- Seeks Self-Government
While Nigerians are still reacting to the dust raised in the memoirs of renowned author, Prof Chinua Achebe in which he alleged that Late Chief Awolowo recommended that starvation should be used to subdue the Igbo during the Nigerian Civil War, a group, under the name “Bilie Human Rights Initiative” has dragged the Federal Government of Nigeria to court.
The case, with suit No. FHC/OW/CS/102/2012 was filed in the Federal High Court of Nigeria in the Owerri Judicial Division against the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation seeking to enforce the rights of indigenous people of Biafra to self-determination and independence.
A press conference was also addressed by the organization in which the group’s press secretary, Elder Eddy Anyawu who gave the reasons behind the legal action. He stated that “we are here today to let the world know what is happening in Nigeria. The safety of the lives and properties of indigenous people of Biafra living in Nigeria are no longer guaranteed. The Biafrans were forced to surrender their sovereignty and become Nigerian citizens on the promise that their lives and properties would be protected by the Government of Nigeria. Now, it has become clear that the Government of Nigeria is impotent and incompetent to protect the indigenous people of Biafra who were not consumed by the war. In fact, the Nigeria Police and Army Officers have continued to harass, intimidate, arrest, detain and kill Biafran human rights activists who are agitating for the self-determination and independence of Biafra by peaceful means but spare the militant activists from other nationalities agitating for similar outcome. There is clear and demonstrable policy of discrimination, marginalization, oppression and racism against the remnants of the indigenous people of Biafra living in Nigeria which has caused some of them to deny their identity in order to receive favours from the Federal Government of Nigeria. The situation has compelled Bilie Human Rights Initiative to file multiple suits against the Federal Government of Nigeria and its agents on behalf of the indigenous people of Biafra to protect their human and peoples’ rights. At the moment, the two suits Bilie Human Rights Initiative has filed are as follows:
(a) Case number 1 is for the Self-determination and Independence of Biafra
(b) Case number 2 is an order seeking restraint on the part of the Federal Government of Nigeria and her agents from the continued intimidation, harassment and threat to life of the publishers and distributors of Eastern Pilot Newspaper and violation of the publication’s freedom of expression as guaranteed under the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria”.
Elder Anyawu further expatiated on the cases as follow:
“The Case for Self-determination and Independence of Biafra:
On behalf of the Indigenous People of Biafra, Bilie Human Rights Initiative has filed the case, Suit No. FHC/OW/CS/102/2012 in the Federal High Court of Nigeria in the Owerri Judicial Division against the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation seeking to enforce the rights of indigenous people of Biafra to self-determination and independence. The said suit brought by way of originating summons requires the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation to appear in court to answer fundamental questions impinging on the rights of Indigenous People of Biafra which to date has remained unanswered and untested in any competent court of law”.
The summons reads: “Let the Federal Government of Nigeria and the Attorney-General of the Federation within thirty days after service of this summons on them, inclusive of the day of such service, cause an appearance to be entered for them to this summons which is issued upon the application of BILIE HUMAN RIGHTS INITIATIVE representing INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA who are indigenes of the South East geopolitical zone of Nigeria, parts of the South-South geopolitical zone of Nigeria and parts of the Middle Belt zone of Nigeria seeking to enforce their right to self-determination pursuant to Articles 19 – 25 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, and to redress all wrongs occasioned on them by the Defendants in consequence whereof the Claimants pray for the determination of the following questions:
1. Whether the Indigenous People of Biafra who are the remnants that were not consumed in the Nigerian-Biafran war of 1967 – 1970 have the right of self-determination pursuant to Articles 19 – 25 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
2. Whether the Claimants who identify themselves as Biafrans by indigenous identity are committing any offence by doing so contrary to any provisions of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 or contrary to any provisions of the Criminal Code and whether it is a crime under any national or international law to mention the name of BIAFRA or for the remnants of the Indigenous People of Biafra who were not consumed by the war to maintain their indigenous identity as Biafrans with their native emblems and symbols as they do now even though they are Nigerians by citizenship and nationality laws; and if the answer is in the negative, whether the Defendants are justified to arrest, detain, shoot and or kill the children of the Claimants for identifying themselves as Biafrans by indigenous identity contrary to the rights of indigenous peoples as guaranteed by Articles 19 – 25 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act, Cap 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990.
3. Whether by the interpretation of Section 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 it is a crime for the Claimants and or the people of other ethnic nationalities held together in Nigeria against their will to exercise their right to self-determination by seeking for independence under the law as guaranteed by Articles 19 – 25 Cap 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 and the United Nations Resolution 61/295 of 2007 known as the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.
4. Whether it is lawful under the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and under the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 for the Defendants to hold the ethnic nationalities in Nigeria together by force against their will who now constitute the six geopolitical regions namely: South East, South South, South West, North Central, North East and North West, in a forced marriage akin to slavery contrary to their human and peoples’ rights of self-determination as there is no provision in the Nigerian law or international law that makes it a crime for a people to seek for freedom by the rule of law.
5. Whether the amalgamation of the peoples of the south and north by the British Government to form one country called Nigeria was with the consent and agreement of the indigenous peoples of the lands; and if the answer is in the negative, whether the Order-in-Council 1910 – 1913 made by the British Government to create Nigeria in 1914 was null and void ab initio for lacking legitimacy as it could not form the basis of the Nigerian Constitution thereby rendering the amalgamation invalid.
6. Whether by the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1963 which took effect on 1st October 1963 and remained in force until the midnight of 30th September 1979 the Defendants were right to seize and confiscate the assets, properties, money, and all treasures belonging to the Claimants by promulgating the Abandoned Properties Act of 28th September 1979 while the 1963 Constitution was in force, being more than nine years after the war and after the declaration of “One Nigeria” while regarding the Claimants as Nigerian citizens but depriving them of their properties, money and assets; and if the answer is in the negative, whether the Defendants are still justified to withhold the said money, properties and assets belonging to the Claimants.
7. Whether the Defendants were justified to violate the International Humanitarian Law and the Laws of War known as the Geneva Convention 1949 (to which the Defendants acceded and ratified on 20th June 1961) by bombing the Biafran civilians, killing the Biafran civilians and using starvation to kill the children, women and the elderly of the civilian population of the indigenous people of Biafra in the war of 1967 – 1970 in order to win the war.
8. Whether the Defendants by registering Nigeria as a member of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) in 1986 and licensing an Islamic Sharia Bank in Nigeria under the 1999 Constitution contrary to Section 10 of the Constitution of Nigeria have violated the Constitution and turned Nigeria into an Islamic country; and if the answer is in the affirmative, whether the Claimants have the right to dissociate themselves from the Defendants and refuse to answer the citizens of an Islamic country in the exercise of their right to freedom of worship, freedom of association and self-determination as a people.
AND LET THE DEFENDANTS TAKE NOTICE that the Claimants who are called Biafrans by indigenous identity and Nigerians by nationality have commenced the legal processes leading to their referendum for self-determination and shall at the hearing of this summons pray the Honourable Court for:
(a) An Order declaring that the Claimants have the right to self-determination pursuant to Articles 19 – 25, Cap 10, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 1990, and are therefore free to exercise their right to self-determination for independence or any other political status of their choice.
(b) An Order declaring that the ethnic nationalities that make up Nigeria are not held as slaves under Section 2(1) of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and therefore have the right of self-determination to decide their political status by the rule of law.
(c) An Order declaring that the Defendants are liable to pay to the Claimants by way of compensation or reparation the present value of all the money, properties and assets of the Claimants seized by the Defendants as a result of the Nigerian-Biafran war of 1967 – 1970 since the properties were not seized in wartime but nine years after the war based on the post-war discriminatory policies and laws made by the Defendants to suppress the Claimants from generation to generation.
(d) An Order directing the Defendants to comply with the provisions of Article 20 (3) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Ratification and Enforcement) Act Cap 10 Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990 and consequently give all assistance to the Claimants in the exercise of their right to self-determination for a peaceful conduct of their referendum for independence or for any other political status of their choice.
(e) An Order granting judicial protection to the Claimants, their homes, their offices and their correspondences individually and collectively as they exercise their right to self-determination and an Injunction restraining the Defendants, their agents and privies, from interfering, arresting, molesting, intimidating, disturbing, hindering or harassing the Claimants or doing any act or omitting to do any act aimed at frustrating the Claimants’ exercise of their right to self-determination which they have commenced with a referendum.
(f) An Order compelling the Defendants to release from its prisons and detention centres all indigenous people of Biafra who are agitating as pro-Biafra Movements for Independence of Biafra by peaceful means and to drop all charges of treason or treasonable felonies made against them and to release all their properties seized by the Defendants.
(g) An Order affirming the Memorandum of Ohanaeze Ndigbo dated 28th June 2012 submitted to the National Assembly for the restructuring of Nigeria into six autonomous self-governing regions, namely: South East, South West, South South, North East, North West and North Central, as a manifestation of the Will of the People in the exercise of their right to self-determination and directing the Defendants to present an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for a law granting autonomy and self-governing status to the six geopolitical regions in Nigeria; OR IN THE ALTERNATIVE, in the role of the Judiciary as the last hope of the common man, an Order directing the Defendants to present an Executive Bill to the National Assembly for a law dissolving Nigeria in peace along the compatible ethnic groups instead of allowing the country to break up in bloodshed.
(h) An Order declaring that the Defendants by registering Nigeria as a member of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC) have turned Nigeria into an Islamic country contrary to Section 10 of the Constitution of Nigeria 1999 and therefore the Claimants being Christians have the right to dissociate themselves from the Defendants and refuse to be called the citizens of an Islamic country”.
He also disclosed that “the facts of the case and exhibits relied on are contained in a 44-Paragraph Affidavit filed with the suit. Bilie Human Rights Initiative is by this legal action accelerating efforts to bring legal clarity to the issue of arbitrary arrests of indigenous people of Biafra. We believe that what Biafra lost after the war was its sovereignty and not its people since we were not annihilated by Nigeria as Rome annihilated Carthage.
About 99% of the population of the indigenous people of Biafra are Christians holding tenaciously to their Christian faith, believing in freedom of worship, freedom of religion, freedom of association, freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and freedom of expression, and separating the State from Religion. We believe in democracy as the only system of government that guarantees our fundamental human rights. Unfortunately, the Moslems from the North who were merged with us in the country called Nigeria do not believe in democracy and do not separate their Religion from the State. They do not believe in freedom of religion, freedom of conscience, freedom of thought and freedom of expression. In a conflict between the law of the State and the law of Islam, the Moslems insist that the law of Islam must prevail while we insist that the law of the State must prevail. They regard democracy as a false religion as shown by the fliers and posters they are spreading in Britain, America, Nigeria and other countries of the world where democracy is practised. This shows fundamental irreconcilable differences in the ideologies of the two peoples. All the efforts of their ethnic militia called Boko Haram are aimed at Islamizing the whole country and forcing us to become Moslems! The Biafrans saw this Islamic virus ahead of time and sought to free themselves in 1967-1970 but the odds were too much against them since Great Britain and other developed countries of the West could not see what the Biafrans saw. In the Ahiara Declaration, General Chukwuemeka Odumegwu Ojukwu revealed that the Biafran Struggle was not only a political or military struggle but also a struggle for religious freedom. In his words, “The Biafran struggle is, on another plane, a resistance to the Arab-Muslim expansionism which has menaced and ravaged the African continent for twelve centuries.
Our Biafran ancestors remained immune from the Islamic contagion. From the middle years of the last century Christianity was established in our land. In this way we came to be a predominantly Christian people. We came to stand out as a non-Muslim island in a raging Islamic sea. Throughout the period of the ill-fated Nigerian experiment, the Muslims hoped to infiltrate Biafra by peaceful means and quiet propaganda, but failed. Therefore, to militant Islam, Biafra is a stumbling block to their plan for controlling the whole continent”.
Anyawu also stressed that “Nigeria obtained only a military victory over Biafra but not spiritual conquest. Nigerians and their Governments treat us like a defeated people though mouthing “No Victor No Vanquished” in hypocrisy. Any person who identifies himself as an Ibo or Biafran receives persecution, hatred and rejection from Nigerians. Fair-minded Nigerians have acknowledged that the Government of Nigeria is designed to marginalize and persecute us. Alhaji Salisu Lamido Salisu, in his Conference Lecture at Arewa House in 1999, said concerning us as follows: “They have been defeated in war, rendered paupers by monetary policy fiat, their properties declared abandoned and confiscated, kept out of strategic public sector appointments and deprived of public services. The rest of the country forced them to remain in Nigeria and has continued to deny them equity. The Northern Bourgeoisie and the Yoruba Bourgeoisie have conspired to keep the Igbo out of the scheme of things. In the recent transition when the Igbo solidly supported the PDP in the hope of an Ekwueme presidency, the North and South-West treated this as a Biafra agenda. Every rule set for the primaries, every gentleman’s agreement was set aside to ensure that Obasanjo, not Ekwueme emerged as the candidate… Now, with this government, the marginalization of the Igbo is more complete than ever before. The Igbos have taken all these quietly because, they reason, they brought it upon themselves. But the nation is sitting on a time-bomb”.
Yes, indeed, Nigeria is sitting on a time-bomb. Fair-minded northerners and westerners have acknowledged that the Government of Nigeria has been quite unfair to us’, he said.
The maltreatments and persecutions have caused some of our people to deny their native identity in order to survive in Nigeria. Some of our people in the South-South region have changed their names to sound foreign in order to escape the persecution while some towns and villages have been forcefully assimilated into neighbouring tribes. Our spirits are still alive despite all the persecutions we suffer in Nigeria. This is why we are insisting on regaining our freedom because we still believe in our indigenous identity as Biafrans.
We want the Court to determine whether it is an offence for the remnants of the ancestors of Biafraland who were not consumed by the war to maintain their indigenous identity as a people and exercise their right to self-determination. We want the Court to determine whether it is an offence to mention the name of BIAFRA and believe in Biafra and preach Biafranism as a gospel of national liberation. We are fast-tracking legal efforts to compel the Nigerian Government to stop arresting anybody answering to or wearing Biafran emblem, insignia or any material that reflects their belief in Biafra. We believe that this a test case for the development of human rights law, not only for the benefit of the Nigerian legal system but also for the benefit of other countries of the world who are bound by the United Nations Charter on Human Rights.
Concerning our people who have denied their ancestral identity as Biafrans and Ibos in order to survive in Nigeria, we do not hold the denial against them as we see it as a self-preservation technique which is often caused by fear and lack of boldness. We remember the biblical example of the Apostle Peter who denied his Lord and Master Jesus Christ when his life was in danger. But as Peter repented and wept for denying his identity as a disciple of Christ, we advise our brethren who have denied their Igbo and Biafran identity to repent and return to their ancestral roots because our deliverance has come”.
Meanwhile, the court has fixed October 30, 2012 for the first hearing.