The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has continually made requests to secede from Nigeria and form “the Igbo nation”.
Many times, in its quest for self-determination, IPOB stands on the United Nations Charter titled ‘United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People’ adopted on September 13, 2007, in Nigeria’s absence.
“The Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples was adopted by a majority of 144 states in favour, 4 votes against (Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the United States) and 11 abstentions (Azerbaijan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burundi, Colombia, Georgia, Kenya, Nigeria, Russian Federation, Samoa and Ukraine),” UN records show.
Emma Powerful, IPOB spokesman, had said Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the movement, will be absolved after a careful examination of the UN charter on the rights of indigenous people.
“There seems to be a misconception within the Nigerian judiciary, either through ignorance or deliberate omission, that self-determination is tantamount to treason or treasonable felony. (A copy of the United Nations Charter will resolve this issue),” Powerful said in one of the numerous statements against the Nigerian government.
MAJOR CLAIM: IGBO ARE ‘INDIGENOUS PEOPLE’
According to article 3 of the charter, “indigenous peoples have the right to self-determination. By virtue of that right, they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development.”
Article 4 states that “indigenous peoples, in exercising their right to self-determination, have the right to autonomy or self-government in matters relating to their internal and local affairs, as well as ways and means for financing their autonomous functions”.
IPOB says it is an ‘indigenous people’, and possesses the rights to self-determination and self-governance aside the Nigerian state, claiming the rights to self-determination as outlined by the United Nations.
“It’s very obvious that the government of Muhammadu Buhari can misunderstand or fail to interpret the provision of the Rights of the Indigenous People,” IPOB added.
According to Kanu, Biafra will consist of nine Nigerian states namely: Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta, Anambra, Imo, Enugu, Ebonyi, Cross Rivers and Akwa Ibom.
He told Channels TV that he was going basically with “south-east and south-south without Edo state. This also includes Igede, Idoma”.
Leaders of Kogi, Rivers, and Benue states have distanced themselves from the Biafra agitation.
WHO ARE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE, ACCORDING TO THE UN?
It is easy for Nnamdi Kanu and IPOB to claim to be indigenous people, but the UN has set out clear indications to find out if a people are indigenous people or not.
According to the UN “the most fruitful approach is to identify, rather than define indigenous peoples. This is based on the fundamental criterion of self-identification as underlined in a number of human rights documents”.
The UN identifies indigenous people as those “practicing unique traditions, they retain social, cultural, economic and political characteristics that are distinct from those of the dominant societies in which they live”.
“There are more than 370 million indigenous people spread across 70 countries worldwide,” the UN said.
These people were referred to as the descendants – according to a common definition – of those who inhabited a country or a geographical region at the time when people of different cultures or ethnic origins arrived. The new arrivals later became dominant through conquest, occupation, settlement or other means.
A clear example of this is the indigenous peoples of the Americas; the Lakota in the USA — who were the indigenous Americans before Christopher Columbus, one of the founding fathers of America, came on board.
The charter says they are people who “have suffered from historic injustices as a result of… colonisation and dispossession of their lands, territories and resources, thus preventing them from exercising, in particular, their right to development in accordance with their own needs and interests”.
To say nine states highlighted by Kanu have been colonised, dispossessed and prevented from exercising rights to development will mean that south-east Nigeria no longer belongs to the Igbo, and this cannot be substantiated.
THE FACTS: ARE IGBO INDIGENOUS PEOPLE?
Indigenous people according to the UN charter often flaunted by IPOB are colonised, dispossessed of their land, are hindered from exercising rights to development, and are not a dominant tribe or ethnic group.
Are Igbo a dominant ethnic group in Nigeria? There are hard facts to show that Ndigbo are a dominant tribe in Nigeria, hence cannot be regarded as indigenous people.
According to World Atlas and the CIA World Factbook, there are about 34 million Igbo in Nigeria, making 18 percent of the country’s population and the third largest ethnic group in the black most populous nation.
In fact, Nigeria’s demography shows that there are more Igbo in Nigeria than Fulani or Kanuri.
In conclusion, have Igbo been colonised? Yes, so has every region of Nigeria. But all that is now history. Since independence, Igbo have produced a president, vice-president, senate presidents, and many other dominant politicians.
Some say the region has been marginalised in the Nigerian state and others argue otherwise; whatever the proceed of that may be, it may not be enough to refer to Ndigbo as indigenous people.