The Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) has secured a U.S. court’s leave for an extended period to file its objection to a motion seeking to dismiss its suit against the sale of Tucano Jets to the government of Nigeria, court document seen by Peoples Gazette has said.
The United States District Court for the District of Columbia on Friday ordered that IPOB be given additional 45 days to respond to the U.S. government’s October 18 motion seeking the dismissal of the suit.
IPOB had on July 31, 2021 sued the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin over the sale of the fighter aircraft to Nigeria, asking the court to reverse the sale.
The separatist group had challenged the sale of Super Tucano military jets to President Muhammadu Buhari, saying security forces under his regime could use the hardware against civilian populations across the South-East.
They brought the case under the Leahy Act that prohibits the sale of U.S. arms to countries with a gruesome record of human rights abuses.
According to the court documents, the plaintiffs “reasonably fear that the A-29 Super Tucano aircraft will be used imminently to kill or maim them physically or to destroy their property,” according to the complaint.
In their defence, Messrs Blinken and Austin, in a 45-page memorandum on October 18, asked the court to dismiss the suit, as it lacks the jurisdiction to address claims by the separatist group.
“It would be inappropriate for the court to weigh in on a sensitive foreign affairs matter,” the U.S. officials said.
IPOB, through its lawyer Bruce Fein, asked the court for an extension of time to respond to the motion for dismissal of the case.
In his ruling, Judge Amy Berman Jackson ordered that “that the Motion to Extend Time is granted, and that Plaintiff’s deadline for filing an Opposition to Defendants’ Motion to Dismiss is hereby extended until December 2, 2021, and that Defendants’ deadline for filing a reply is hereby extended until December 22, 2021.”
The Nigerian Air Force had on July 22nd received the first batch of the 12 attack and reconnaissance planes, while the remaining batch arrived last week.
Although the federal government had ordered the aircraft to combat terrorists who have in the past years killed and dismissed thousands of Nigerians in the North-East, there were fears that they would be deployed against secessionists in the South-East region.
The Buhari regime had labeled IPOB a terrorist group in 2017, stating that some of its activities were similar to terrorism. “The acts and utterances of IPOB were acts and utterances of terrorists. For instance, Nnamdi Kanu, the IPOB leader was caught on tape saying that they want Biafra and not peacefully, but by force,” Information Minister, Lai Mohammed had said.
Also in the past few months, the regime linked a series of violent attacks in the South-East region to activities of the separatist organisation.