*Members Swear to Oath of Secrecy
*Ready to Use Violence to Actualize Biafra
*Group Scouts For Recruits Proficient in Foreign Languages
*‘ Officers’ Paid Based on Seniority from N10,000 to N30,000 Per Month
Clutching a hand fan bearing the Biafra insignia and clad in all white Jewish attire, a skull cap and a pair of white shoes, the bespectacled, light-skinned, harmless-looking, slender leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi Nnamdi Kanu took measured steps. With arms akimbo, Kanu inspected what could be regarded as a guard of honour mounted by members of his Biafra Secret Service (BSS).
That was on Tuesday, August 17, during Kanu’s inauguration of the BSS at his father’s residence in Isiama Afara in Ibeku clan, Umuahia North Local Government Area of Abia State. Kanu’s father, His Highness, Eze Israel Kanu is the traditional ruler of their community.
The inauguration of BSS has heightened concerns over the objective of IPOB, as many see this as a call to arms as Kanu and his IPOB continue on the path to carve out a Republic of Biafra out of Nigeria. The basis for the agitations, IPOB insist, is the UN and African Union charter on human and people’s right which states that “Indigenous People have the right to self-determination.” IPOB said its main agenda is to “liberate the People of Biafra forced into unholy unionism with the Nigeria state” and the inauguration of the BSS is seen as a step in pursuing this end.
In trying to force this move, the group has recently called for referendum for the People of Biafra, and also threatened to boycott Nigeria’s ‘elections in all Biafran Territories,’ starting with the governorship poll in Anambra State in November, until the referendum to determine the fate of the South-East is conducted.
Ironically, the inauguration took place in one of the last capital of the defunct Republic of Biafra (1967-1970) after the fall of Enugu. Though currently the capital of Abia State, Umuahia, from where the then Biafran leader, Col. Odumegwu Ojukwu, fled into exile in Ivory Coast, had bitter taste of the war. For its troubles, the city now houses the National War Museum, a looming reminder of the devastations of war.
If the museum is meant to be a deterrent for future conflicts, Kanu and IPOB overlooked that with the launch of the BSS which the Abia State Police command had declared an “illegal and unlawful organization.”
What is the BSS really meant for?
Daily Trust on Sunday findings indicate that there might be more to the establishment of the BSS than meets the eye, although IPOB said it was set up to take care of the Igbo who could return from the northern part of Nigeria upon the expiration of the October 1, quit notice issued to the Igbo by a Coalition of the Arewa youths, a notice that was withdrawn last week in Abuja.
But before the withdrawal notice, Kanu, while addressing the press after a meeting with Senator Eyinnaya Abaribe (Abia South) said the BSS, despite its array of “officers and men” dressed in all black tee shirts and red berets should not cause concerns. “There is no need for people to be afraid because we will never ever resort to armed violence,” he declared
He said further that the BSS is “like you have vigilante groups in other parts of the country” equating his group to the Hisbah outfit that patrols some states in the North.
On the purpose of creating the BSS, Kanu said, “We set [it] up to tackle the menace of the Fulani herdsmen,” lamenting that the police had done nothing to tackle the cases of violent incursions by armed raiders into villages across the country.
Senator Abaribe told the press that Kanu had assured him that “IPOB will remain non-violent.”
The narrative of the BSS being formed to monitor the return of the Igbo from the North is one that IPOB’s spokesperson, Emma Powerful, had elaborated on when he said in an interview that, it was not a “standing army” but “a vigilante group to monitor and ensure the safety of its people returning from the North over the October 1 quit notice served on Igbo people in the North by a Coalition of Arewa Youth.”
According to Emma, “With October 1, 2017 looming, it has fallen on IPOB to ensure the welfare, safety and well-being of Biafrans returning home to prevent what happened in 1966 from happening again…. That’s why BSS was inaugurated to gather intelligence and to safeguard those returning home to Biafraland from the North.”
The IPOB has disregarded the withdrawal of that quit notice by the Coalition of Arewa Youths.
Whether the BSS was formed to tackle the Fulani Herdsmen, or to cater for the influx of Igbo migrants from the North, the police is clear about the illegality of the group.
Abia State Commissioner of Police, Adeleye Oyebade, while addressing the press in Umuahia, warned those behind the BSS to quickly retrace their steps.
The Commissioner emphasized that the Nigerian constitution recognised only the Nigerian Police, Nigeria Army and the Department of State Service. He re-stated that any other group claiming to be providing security without the backing of the constitution was illegal.
The tough stand of the CP, however, is somewhat tampered by the tone of the state Police Public Relations Officer, Jeffery Ogbonna, who said, “The Abia Police Command has put in place necessary machinery to checkmate their activities. They don’t pose any threat to the command for now but we are really monitoring their activities.”
That notwithstanding, the group has managed to draw a reaction from President Muhammdu Buhari, who upon his return from a 103-day medical leave in London, said the
Federal Government is not going to tolerate separatist movements and inflammatory statements that threaten Nigeria’s unity and stability.
“Nigeria’s unity is settled and not negotiable,” President Buhari emphasized in a nation-wide broadcast on Monday morning, two days after his return.
The government’s stance has been consistent, even if not decisive. Vice president Yemi Osinbajo, while acting in the president’s stead had emphasized that hate speech would be treated as acts of terror.
On Friday, the government asked a Federal High Court in Abuja to revoke the bail granted Kanu who is standing trial for treason.
The application which was filed by the office of Nigeria’s Attorney General, cited Kanu’s inauguration of BSS as one of the instances of his violation of conditions for his bail, an action it said constituted threat to national security.
The group’s leader was granted bail on April 25 by Justice Binta Nyako.
Other breaches of the bail conditions committed by the self-styled Biafra leader, as contained in government’s counter-affidavit in support of the motion it filed before the court include alleged incitement of his supporters “to disrupt, disallow and boycott elections in South East states, starting with Anambra State governorship election scheduled to hold on November 18, 2017, if the Federal Government failed to hold a referendum for the realisation of the state of Biafra nation.”
The Federal Government also accused Kanu of being in a crowd of more than 10 persons and granting press interviews.
Real reason for setting up BSS:
Findings by Daily Trust on Sunday showed that members of the BSS attended the inauguration from different states of the South-East zone, although including other states such as Rivers, Delta and others in the South-South zone and their declared aim, as shown in the video of the inauguration, was the restoration of Biafra.
From findings, the BSS appears on the surface as a voluntary vigilante group. However, it was gathered that the idea to establish BSS was initiated immediately the IPOB leaders was released from prison.
Despite the claims of being non-violent, findings show that the group might be prepared for violent confrontations.
In one of the BSS drill sessions at the country home of Nnamdi Kanu witnessed by our correspondent, the Commissioner Head of BSS, Mr Aguoche Obidike, was heard saying, “We are Biafra Secret Service men that have volunteered to defend Biafran land. Like our leader will rightly say, we are here to restore Biafra. We have come in peace but if the option given to us to restore Biafra is violent, without fear, the men and women are ready to take the land of Biafra from invaders and looters.”
An insider, who is a member of the Biafra Intelligence Unit, but pleaded not to be named, disclosed that “members were placed under oath not to divulge information about the organization to any member of the Zoo community (Nigeria).”
Recruitment and real duties of BSS
Daily Trust on Sunday gathered that the Biafra Secret Service recruited highly qualified men and women from diverse backgrounds in Biafraland and all over the world “who desire a fast paced, exciting and challenging career, who are ready to defend the land.”
According to the insider, the Secret Service is mandated by the IPOB leader to carry out dual missions: protection and criminal investigations.
While their functions include protecting the IPOB leader, the group is also charged with investigation of a variety of crimes, including possible saboteurs of the Biafran cause.
Foreign language proficiency
The group is also on the lookout for people with foreign language proficiency. “This requires that the applicant should be able to speak the language with sufficient structural accuracy and vocabulary to participate effectively in most formal and informal conversations on practical, social and professional topics,” the source said.
According to the insider, “At the completion of all required training and graduation from the BSS training program, the graduating students would be posted to various offices while the best graduating student would be given an honourary award.
According to an advert for recruitment into the group, seen by our correspondent, “Candidates must be a Biafra citizens [sic] and must submit to urinalysis screening for illegal drug use prior to appointment. All Secret Service positions require a Top Secret security clearance. All applicants must undergo a full, Secret Service-specific, Top Secret clearance process regardless of who you are; certain positions may also require the applicant to successfully complete OATH of trust and medical examination. Age, vision and excellent physical condition requirements may also apply and more.”
Investigation by Daily Trust on Sunday revealed that forms issued to intending members don’t have provision for passport photographs and identity cards are not issued to members.
Registered members often flood newspaper stands where they try to convince people to support the agitation for Biafra.
Our visit to the palace of Eze Isreal Kanu Uzoeze at Isiama Afara showed that members of BSS run day and night shifts. During the shifts, different kinds of foods are cooked in large quantities and dished out freely to the members.
Also, BSS members have been seen strategically positioned at several security checkpoints to restrict movements of people.
Also, members form advanced team who go ahead of their principal when visiting a state, to mingle with the locals to gather intelligence and report to Mr. Kanu.
‘Why I Joined BSS’
Nelson Madu who joined the Secret Service from Oyigbo in Rivers State said the organization is a volunteer service set up by the leader of Indigenous People of Biafra to provide security for the people of Biafra against attack by those he called external forces.
Madu, who claimed to be a technician, said he was moved to join the service because of the selfless service being rendered by Kanu to the people of Igboland, saying that Biafra Secret Service is all out to protect the entire Biafraland which he claimed covered Abia, some parts of Niger Delta, Enugu, Anambra and Imo states.
“Our leader has made very clear the vision of BSS and that is where I stand. The service is entirely to provide security to Biafra people across the South-East zone. We are to protect our people from attack from whatever quarters.
“We are not going to carry arms but we have been briefed by various unit commanders on what to do at any given time. The group was set up as a vigilante group to monitor and ensure the safety of our people, especially those that reside in the northern part of the country.
“You are aware that the Arewa youths recently issued a three months ultimatum to Igbos residing in the North to quit the region by October 1st. We are not taking such threat lightly. We will do everything humanly possible to protect our brothers and sisters up there.
“Our mandate is specifically on intelligence gathering. We will also protect our communities against the invasion of the herdsmen. You are aware of the activities of herdsmen who are killing our people at the slightest provocation,” he said.
On how the recruitment is carried out, Madu said: “Before you talk about joining the Service, you must be an IPOB member and you must believe in all its tenets and principles. You must be an able-bodied man or woman and be ready to render selfless service to the Biafraland. You must be loyal to our leader and be ready to obey your superiors.”
How do BSS members get their pay? Who funds or provides their uniforms?
An insider informed Daily Trust on Sunday that although the services rendered by the members of the group ought to be voluntary, little stipends are given to them depending on their ranks. The sources said junior ‘officers’ are paid N10, 000 while the top officers earn between N25,000 to N30,000 monthly.
Again, an IPOB member who identified himself as Obidike Bright said the organization funds her activities using N500 monthly dues contributed by all registered members.
Some insiders have claimed that IPOB had received money from foreign visitors.
Members are charged N1,000 for a set of BSS uniforms, comprising a red beret, a pair of black shoes, white belt, black trousers, mostly jeans and customized polo.
“IPOB can never be militarised because we are naturally peace-loving people. More importantly, we consider peaceful agitation to be far more potent than armed struggle, so IPOB will never resort to armed struggle,” the source said.
‘Group is illegal’
The President of Civil Rights Realization Awareness Network (CRRAN), Barrister Olu Omotayo, said it was unlawful of Kanu to have inaugurated the group.
Omotayo said only sovereign nations operate Secret Services, stressing that no country anywhere in the world has two Secret Services.
“If Kanu had gotten independence for Biafra, then he can now set up Biafra Secret Service because Secret Service is owned by only sovereign nations,” Omotayo said.
He said it is premature for Kanu, at this stage of his struggle when Biafra has not gained independence, to have set up BSS.
“In the struggle for the abolition of Apartheid system of government in South Africa, the ANC used to have a youth wing or militant wing but they never called it Secret Service,” he said.
“It’s not done. Except in a war situation, during the Nigeria-Biafra war, but right now Nigeria is not at war. And we can’t have two countries in one,” he said.
He advised Kanu and his group to possibly change the name, BSS to another name “because that word secret service is very strong.”
Also commenting on IPOB and the Biafra agitation saga, former Military Administrator of Delta State, Air Commodore Luke C. Ochulor, enjoined Kanu to go and read enough of History before embarking on his crusade.
“So, I will tell them that, if their luck holds out, they may be shocked at what they will see in the next 20 years. In order to face what may happen in the next 20 years, they should stay alive. The only way to stay alive is to listen to the elders because the elders will talk from the point of experience,” he said.
Ochulor, who fought on the side of Biafra during the civil war, said: “The greatest attribute of a man is his brain. If you cut off a man’s brain, you have killed him. If people use their intellect not in the wrong or negative way, they can develop things that can build them up in self help. Let us advise the youths, especially in this part of Nigeria to become self-reliant, use their brains to develop what people cannot give them. When they start doing that, possibly with God on their side, the government will now be doing something.”
Several efforts to get Senator Enyinnaya Abaribe (PDP, Abia) to speak on the Biafra force failed as when contacted he referred our correspondent to his media aide, Uche Awon. Awon was unavailable for comment.
Abaribe had on Tuesday hosted the Leadership of IPOP at his Ohuru, Obingwa , Abia State country home on behalf of the Southeast senate caucus.
But in an interview on Wednesday, Abaribe said the meeting with the IPOB leaders was convened to de-escalate the rising tension in the country.
“We want to ensure that whatever agitation that is going on should be within the ambit of the law. … [W]e want the government to understand that agitations are legitimate forms of protests against feeling of inadequacies in the federating unit.
“The government has a duty to address the legitimate concerns but when [it] views non violence as a challenge, we elders have it as a duty to come out to ensure that peace reigns, “he said.