Nigerian FG boils as UK offers asylum to MASSOB, IPOB members

Nigerian FG boils as UK offers asylum to MASSOB, IPOB members
Charles Nwoke, Abakaliki, Nigeria
April 21, 2021 

Image included for illustration purposes, see Section 107 of US Copyright Act. 

The Nigerian Federal Government on Tuesday expressed serious anxiety following the decision of the United Kingdom to offer asylum to ‘persecuted’ member of Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, and Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB.

The UK Immigration and Visas had released new policies and guidelines to its decision-makers on how to consider and grant asylum applications to members of Biafran separatists groups, according to an online media outfit, TheCable.

Persecuted members of the Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB, which has been proscribed as a terrorist organization by the Nigerian government and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, MASSOB, is to be granted asylum.

IPOB was established in 2012 by Mazi Nnamdi Kanu and it’s believed to be a sprout of MASSOB, which was discovered in 1999 by Chief Ralph Uwazuruike.

Both organizations are agitating for the secession of mainly the South Eastern region and many other ethnic nationalities from Nigeria, Calabari, Ogoni, Efik, Okirika, Orhobo, Ika, Agbo, Ijaw, etc.

In the recent ‘Country Policy and Information released, Note Nigeria: Biafran secessionist groups’ seen by TheCable, the UKVI, a division of the Home Office, directed its decision-makers to consider if a person “who actively and openly supports IPOB is likely to be at risk of arrest and detention and ill-treatment which is likely to amount to persecution”.

According to the guidelines, the decision-makers “must also consider if the Nigerian government’s actions are acts of prosecution or not persecution. Those fleeing prosecution or punishment for a criminal offense are not normally refugees. The prosecution may, however, amount to persecution if it involves victimization in its application by the authorities”.

An example of persecution, the UKVI said, is “if it is the vehicle or excuse for or if only certain groups are prosecuted for a particular offense and the consequences of that discrimination are sufficiently severe. The punishment which is cruel, inhuman or degrading, including punishment which is out of all proportion to the offense committed, may also amount to persecution”.

They are also to “consider each case on its facts to determine if the person is likely to be of interest to the Nigerian government and whether this is for the legitimate grounds of prosecution which is proportionate and non-discriminatory.”

The responsibility is on the applicants to demonstrate that they will be “at risk of persecution or serious harm” in Nigeria, according to the guidelines.

In particular, the decision-makers are to consider each case on its facts, taking into account: the profile, size, and organization of the group/organization 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); whether the group/organization has a presence in Nigeria as well as outside of the country and any evidence that it is being monitored by the government; person’s profile and political activities (including those online) and relevant documentary or other evidence; profile and activities of family members and past treatment.

The UK government, therefore, acknowledged that the Nigerian government has a responsibility to maintain law and order, “to prevent and protect the public against acts of violence.”

It said where supporters or members of MASSOB or IPOB have incited or used violence to disrupt public order, the government may have the legitimate power to apprehend and prosecute those persons.

“However, where the government has arrested and detained persons who, for example, peacefully participate in demonstrations and has then charged them with treason or the person is subjected to periods of detention in degrading or inhuman conditions, such treatment is unlikely to be fair or proportionate, and is likely to amount to persecution,” the guidelines noted.

The UK defined ‘Biafra’ as an area “in the south-east of Nigeria that comprises the states of Abia, Imo, Ebonyi, Enugu, and Anambra. The area is inhabited principally by Igbo (Ibo) people who are one of the country’s three largest ethnic groups”.

The UK, which is a signatory to several human rights and refugee conventions, believes Biafran secessionist agitations are covered by one or more of the following policies: A person is reasonably likely to face a real risk of persecution or serious harm; The general humanitarian situation is so severe as to breach Article 15(b) of European Council Directive 2004/83/EC (the Qualification Directive)/Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights as transposed in paragraph 339C and 339CA(iii) of the Immigration Rules; The security situation presents a real risk to a civilian’s life or person such that it would breach Article 15(c) of the Qualification Directive as transposed in paragraph 339C and 339CA(iv) of the Immigration Rules; A person is able to obtain protection from the state (or quasi state bodies); A person is reasonably able to relocate within a country or territory; A claim is likely to justify granting asylum, humanitarian protection or other form of leave and; If a claim is refused, it is likely or unlikely to be certifiable as ‘clearly unfounded’ under section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002.

It is, therefore, the responsibility of the decision-makers to still consider all claims on an individual basis, taking into account each case’s specific facts.