BBC Documentary About IPOB (Full Text)

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full text of the BBC documentary about IPOB

Here is the full text of the BBC documentary about IPOB.

Introduction

The video begins with Nneka Igwenagu saying, “The Fulani soldiers, they are about to start killing Igbo saboteurs” while the word “Disinformation” flashes on the screen.

Efe Uwanogho (aka Omote Biafra) says, “These mighty mighty saboteurs should be get rid off”.

One of the Ipob media warriors says, “The Eastern governors have sold you”.

Uche Mefor says, “It is not even fighting against the enemy. It is now fighting and killing our own people”.

Nicholas “The Brave” Ibekwe says, “But one thing they have been successful with is their disinformation campaign”.

The narrator says

The BBC’s disinformation unit has uncovered a network of Nigerians based outside the country who are deliberately spreading false information and violent rhetoric on social platforms, in an apparently coordinated effort to stoke ethnic tension and encourage the breakup of the country.

The investigation reveals what’s being described as a troll farm operating across Europe, the United States, Asia and other African countries, using social media to fuel religious, political and ethnic unrest and encourage violent, even murderous acts.

We see Efe Uwanogho (aka Omote Biafra) and she is shouting, “Let’s go after the saboteurs in our midst”.

This is Efe Uwanogho, also known as Omote Biafra. She’s a Nigerian based in Italy with 40,000 followers on Facebook. She’s part of a group called the Indigenous People of Biafra, known as Ipob.

Ipob are a separatist group who want to create a country called Biafra from South East Nigeria. The Nigerian Government has banned Ipob and designated it a terror group.

Here the self proclaimed media warrior is calling out traditional rulers, members of the clergy and government officials in the South East. She is accusing them of colluding with the Nigerian Government, who she sees as the enemy and calling on her followers to take action against them.

We can see and hear Omote Biafra shouting into the camera, “Go after all these mighty mighty saboteurs. Leave all these saboteur ITK saboteurs, go with the mighty mighty saboteurs. Go after those ones. Those are the people that need to be beheaded. Those are the people that need to be burnt to ashes. Those are the people that their houses need to be invaded”!

Like Efe, Nneka Igwenagu also aggressively stokes existing ethnic tension from outside Nigeria.

We see Nneka Igwenagu in a video saying, “Immigration, both. . . ”

In this Facebook broadcast from London, she alleges a plot by the Fulani people and other Northerners resident in the South East to exterminate ethnic Igbos.

We can hear Nneka Igwenagu saying, “All of them they are into mission in our land, Biafra Land, eastern part of Nigeria. They have come in the name of to shine shoe, to do this, to do all sorts of odd jobs, but now they are into kidnapping. They said that it’s fetching them more money. They are on mission to exterminate, kill, maim, wipe all of us”.

Although there have been violent clashes between Fulani herders and communities in the South East, there is no evidence for the sort of conspiracy that Mrs Igwenagu is alleging.

The self proclaimed Republic of Biafra broke away from the Nigerian state in 1967 following the Araba riots in which thousands of South Easterners living in the North of the country were killed. Biafra was made up of states from the South East of the country, where the Igbo ethnic group is predominant.

The withdrawal of the region from Nigeria led to a civil war that lasted almost 3 years and claimed more than a million lives, mostly on the separatist side. It ended in January 1970 with Nigeria promising to pursue a policy of reconciliation, reconstruction and rehabilitation, which some from the region say never happened.

They showed clips from the Civil War, then they switched to clips of Ipob fighters marching.

For many the struggle continued. The idea of Biafra never went away.

The birth of Ipob

They show a clip of Nnamdi Kanu in a studio. He is saying, “Nobody born from man or woman. . .”

In 2013 the recently formed Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), led by Nnamdi Kanu, began broadcasts on Radio Biafra, calling again for a movement to gain independence from Nigeria. Campaigning on social media soon followed.

Uche Mefor, the co-founder and former deputy leader of Ipob takes credit for the group’s move into the online space.

Uche Mefor says, “I was the brain behind the media aspect, especially the Internet technology. I set up this Radio Biafra you’re talking about today. I set up the Internet version and the satellite platform that you are talking about today.

So it was at that period that we reasoned that the online platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter can give us leverage against the atrocities being committed against our people. And it actually has”.

Ipob says that its members have been victims of extra-judicial killings by security forces.

In 2016, Amnesty International reported that at least 150 peaceful pro-Biafra activists had been killed by security agencies in crackdowns. The Nigerian Government denied the claims.

However, Ipob members have gone beyond alerting others to claims of abuse and moved to direct calls for violence.

We see various Ipob members making broadcasts. Then the video switches to Uche Mefor and he says, “There were misinformation, but it was minimal at the time that I was there and I didn’t keep quiet about it.

In Nigeria Internet penetration is high and data is relatively cheap, providing a ready audience for those wanting to spread disinformation.

There is clearly an appetite for this violent rhetoric. Some Ipob media warriors have as many as a hundred thousand followers on Facebook. Many also have multiple pages.

Mrs Igwenagu has 4 Facebook pages, most of which she uses to broadcast disinformation and calls for violence almost exclusively in Igbo Language.

We see a clip of Mrs Igwenagu. She is on a street in London as she makes her broadcast. She says (in Igbo), “Ogidi youths, all of you that were involved in the protest, you are like a chicken that laid eggs, but after laying the eggs, breaks them open and proceeds to eat them. This is what you did. All of you are not supposed to be alive”.

This is her broadcast from London in late 2021. Her target are a youth group in Ogidi, a town in Anambra State. They had organised a march to protest Ipob’s order that people shut down businesses and schools every Monday in solidarity with imprisoned Ipob leader, Nnamdi Kanu.

The Ogidi youth leader was also singled out by other Ipob supporters.

We can see Simon Ekpa making a broadcast. He is saying, “. . .are not known to be coward. Ogidi. . .”

Here is Finland based lawyer, Simon Ekpa, who has thousands of followers.

Simon Ekpa says, “Who ever. . .the president of the youths of Ogidi, who ever he is, where ever that he is coming from and who ever is paying him to bring pump action and start walking on the street, they should retract immediately. He should retract his steps and don’t go further with this.

This is not a threat, but it is a fact”.

They show the obituary poster of the president of the Ogidi youths association.

A few weeks after these comments, the youth leader of Ogidi was shot and killed. Those responsible remain unidentified.

We contacted Simon Ekpa and Nneka Igwenagu for their comments. Mrs Igwenagu did not reply. Mr Ekpa replied, but declined to give a routine response.

Supporters of Ipob and its leader, Nnamdi Kanu, have long been active on social media, sharing Mr Kanu’s broadcasts and commenting on posts that relate to the group or events in Nigeria.

We hear one of Nnamdi Kanu’s broadcasts. He says, “Ufuoma Biafra, you must listen to her. Of course you must go and listen to Simon Ekpa, who is doing a very fantastic job. Very great job Simon Ekpa”.

But a broadcast in May 2020, when Mr Kanu endorsed specific people that his followers should listen to, brought these so-called ‘media warriors’ into the limelight.

His recommendations include some familiar faces; Efe Uwanogho, Simon Ekpa, Italy based Faith Ogala. Many of them reference Mr Kanu’s endorsement during their broadcasts as an acknowledgement of their work. Their influence on social media explains why they are seen as a vital part of Ipob’s campaign for the breakup of Nigeria.

Nicholas Ibekwe, head of investigative journalism at Premium Times, one of Nigeria’s leading online newspapers, believes that they are Ipob’s strongest weapon.

Nicholas Ibekwe says, “There is no doubt in my mind that Ipob has an organised troll farm. Perhaps one of their strongest weapons. It is not about their army. I mean the whole armed struggle has been basically unsuccessful. One thing that they have been successful with is their disinformation campaign. In fact, they started off with disinformation. Those radio programmes Nnamdi Kanu was doing then were steeped in disinformation.

Uche Mefor says, “This misinformation came from the top. Other people started learning from Nnamdi, as an apprentice you look up to your master”.

One particular target of Ipob’s disinformation effort is the Fulani, one of the largest ethnic groups in West Africa. Many Fulani, who are predominantly Muslim, still follow the nomadic cattle herding culture of their ancestors, which brings them into regular conflict with farming communities in several West African countries.

However, in Nigeria tensions have escalated. Over the last decade there has been an upsurge in attacks and kidnappings across the country, blamed on nomadic Fulani herders. The global terrorism index attributed more than 1,300 deaths to Fulani extremists between 2018 and 2019.

However, many Fulani have died in the cycle of revenge killings. Their leaders say that they are being attacked by gangs from farming communities, who try to steal their cattle and that they are just defending themselves.

Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari is Fulani himself. There are claims that his government has been too lenient towards criminal acts committed by some Fulani, which has emboldened many perpetrators. President Buhari denies these claims, calling them unfair.

This investigation has seen how these attacks have been weaponised as part of Ipob’s disinformation campaigns and painted as part of a grand conspiracy to subjugate and islamise the South.

Nicholas Ibekwe says, “Ipob has this thing with cattle, because they believe that the Hausa-Fulani are going to farm. . .all sorts of propaganda. There might be truth in some of these allegations of herdsmen destroying farms. There’s no doubt that herdsmen were destroying farms and all of that, but they now came up with their story of, ‘Oh they were also raping our women’, there might be some truth in that, but Ipob took it several notches and made it like a rhetoric, and made it like an anthem. So any attack, even if it’s not remotely connected to the Hausa-Fulani, they blame it on Hausa-Fulani”.

The leader of Miyetti Allah Kautal Hore, a group fighting for the welfare of the Fulani in Nigeria, told the BBC that many allegations against the Fulani are being fabricated for political reasons and that they are unfairly being blamed for rapes and kidnappings in areas where they are not even present.

But the anti-Fulani disinformation effort extends beyond the herders themselves to ethnic Igbo officials and traditional rulers who live in the South East. Government workers, politicians and police have all been accused on social platforms of collaborating with the Fulani against other Nigerians.

Ipob leader, Nnamdi Kanu, has called for security officers to be killed.

We hear Nnamdi Kanu’s broadcast and he says, “Kill them. If you see the Army and the Police in your village, kill all of them. Any vehicle you see from tonight, 12 midnight till 5, destroy it completely”.

This is from his Facebook Live broadcast on April 22, 2021. This sentiment continues to be echoed by his followers across social media. They call the security services and traditional rulers “saboteurs”, or “sabos”, a slur word revived from the days of the Civil War that when used then, as now, was often a death sentence.

Last December, 2 traditional rulers in Imo State were kidnapped from their palaces and taken to a camp where they were tagged saboteurs to the Biafran cause and tortured. One of them was killed. The video of the torture of the traditional rulers was obtained by the Nigerian police officers who raided the camp of the kidnappers. It is too graphic to be shown on screen.

Sarah Eze, a police officer at the start of her career. For safety we have changed her name. One morning in early 2021, she was on duty as a prison guard at a correctional facility in the South East of Nigeria. Sarah’s duty that day was to transport prisoners, but the vehicle she and her colleagues was travelling in was ambushed. Armed men killed Sarah and took her gun. Over a year later her family is still trying to come to terms with her murder.

They show Sarah’s relative (I think it’s her mother) crying and scrolling through pictures on her phone. She says (in Igbo Language), “For a long time we have been suffering. Her father is deceased. She eventually got a job as a police officer by the grace of God. She does everything, looking for what she will eat. Then suddenly. . .Oh God! Since then her death has not left my mind”.

The Nigerian Government blames Ipob for the murder of hundreds of security officials, as well as civilians. Ipob denies involvement, insisting it is agitating for separation from Nigeria through peaceful means.

We see Omote Biafra shouting, “Enough of it!

Their media warriors though, continue their calls for violence.

While their desire of seeing their home region break away from Nigeria motivates many of them, financial gains from donations and social media monetisations also seems to play a part.

In a rare interview, a former high ranking member of Ipob spoke to us via phone. He told us how the group says it pays people to spread violent rhetoric and disinformation against the Nigerian Government.

We hear George Onyeibe, a former Africa representative of Ipob and he says, “We have media warriors who, their first mode of operation should have been countering some fake reports and information about us (Ipob). But then, soon, Nnamdi Kanu discovered that their activities were working good for his own shenanigans. And so he decided a little bit to modify their modus operandi. They bought thousands of laptops. So most of those people you see on social media are actually responding from Kuwait.

That is one group. And then you have those of us in Nigeria here. What they do is they pay you money to recharge your account, they buy data for you. They are everywhere in Nigeria and of course there is unemployment and somebody who can receive Android phone of 70,000 to 100,000 naira and laptop of 400,000 naira, they will do your bidding.

So they are paid, they are encouraged, there is a lot of benefit to it and most of them think that they are fighting for their father’s nation without knowing that they are being used”.

The BBC could not independently verify these claims, but we have seen broadcasts by some of the people identified as being part of this disinformation effort, admitting to being paid, either by Ipob or by supporters for the work they do.

They are showing Omote Biafra and Ikem Patrick who are making a live broadcast. Omote Biafra says, “. . .So that money was sent to me and I shared it among the people whose names I”. Ikem Patrick interrupts her and asks, “They gave you money to share among people”? Omote Biafra replies, “Yes, they gave me the money to share among ourselves”.

We contacted Ipob leadership with our findings from this investigation. The leadership replied but did not provide a response. We contacted all of the media warriors featured in this story to ask for their comments, but had no response.

Meanwhile, on the ground, people struggle to come to terms with the violence their broadcasts have called for. In the first 3 months of this year, more than 30 police officers, soldiers, customs officers and civilians have been killed by unknown gunmen in the South East region.

During the BBC team’s trip to the region to gather material for this report in February, 7 police officers were killed at checkpoints in Enugu State and a police station in Anambra State was attacked. And still the disinformation and calls to violence continue. But how is that happening?

Social media companies insist that hate speech and harmful disinformation are against their community guidelines and actively work to remove it. The BBC team investigating these pages found that Meta, Facebook’s parent company, had in fact issued warnings to some of them, but the disinformation spreaders have learnt how to beat the system by using local languages. Human moderation in local languages is limited and the technology social media companies deploy also seems to find it hard to recognise breaches of its guidelines when not in English.

David Ajikobi of Africa Check says, “If you speak to most disinformation experts, fact checkers, they will tell you that language is a problem. In Nigeria alone, think about it, there are more than 200 languages. If tomorrow a particular section of Nigeria wanted to fight a particular section and they go into their language silos and ecosystems and things like that, you probably won’t be able to pick it. And then let’s say you get into Whatsapp, which is end to end encrypted, how are you as a fact checker going to understand what is happening in that space? It will take you somebody flagging it, then you now have to translate it into English, understand the context, understand the dialect, understand the language, how it is said, before you can actually do anything about it”.

They show Okenna Okechukwu making a broadcast and speaking in Igbo Language.

Okenna Okechukwu, also known as Biafran Child, is one of the media warriors and he demonstrates this tactic when he calls for attacks on a known critic of Ipob.

Okenna Okechukwu briefly switches to English and says, “Why I am saying this in my dialect is because I don’t want them to stop me. I don’t want them to block me. I don’t want them to block me on this page, but what I am trying to tell you, for those of you that don’t understand my dialect, ask people. . .”

Posts on Mr Okechukwu’s page claim that he has received warnings from Facebook. While this indicates that Facebook is doing something about disinformation, Nicholas Ibekwe believes that Ipob and its adaptable troll army has found fertile ground on Facebook and the social media platform should do more.

Nicholas Ibekwe asks, “What is Facebook doing? Why are those videos still up on Facebook? People come in and do Facebook broadcasts for hours where they basically threaten people’s lives, where they claim they will kill people and even take responsibility for some killings that have happened. While they do all these virtue signalling and call out and say all sort of. . .on Facebook. It seems Facebook has really really gone to sleep. Facebook does not think that these comments, these posts that they do on Facebook have consequences.

The BBC reported 2 of the numerous broadcasts identified as containing potentially harmful disinformation and outright calls for attacks on people to Facebook. 3 different accounts reported the posts. They received the same statement saying their technology reviewed the report and ultimately decided not to take it down.

We reached out to Facebook again, querying this assessment. This was their response.

They show a message from Facebook stating that the complainant can appeal to Facebook’s oversight board.

Facebook took down the broadcast on April 5th after the BBC sent links to them directly.

A Meta spokesperson told the BBC that, “Calling for violence against anyone is unnacpetable and we don’t want it on Facebook”.

Meta also said that, “The two videos shared with us by the BBC violated our policies and have now been removed”.

They said that, “Over the past few years, we’ve invested heavily in teams and technology . . .with 15,000 people reviewing content in more than 70 languages including Igbo”.

It said that it would continue to take aggressive steps to combat harmful content and misinformation across Africa.

However, at the time of publication, similar broadcasts by the two reported accounts remain on the platform.

The Nigerian Government has been pushing for more regulation of social media use in Nigeria, but in Novemeber 2021, the head of what Ipob calls its Directorate of State, Switzerland based Chika Edoziem, called for the media warriors to get ready for more work.

This well oiled machine and the disinformation campaign it promotes continues.

It seems like the accounts that were reported to Facebook belong to Omote Biafra and Mrs Igwenagu because they showed their pictures while talking about the accounts.

full text of the BBC documentary about IPOB

full text of the BBC documentary about IPOB

full text of the BBC documentary about IPOB

full text of the BBC documentary about IPOB

full text of the BBC documentary about IPOB