I write in my capacity as the Solicitor for Indigenous People of Biafra with the conduct of the case in Suit No FHC/OW/CS/192/2013 pending in the Federal High Court Owerri between Biafra and Nigeria. In that case, the Claimants are described as INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA suing in a representative capacity by the human rights organization called Bilie Human Rights Initiative. The case was instituted by the authority of the Customary Government headed by the Supreme Council of Elders of Indigenous People of Biafra under the Nigerian Customary Law. Many people including some Biafran activists have raised questions on the legality of a customary government. In fact, some anarchic vociferous Biafran activists have attacked the Customary Government so vehemently that we began to ask whether they were hired by the Defendants. For these reasons, I have decided to address these issues clearly:
2. The facts and evidence of the existence of the Customary Government of Indigenous People of Biafra are fully pleaded in Court and the Defendants have been duly put on notice. The Biafrans have judicial immunity to organize themselves by a home-rule within Nigeria under Customary Law. The Defendants are forbidden by law to interfere with the home-rule of the Claimants. In this case, the Claimants are Indigenous People of Biafra who sued Nigeria in a representative capacity by the human rights organization called “Bilie Human Rights Initiative”. Let me make it clear that the human rights organization is not the same thing as Indigenous People of Biafra. It is an agent sent by the Biafran people to advocate for their rights in Court as the people are not yet a sovereign legal entity. It is an elementary doctrine of law that a non-legal entity can only sue or be sued in a representative capacity. Let the overzealous Biafran activists know that Biafra is not yet a legal entity and therefore can only sue or be sued in a representative capacity. The human rights organization can in future represent a trade association in Court such as the Market Woman Association. It is different from the people it represents in Court and cannot interfere with the affairs of the people.
3. Actually, the Customary Government of Indigenous People of Biafra is not the first in the world. It is recognised in international law as well. It is by this means that the Palestinians govern themselves within Israel as they seek for their independence. It is a natural order that a people seeking for independence must be organized as a people and must speak with one voice. The President of Nigeria, President Muhammadu Buhari, has also mentioned the need for the Biafrans to gather themselves together as a people to pursue their common interest.
4. The cases of Palestine and Biafra are similar in a way. The Palestinians applied the power of international politics and were granted the Observer Status of the UN after 25 years of struggling for independence. They therefore enjoy some measure of diplomatic immunity. The Biafrans applied the power of national and international law to institute the case in the Nigerian Federal High Court and therefore enjoy judicial immunity. This judicial immunity continues even if the case finally moves to the International Court in The Hague. In fact, the Biafrans as the Claimants in the on-going case have an obligation to maintain law and order among themselves by an internal government structure that ensures peace in the land as long as the case lasts. This internal government structure is what we call the Customary Government of Indigenous People of Biafra. A Customary Government is called “Ochichi Amaala” in Igbo Language. It is a government by the Council of Elders. This is the Customary Government that speaks for the people. At all levels in Biafraland, there has been the customary governance from time immemorial. This is the Government that authorised the Biafran Struggle for self-determination by the Rule of Law. It is government by the Elders of the land based on Customary Law.
5. The concept of judicial immunity is that where two parties are in Court, no party will molest, disturb, harass or interfere with the other party until the case is over. We have made it clear in Court that we are Biafrans by indigenous identity but Nigerians by citizenship which was forced upon us against our will. Therefore, the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney General as Defendants cannot interfere with the internal governance of the Claimants. However, if any child of the claimants commits an offence, the Nigerian Government has the power to punish the offender for the said offence and not for being a Biafran by indigenous identity.
6. Let me now refer to the pleadings in Court. Paragraphs 31 and 32 of the Evidence adduced by the Biafrans against the Defendant’s Preliminary Objections stated as follows:
31. That the Claimants are an organized body of people under the control and management of our Customary Government known as the Government of Indigenous People of Biafra with various government departments as shown in the Policy Statements and Orders exhibited in these proceedings as Exhibit A8 headed by the Supreme Council of Elders with physical office addresses as stated in this Further Affidavit and pursuing their right to self-determination by due process of law.
32. That despite the forceful occupation of our territory by the Defendants, we the Indigenous People of Biafra are obedient and loyal to our Customary Government headed by our Council of Elders known as the Supreme Council of Elders of Indigenous People of Biafra which we recognize and submit to as the de facto government of Indigenous People of Biafra under Customary Law.
Submissions in Reply:
21. In reply to Paragraph 21 where the Defendants asserted that Nigeria had been a single and one united country right from the amalgamation of 1914 to date, Claimants aver as follows:
(1) In 1961, some parts of South Eastern Nigeria joined Cameroon by a Plebiscite (Referendum) while some parts of North Western Cameroon joined Nigeria despite the amalgamation of 1914.
(2) In 1967, the remaining Eastern Nigeria declared independence as the Republic of Biafra despite the amalgamation of 1914 and governed the Biafran territory for three years. The Republic of Biafra was recognised by five countries that have seats in the United Nations including Haiti, Zambia, Gabon, Tanzania and Ivory Coast.
(3) The Claimants declared war against the Republic of Biafra and fought with the young Republic for three years and could not defeat Biafra until the World Powers of the Great Britain, Russia, Egypt, Saudi Arabia and all Moslem countries helped Nigeria to defeat Biafra and force the Biafrans back into Nigeria. We draw the attention of the Court to the history books listed at Paragraph 6(b), 6(d), 6(e), 6(g), 6(h), and 6(k) of the Claimants’ Affidavit in support of the Originating Summons.
(4) In 2002, the part of Cross River State of Nigeria called Bakassi Peninsula was ceded to Cameroon by the Judgment of the International Court of Justice despite the amalgamation of 1914.
(5) From the date of the amalgamation of 1914 until now, the map of Nigeria has been redrawn several times. The newest Map of Nigeria is the one without Bakassi Peninsula as Bakassi is now Cameroonian territory.
22. In reply to Paragraph 22, Claimants aver as follows:
(1) That protests against the amalgamation started almost immediately. In the National Assembly before the Independence when there were disagreements and quarrels between all the parties, Alhaji Tafawa Balewa described it as the mistake of 1914 but later changed his mind on the advice and promise of Britain to give power to the North.
(2) Defendants have failed to rebut the Claimants’ averment at Paragraph 16 of the Affidavit in support of the Originating Summons that agitation for secession has continued among the ethnic nationalities that were forced to become Nigerians; and that the people of the Islamic North do not believe in the lifestyle and philosophy of the people of the East or West and therefore want to have an Islamic Republic and have actually created an Islamic State in the North through violence by their militant group called Boko Haram.
(3) Defendants have failed to rebut the evidence attached as Exhibit B10 in these proceedings, being the Map of Nigeria showing that the Sharia Law has shared Nigeria into two.
(4) In the preface to his book, “The Nigerian Revolution and the Biafran War”, pleaded at Paragraph 6(b) of the Affidavit in support of the Originating Summons, Major General Madiebo said, “Serious doubts may still exist in many minds as to why Lt Colonel Gowon (later General) suddenly did a complete turn-about and rather than secede as he had originally planned and said, preferred to plunge Nigeria into a civil war, which took a toll of an estimated three million lives, in an attempt to re-unite the same Nigeria he had set out initially to break up”. It is clear from this testimony that the North did not accept the amalgamation but agreed on the advice and promise of Britain that the North would rule Nigeria and protect British economic interests.
(5) At Page 237 of the book, “Biafra or Nigerian Presidency- What the Ibos Want”, pleaded at Paragraph 6(f) of the Affidavit in support of the Originating Summons, the Odua Group known as the EGBE IRAPADA OODUA (EIRO) is agitating for the self-determination and sovereign nation of the Oduduwa Nation described as “the children of Odua, now referred to as Itsekiri, Yoruba, Ilaje, Ijebu, Ekiti, Oyo, Egba, Igbo-mina, Ikale, Edo, Yewa, Awori, Akoko, Ondo, etc”, being all the people of Western Nigeria.
(6) At the moment, the 12 Northern States in Nigeria have adopted the Sharia Law as their State Law while Boko Haram has established a Caliphate in the North in the exercise of their right to self-determination using violence as a method of self-determination. These are clear evidence that the indigenous peoples of the land did not accept and have not accepted the amalgamation of 1914.
23. In reply to Paragraph 23, Claimants aver that they seek to exercise their right to self-determination by the rule of law and therefore did not and would not commit any act in breach of the peace by disrupting or opposing the Defendants in their programme of celebrating their 100 years of amalgamation. In further reply thereto, Claimants aver that they did not celebrate with the Defendants for the 100 years of slavery called amalgamation.
24. In reply to Paragraph 24, Claimants aver that the fact that Nigeria has not disintegrated does not mean that it would not disintegrate if the ethnic nationalities who seek for independence are continuously held together against their will. In such a situation, the disintegration of Nigeria may be explosive just like the USSR disintegrated and all the peoples went back to their ancestral roots.
25. In reply to Paragraph 25, Claimants specifically plead the Ancient Maps of Africa 1662 and 1707 exhibited in these proceedings as Exhibits B1 and B1.1 respectively showing the ancient country of Biafra carved into Nigeria at the amalgamation. In further reply thereto, Claimants plead the Bight of Bonny Act, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria 1990, Exhibit B1.2, made by the Defendants to remove the name of Biafra from the Map. Furthermore, the Claimants aver that Biafra existed for more than 400 years before Nigeria was created by the British and that they are known as Biafrans by indigenous identity even though they have been forced to accept the Nigerian citizenship against their will.
26. In reply to Paragraph 26 of the Counter Affidavit by which the Defendants denied the facts in Paragraphs 27 and 28 of the Affidavit in support of the Originating Summons on the ground that the facts did not relate to the matters under consideration, Claimants aver as follows:
(1) The Defendants have failed to rebut the confessions of Mr Harold Smith (the British Officer) in Exhibits B5 – B7 which can be viewed and listened to on the internet showing the fraudulent foundation of Nigeria;
(2) The Defendants have failed to rebut that the Nigerian Senate has revealed that 83% of the Oil Wells in Nigeria are owned by the Northerners as shown in Exhibits B9 and B9.1
(3) The facts stated in Paragraphs 27 and 28 of the Affidavit in support of the Originating Summons are so weighty that the Defendants cannot wish them away;
(4) The weighty matters stated in Paragraphs 27 and 28 of the Affidavit in support of the Originating Summons are evidence of fraud and discrimination committed by the Defendants which affected the Claimants adversely;
(5) Fraud vitiates every contract or agreement while discrimination against a people is an apartheid policy that forms the basis of struggle for self-determination. The fraud committed by the British to give power to the North upon attainment of independence of Nigeria in 1960 has vitiated every agreement (if any) by the Claimants to remain as One Nigeria. The Defendants have continued to falsify the census figures in Nigeria and to give the false impression that the North is more populated than the South, and that population increases towards the desert and decreases towards the sea in the Nigerian Human Geography! Therefore both incidents of fraud and discrimination committed by the Defendants are relevant to the matters under consideration for which the Claimants want to be free and independent from Nigeria as they no longer wish to be called the citizens of a fraudulent and discriminatory country.
7. The Customary Government is not funded by the State because no State Government in the East has passed the Customary Government Bill into law unlike their counterparts in the North who passed the Sharia Government Bill into Law. The Customary Government is funded by donations and customary levies which we call “utu-isi” in Igbo Language. For example, the Elders’ Council usually sends a Town Crier to go round the communities with a gong or drum announcing that a decision has been made that every adult male should pay N20 while adult female should pay N10 to carry out one project or the other. Some wealthy sons and daughters of the land can donate large sums of money to help in the execution of the projects. This is how the Customary Government is financed. Customary levies are compulsory while donations are based on free volitions.
8. I must give credit to the Defendants (The Federal Republic of Nigeria and the Attorney-General) that they have not interfered with the Customary Government of the Claimants. It is rather the unruly children of the Claimants who are attacking themselves and attacking their Elders’ Council trying to show themselves ungovernable. I was informed that when the Claimants convened a Town Hall Meeting at Uyo in Akwa Ibom State at the instance of the Akwa Ibom brethren, some of the children of the Claimants who were struggling for leadership positions threatened to destroy the hotel venue of the Meeting and threatened the elderly host who therefore cancelled the Meeting. For this reason, the Claimants have moved the Town Hall Meetings back to their original venue in Anambra State. Honestly, the Biafrans cannot blame Nigeria if they fail to organize themselves as a people and speak with one voice.
9. I am aware that another group based abroad has attacked the Customary Government and asserted that it was not the Shadow Government which they had approved. My response to this issue is that my clients are not running a shadow government but a Customary Government. The Claimants are not a political party that can run a shadow government which is usually run in a parliamentarian system of government. My clients do not run a shadow government but a Customary Government.
10. The Customary Government is an institution that cannot be destroyed. It has been in existence from time immemorial. It is not a new thing. It is based on the Nigerian Legal System. What made it look new is that the Solicitor for Indigenous People of Biafra who created the new concept of struggling for self-determination by legal method resurrected the indigenous identity of the Biafrans and their indigenous governance which he wrote in his book, “Biafra or Nigerian Presidency- What the Ibos Want”, published in 2012. In the book, he defined the people as INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA showing the Ancient Map of Biafra in 1707 and described himself as the SOLICITOR FOR INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF BIAFRA.
11. All the arguments and submissions made by the Nigerian Government and the Attorney-General of the Federation in the on-going case cannot help them. We have proved that Nigeria is divisible and that the right to self-determination is inalienable and unquestionable as provided by the Nigerian Law. This struggle for self-determination by legal method is what Professor Chukwuma Soludo described as the New Biafra Movement in his book review at Abuja on 29th Sept 2016. Let me quote him correctly:
“If Chief Odumegwu Ojukwu and Nnamdi Azikiwe who died as Nigerians were alive today, they would have towed the line of the new Biafra movement. Bakassi changed the map of Nigeria the day it was ceded to Cameroon and I wonder why Biafra too cannot change it.”
– Professor Chukwuma Soludo, Book Review on “The Politics of Biafra and the Future of Nigeria”, Abuja, 29 Sept 2016.
We have argued this issue in Court. In 1961, some parts of South Eastern Nigeria left and joined Cameroun despite the amalgamation and the so-called indivisibility of Nigeria. In 2002, the Bakassi Region of Nigeria was ceded to Cameroun by the judicial power of the International Court despite the amalgamation and indivisibility of Nigeria!
12. In concluding this message, I assert strongly that the Claimants have the right and power to govern themselves within Nigeria as a people under Customary Law. The Palestinians are governing themselves within Israel while seeking for their independence. Is it a crime for the Biafrans to gather themselves together under their Elders’ Council in accordance with their Customary Law? Why do these anarchists deceive the youths and preach disobedience and lawlessness? These anarchists have incited the youths into confrontations with the Nigerian Police and Nigerian Army who killed them in disguise of maintaining law and order! The Administrator and all the Officials of the Customary Government are hereby advised to continue with their works without allowing further distractions from the anarchists and establish customary governance at all levels in Biafraland. The Administrator and his Team of Officials are given the mandate to organize all the Claimants in the on-going case under the Supreme Council of Elders so that the people would not be like sheep without a shepherd. The Defendants are hereby put on notice. Therefore, I challenge all those opposing the Customary Government to assemble their lawyers and meet me in Court. I will say no more.
Emeka Emekesri, Esq.
Solicitor for Indigenous People of Biafra