INTERVIEW: If You Ban IPOB, You ‘Proscribe’ Igbos In Nigeria
Barrister Ifeanyi Ejiofor shot into national limelight when he became the lead counsel for Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra in 2015.
Ejiofor, who heads I.C Ejiofor & co. ( Ugochinyere Chambers) in Abuja, is a fervent believer in the cause of his client and sees himself as fighting a divine cause.
He exudes confident disposition in open court and before newsmen regarding the case of his client, and does not fail to take advantage of any photo opportunity with the IPOB leader.
In this interview with THE WHISTLER, which took place in his Abuja office, his conviction about the cause is evident as he turned every question into an explanation about IPOB and Kanu.
Relationship With Nnamdi Kanu
You see, I was appointed the IPOB lawyer in 2015, so of course I started defending him in 2015 when he was arrested on October 14 2015 by the operatives of the SSS in Lagos who brought him here (Abuja).
Since then, I have been defending not only him but the entire members of IPOB.
Nnamdi Kanu was arrested in Lagos on 14 October 2015 because he was talking about self-determination which is an exercise of his right backed up under the constitution, under the African Charter of Human and People’s Right.
During that time, a lot of ills were going on about our people. You and I know that in this country, Igbos or Biafrans are classified as second class citizens. What is happening today in Nigeria is an eye opener to everybody.
I will give you a classical example. We are talking about zoning in their political arrangements today, South-South, North, everybody knows that it is the time of Igbos to have a shot at the presidency but it is this time that everybody has embarked on a jamboree acquiring presidential forms to contest the election.
Because in their own thinking, Igbos are nothing, even the South, look at their brother that just left the presidency few years ago, they are contesting seriously. So these are the anomalies, fundamentals that led to the IPOB agitation.
IPOB is not a violent group; it’s a peaceful movement seeking for their right to self-determination.
What It’s Like To Be Counsel To IPOB
These are things people should understand. I have said it in many places that it is very impossible to proscribe an ideology. If you say you’re proscribing IPOB, you are proscribing the entire Igbo people. Do you know what IPOB means? Indigenous People of Biafra.
Let’s stop romancing about it, including all the Ministers you are seeing today, Chris Ngige and others, they know that they are IPOB members. It’s just a function of strategy and the way they go about the intention. Every Igbo man is a member of IPOB. Biafrans or Indigenous People of Biafra comprises of many other people, we have Biafrans in Delta, Benue, Edo states.
That is why we have been talking about some idiots who are adopting violence. I have written it at several fora and interviews, that anybody who indulges in acts of violence, killings of any kind, kidnapping, banditry , they are not members of IPOB and they should treated like criminals.
This is not Nnamdi Kanu’s ideology, he has said it to me and I have made it public to everybody, he has said it to me from detention where he is , that this is not his ideology.
It is time to separate the wheat from the chaff, anybody engaging in any form of banditry, killings of any kind, abduction, kidnapping, then the person should be treated as a criminal , they are not members of IPOB.
IPOB is a peaceful movement, even its proscription by FG is being challenged at the Court of Appeal today, it is coming up on October for hearing.
I can never indulge, approve of or support any form of violence, so anybody who is involved in condemnable act is on his own and has nothing to do with IPOB whatever.
I have been his (Kanu) counsel and I have been representing them (IPOB).
Let me tell you something that will shock you, do you know that since 2017 IPOB was proscribed by the federal government, i have done over 300 to 1000 cases, I released all members of IPOB that were arrested on that order because the court said no and the court was informed that the matter is before the Court of Appeal. They (FG) have not shown us from the characters of proscribed organizations or terrorist organization as defined in the terrorism prevention act that those characters fall within the characters of IPOB.
Belief In IPOB Ideology
Sure. Self-determination is a right under African Charter of Human and People’s Right. And that law has been domesticated under our law. I believe in that inalienable right.
Travails As IPOB Lawyer
It’s public knowledge. I have severally being subjected to all forms of threat. My house was invaded, people were killed in my house and the premises burnt because I am a lawyer to Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB. Of course, you know I am outspoken and fearless too, I don’t have skeleton in my cupboard. Even the security agencies, I do tell them in their faces.
I was personally attacked severally, my house was invaded on September 2019, and then on June 6, 2021 in the morning, my P.A. was killed, put inside my boot, taken somewhere and burnt. Up till date, none of the security agencies have accepted responsibility for that. We were in court, they said it was unknown gunmen, not police, not DSS, not military, not civil defense. But it was done by them and we captured them in camera, the camera has been sent overseas for analysis and they have defined them, those who were involved and they mentioned the department of the security agency that was involved.
We will come to that later because the matter is going to the international Court of Justice, by then, they will tell them the country that supplied them the guns they came with. You see there are things you think are impossible, but if it is not possible in this country, it is possible outside the country.
They have analyzed the CCTV footage and were precise as to the company where the federal government bought that gun from, the company and country that supplied and who are using it, when we get to the ICJ, they will be in a position to tell us this analysis.
How Family Feels About Role With Nnamdi Kanu/IPOB
I educate my family from time to time about what I do. And I tell them that there is no reason to be afraid.
On September 13th last year, I came back to see to my mother, after having a chat with my mum and family members, a friend called me for a message and I felt breezing in there before going back to Enugu. On my way back, I was attacked by the military. They scattered my vehicle, shot at me directly, I was brutally attacked and escaped by act of providence. This is a divine mandate; that is why I am the voice of the voiceless, we are doing more 700 cases probono (relating to work that is done, especially by a lawyer, without asking for payment). I did not appoint myself, God appointed me and told me to go and do this for my people.
Reaction To Gruesome Murders By Unknown Gunmen
What I want to explain to you at this point in time is that the detention of Nnamdi Kanu is causing a lot of problems and confusion. And it is very worrisome because many hoodlums, idiots and criminals are using the circumstance presented by his detention to perpetrate crime. You see criminals who are into all forms of violence, they will go and steal, kill and rob and in other to divert attention, they will tell people at the point of leaving the scene, that until you release our leader.
We know they are criminals; they have nothing to do with IPOB. It is not in the culture of Igbos to kill our own or even strangers; we don’t do it, it is not our culture, we have value for human life, Igbos don’t kill.
If you tell me about Boko Haram now, it’s simple, herdsmen, it’s settled. We don’t kill. When you see people doing those things, they are either strangers brought to our land who are masquerading or working under the cover of IPOB but I can assure you one thing and I am believing God for that ; that when Nnamdi Kanu is eventually granted bail, it’s going to be a serious fight because those criminals will be identified, fought against, there will be no hiding place again for them.
So let me know how they are going to kill again and say Nnamdi Kanu because we are going to identify them. So I am pleading for court to grant these prayers.
A lot of things are going on, it’s no longer political, something needed to be done as quick as possible, I have never seen this kind of thing in my lifetime; even Nnamdi Kanu is very bitter with the situation happening now. I can confirm that to you.
Who’s Behind Killings In S/East? ESN or Unknown Gunmen
From my understanding of the setting up of ESN, I was never privy to when it was set up. I was hearing they were set up, my client told me, he set them up, I don’t even know them. I can’t have interaction with people I don’t see.
From what he (Kanu) told me, the essence of setting them up, then, you had this incident of Fulani herdsmen coming to our farms, killing our people and raping our women, it is all over the place even in Anambra. Security men became helpless and most of them are assisting them.
Like what happened in Awka north there, a Fulani herdsman was arrested with AK-47 by the vigilante and they were handed over to the police; immediately they got to the station, they were released.
But with the introduction of ESN by Nnamdi Kanu, they were operating there to challenge them; he didn’t set up ESN to start committing crime, that’s not the reason for setting them up. People who are committing crime are not the people Nnamdi Kanu set up.
ESN is never meant to interact with people like us, they don’t come to the public, and they are based in the bush to fight those who are killing our people. So I don’t interface with them.
Nnamdi Kanu’s absence presented opportunity for criminals to operate under any form of platform, they can go under the name of unknown gunmen or a name anybody can call them. Strangers can operate in our states under the guise of unknown gunmen, they are certainly not IPOB.
Opinion About FG’s Case Against Nnamdi Kanu
We are very delighted in the first place because, you see, this application has been over ripe; the one that was heard yesterday (May 18). This was an application that we filed sometime in 2019 immediately after the invasion of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu’s premises by the military and the killing of about 28 persons. Nnamdi Kanu escaped by the whisker , by acts of providence.
So we came back to court to formally inform the court what transpired, because obviously , it is not a function of court hearing on the news that something happened or probably on the pages of the newspaper, we must have to come to court to inform them formally, look at what happened possibly by affidavit evidence and by hearing to let him understand that this particular event took place and during this onslaught, Nnamdi Kanu narrowly escaped and probably court will formally have to react to it.
It is very compelling and the court found it expedient to hear it before taking further step. I want to use this opportunity to correct an impression or wrong narrative being peddled by people who are not properly informed by what transpired yesterday. The court did not deny Kanu bail, there is a difference between outright denial of bail, refusal of bail requiring you to do certain things by the court. The court said at this point this bail is premature, that he wants first of all, to inquire into what happened in his home, then afterwards, come back to final ruling. The court said, okay, at this stage, I will refuse this application, then let me here this one. So obviously, he has heard it, because we have it handy, we’ve served this application on the federal government since 2018 and they responded; since then, so we brought it and moved the application which contains detailed account of how people were killed, how military invaded his premises, how his home was completely destroyed and how he escaped and the interesting part is that he deposed to those facts himself, not through Barrister Ejiofor or true his brother. So you know, evidence of eye witness, someone who witnessed a particular event is the best evidence.
The point is that, one thing about law is that you cannot manufacture facts, law is trite, you can’t do the extraordinary; place your facts before the court and a decision will be taken. Like the people(federal government) have succeeded in amending this charge for 7 consecutive times, each time we are in court to do something serious, they will file amended charge. And this matter came up on the 8th of April, then subsequently adjourned to May 18 for ruling and hearing; only two days ago, they file and served us amended charge. They have been there since the matter came up on 8th of April, only yesterday, they filed and served us an amended charge and we said no. Even the court observed that there must be an end to amendment, it is becoming embarrassing, not only to us but also to the court.
It shows the level of untidiness, unseriousness , unpreparedness and there is nothing whatever before the court that we can call a charge. So it’s time for us to hit the nail at the point. We said we can’t go on and the amended charge was struck out and don’t forget that the application that the court heard yesterday also leveraged on the extradition Act which also has to do with the circumstance under which Nnamdi Kanu was abducted from where he ran for safety. We have international laws that guide the repatriation of somebody or a prisoner from foreign country to this country. These laws were flagrantly violated by the federal government. This is a person running for his dear life and he went to Kenya and they abducted him; and the most important thing is that even the government had accepted in the process they filed in the court ( in a sister matter) that they abducted him, it is contained in their affidavit so there is nowhere they can run to.
The law says they cannot try him again if he is smuggled into this country in that manner, the Extradition Act says he cannot be tried. So if the court finds that the invasion of his compound was illegal and by running for his dear life, he is certified, the court will now go into what the Extradition Act says and when that is brought into play, Nnamdi Kanu will be asked to go. Simple.