BRITAIN has adjusted its asylum rules on Nigeria recognising that members of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) and other secessionist groups are facing persecution from the federal government and is now offering them political asylum visas.
Nigeria has designated Ipob a terrorist organisation and this characterisation had been accepted in certain international circles, meaning that members of such groups could not seek political asylum abroad. However, given the growing insecurity in Nigeria and a review of the situation, UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) has just released new guidelines saying asylum is to be granted to persecuted members of Ipob and the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (Massob).
Ohanaeze Ndigbo has welcomed the development, saying it has ended the falsehood and sponsored violence against Biafrans. However, the Nigerian government has swiftly condemned the decision and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Abuja is considering summoning the UK high commissioner to express its displeasure with the move.
Mazi Okechukwu Isiguzoro, the Ohaneze Ndigbo general secretary, described the news as a reflection of the genuineness of the international community to change the ugly narratives of Nigeria’s federal authorities to suppress the southeasterners and unjustly spread falsehoods about non-violent agitators being terrorist groups. He said the move had contradicted the falsehoods being presented by the authorities to the international community and will help to prevent unnecessary witch-hunting and clampdown on non-violent Biafra agitators while the main terrorist groups are pampered by the federal authorities.
“We call on all foreign missions in Nigeria to extend such gestures to all freedom fighters and proponents of self determination groups in the country, as it will help to end reckless sponsored violence against Biafra agitators and bring the government to deploy peaceful mechanisms to ensure that the remote causes of the agitations are properly addressed. This is the best time, federal authorities should address the marginalisation of the southeast and compensations for the zones should be inevitable with huge projects.”
However, Alhaji Lai Mohammed, Nigeria’s information minister said the British plan was disrespectful to Nigeria as a nation. He added that there were indications that the federal government might summon the British high commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, over the asylum offer.
However, socio-political groups including the Middle Belt Forum, the Ohanaeze Ndigbo, Afenifere and the Pan-Niger Delta Forum, have all supported the asylum offer by the UK and berated the Federal Government over the development. Ipob, which was formed in 2012 by Nnamdi Kanu, and has since been labelled as a terrorist organisation, while Massob was founded in 1999 by Ralph Uwazuruike.