American academic wants US to designate IPOB as terrorist organisation


Ivan Sheehan, an American academic, has asked the United States government designate the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) as a terrorist organisation.

Sheehan, who is the executive director of the school of public and international affairs at the University of Baltimore, in an opinion article published in The Washington Times on Monday, gave reasons why IPOB should be designated as a terrorist group by the US.In 2017, the federal government declared IPOB as a terrorist organisation.In recent times, the proscribed group has been accused of perpetrating violent attacks in the south-east in order to achieve its secession agenda — but IPOB has repeatedly denied being behind the attacks.

Speaking on the activities of IPOB, Sheehan said the establishment of the Eastern Security Network (ESN) by IPOB signalled the end of the group’s “pretenses of being a peaceful movement”.The American academic accused Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB’s leader, of supporting terrorism and issuing threats via Radio Biafra.“Nnamdi Kanu, IPOB’s leader, is clearly unconcerned. That he feels no need to even disguise his support of terrorism is worrisome,” Sheehan wrote.

Though IPOB’s principal aim is to restore a breakaway state of Biafra in the southeastern parts of Nigeria, Mr. Kanu’s rhetoric has become increasingly strident, “I don’t want peaceful actualization (of Biafra).”“Mr. Kanu has said through his Radio Biafra channel, used to project threats, instructions, and propaganda into Nigeria from the safety of London, “If they don’t (give us Biafra), they will die.”“Neither does Mr. Kanu make idle threats. The December revelation of IPOB’s 50,000 strong-armed paramilitary wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), complete with a Swastika-style flag, marked the end to all pretenses of being a peaceful movement.“What had been largely unspoken was publicly declared. Since then, violent IPOB attacks on both security personnel and civilians have surged by a terrifying 59%; deaths by 344%.”

He also said tagging the secessionist group with a terror label would “hit IPOB’s wallet hard”, adding that if done, no organisation that uses the US currency would be able to conduct legal transactions with IPOB.“As soon as the designation is applied, no organization that utilizes U.S. currency would be able to legally conduct transactions with the organization. By cutting off IPOB’s funding, the U.S. would weaken the 50,000 strong paramilitary outfit, and provide Nigeria’s security forces room to train their sights squarely on ISIS-affiliated Boko Haram in the Northeast of the country,” he added.“Counterterrorism operations against Boko Haram have long been assisted by U.S. agencies working in close coordination with the West African government.”Commenting on possible reasons the US government has not designated IPOB as terror group “despite repeated pleas by Nigeria”, the American academic said the engagement of American lobbying firms by IPOB to manage its image may be a reason.

He also said a terror designation would mean the group could not use the US or its western allies to further their cause.“One reason may be the group’s million-dollar contracts with prominent American lobbying firms paid to whitewash the group’s reputation and lobby on Capitol Hill. It is impossible to believe that IPOB and Kanu’s deep pockets are not being lined by external organizations,” he said.“A terror designation would put a stop to this influence peddling. It would also mean the group could not use the US or its Western allies, like London-based Radio Biafra, to further their cause.“The group’s outsized influence – a function of its radio station, paid hands, and US lawyers – would be severely curtailed. Law enforcement in the US, the U.K., and elsewhere would be obligated to act by shutting down these activities.”


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