitive to the cultural norms of the people and will abide by all the rules of engagement and code of conduct that have been laid down which is quite in tandem with the Constitution.”
Buratai also mentioned that though the essence of the exercise is to improve the security of the region, it had other activities in store for the people. For instance the exercise will comprise of Civil-Military cooperation activities like medical outreach, sanitation, donation of books to schools amongst others.
According to him, it will also serve as a form of training for the Military in basic internal security.
With the military changing its mind on the claims that the IPOB is a terrorist group, one would want to find out what actually makes a terrorist group.
Describing the IPOB as a militant terrorist organization at this time coincides with the state of the Muslim minority, the Rohingyas in Myanmar.
Both groups have a history of political discrimination and clashes with the ruling government. While these two dissimilar ethnic groups are considered endangered species in their respective countries, their ruling governments blame recent clashes on the group’s ‘terrorist tendencies’.
Terrorism over time has taken several shapes. Consequently it is hard to conclusively give a definition that fully explains it. However, it could be said that any action that deliberately threatens the lives and security of the masses is a terrorist act.
One thing is clear, once injustice thrives for so long, there is bound to be a revolution. Notable acts of rebellion in history have never come and gone with no conflicts and even loss of lives and properties.
Without a doubt, the Military-IPOB clash subjected the region to immense terror. But what may not be fixed for observers is if acts of self defense or standing up for civil rights qualifies a group to be addressed as a militant group.
It is worthy to mention that this will not be the first time in Nigeria that a group of people fighting for a cause were frustrated into the use of violence to make themselves heard.
The Shiites and the Niger Delta group are similar examples.