Declaration of IPOB As a Terrorist Group Is Utra Vires
By Ahmed Mohammed
I have seen the Press release of the Nigerian Army and SOUTH-EAST GOVERNORS FORUM declaring IPOB as a PRESCRIBED terrorist group and illegal association.
When I saw it and read through, I had mixed feelings and decided to consult my Arsenal (Laws) to see who has the constitutional or statutory power to so declare an organization or group a terrorist group. In my sojourn, I stumbled upon the TERRORISM (PREVENTION) ACT 2011. I picked up the Law to read and came across the provisions of section 2 Terrorism (Prevention) Act 2011 which is clear and unambiguous. The section provides thus:
"2. Proscribed Organisation.
(1). Where two or more persons associate for the purpose of or wherean organization engages in—
(a) Participating or collaborating in an act of terrorism;
(b) promoting, encouraging or exhorting others to commit an act of terrorism; or
(c) setting up or pursuing acts of terrorism, the judge in Chambers may on an application made by the Attorney General, National Security Adviser or Inspector General of Police on the approval of the President; declare any entity to be a proscribed organization and the notice should be published in official gazette.
(2) An order made under sub-section (1) of this section shall be published in the official gazette, in two National newspapers and at such other places as the judge in Chambers may determine.
(3) A publication made under sub-section (2) of this section shall contain such relevant particulars as the judge in Chambers may specify:
(i) a person who belongs or professes to belong to a proscribed organization commits an offence under this Act and shall on conviction be liable to imprisonment for a maximum term of 20 years;
(ii) for the avoidance of doubts, political parties should not be regarded as proscribed organizations and nobody should be treated as such because of his or her political beliefs.
(4) It is a defence for a person charged under sub-section (3) of this section to prove that the organization had not been declared a proscribed organization at the time the person charged became or began to profess to be a member of the organization and that he has not taken part in the activities of the organization at any time after it has been declared to be proscribed organization.
(5) The Attorney General upon the approval of the President may withdraw the order if satisfied that such proscribed organization has ceased to engage in an act of terrorism—
(a) the proscribed organization or person affected by the order made an application on notice; and
(b) he is satisfied that a proscribed organization has ceased to engage in the acts specified in sub-section (1) of this section and that there is no likelihood of the organization engaging in such acts in the future and shall be published in the official gazette."
It is clear from the above section by simple, clear and unambiguous interpretation that the only competent authority or power to declare an association or organisation PROSCRIBED is A JUDGE of a Federal High Court duly appointed in line with the provision of the Constitution. And this declaration of an entity or a group as a proscribed organisation is preceeded by an APPLICATION MADE BY ATTORNEY GENERAL OF FEDERATION, NATIONAL SECURITY ADVISER OR INPSECTOR GENERAL OF POLICE ON THE APPROVAL OF THIS PRESIDENT OF THE FEDERAL REPUBLIC OF NIGERIA. Thus, not even the President can unilaterally declare an organisation as TERRORIST Organization.
Therefore, such declaration by the Nigerian Army and South-East Governors Forum is alien to our Laws, ULTRA VIRES, NULL AND VOID. It is not in tune with the provision of the Statute which derives its validly from the Constitution. Thus, it is safe to conclude that the declaration of IPOB as Terrorists group is unconstitutional having not complied with the stated procedure and did not come from the competent authority empowered to so do. It is a void act and the law is clear on what is void. It is like putting something on nothing. It must collapse surely.
Let me clearly state that I am not a member of IPOB but I share their vision because it is a good cause but the ways and manners they have been executing their plans to achieve the mission are what I defer with. But then, as a people, we should simply follow the rule of law to avoid more troubles in this country. We have had enough of bad governance and unrest. It is high time we let sleeping dogs lie. Obeying the Rule of Law without bias and sentiments is one of the ways to sail to the promise land."