The United Kingdom government has finally accepted Nigeria’s classification of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation.
Following widespread killings and acts of lawlessness, the Nigerian government designated IPOB a terrorist group in 2017.
But some foreign countries, including UK, which IPOB leader, Nnamdi Kanu, holds its passport, did not acknowledge the declaration at the time.
However, four days after the outlawed group beheaded an army couple, who were on their way to Imo State for their traditional wedding, the UK acknowledged IPOB as a terrorist organisation, directing that it should be excluded from its asylum programme.
Although the killing, which sparked nationwide outrage, was not among the atrocities of the Nnamdi Kanu-led terror group the UK listed in its policy review document, the action was taken a few days after the murder.
The acts of the terrorist group listed by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI), a division of the British Home Office, were the invasion of an All Progressives Congress (APC) meeting in Enugu State where a party chieftain was killed; attack on an Imo Police Station where an officer was killed; killing of Anambra residents during enforcement of ”sit-at-home” order; killing of some policemen en route to Anambra International Airport, among others.
All these attacks happened in January 2022 alone.
Last year, UKVI had released new guidelines to its decision makers on how to consider and grant asylum applications to IPOB.
But in a fresh update published on its website three days ago, UKVI made a U-turn.
“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,” UKVI said in its policy notes.
“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.
“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, decision makers must consider whether one (or more) of the exclusion clauses under the Refugee Convention is applicable.
“Persons who commit human rights violations must not be granted asylum.”
The policy directed that decision makers must also check if there has been a previous application for a UK visa or another form of leave, noting that asylum applications matched to visas should be investigated before the asylum interview.
According to the British government, establishing a convention reason is not sufficient to be recognised as a refugee.
“The question is whether the particular person has a well-founded fear of persecution on account of their actual or imputed convention reason,” it added.
For an asylum application to succeed, it said the decision-makers must consider each case on its facts, taking into account the legal status, profile, size, and organisation of the group/organisation to which the person belongs and its activities; whether a person in the UK would wish to continue their activism if returned to Nigeria (if not, why not) and whether the group/organisation has a presence in Nigeria as well as outside of the country and any evidence that it is being monitored by the government.
Other considerations include the person’s profile and political activities (including those online) and relevant documentary or other evidence; the profile and activities of family members; past treatment of the person, and evidence that their activities in the UK may have come to the attention of the Nigerian security agencies.