The leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, has engaged a new American lobbying firm to help the group win the support of the U.S. government.
The one-year deal is slated to run for 12 months and is costing Mr Kanu and IPOB $750,000, which is over N300million at the current official exchange rate of N410 to one U.S. dollar.
PREMIUM TIMES is in possession of the contract papers which Mr Kanu signed with the BW Global Group (BWGG LLC, in February.
The firm, co-owned by Jeffrey Birrel and Alan White, is registered in Washington D.C, the U.S. capital, which has a high concentration of top government officials, lawmakers, policymakers, and opinion leaders, who IPOB is trying to engage on the rightfulness and necessity of its cause.
The agreement, which took effect from March 1, 2021, came months after an earlier one struck by Mr Kanu with another U.S.-based lobbying entity, Mercury Public Affairs LLC, expired.
Under the old contract, IPOB, through Mr Kanu, paid $85,000 per month beginning September 23, 2019, in addition to a $5,000 one-time compliance fee.
That means Mr Kanu paid $1,025,000 for the 12-month contract, which is approximately N400million, based on the prevailing official exchange rate at the time (N380 to a dollar).
In June last year, the Nigerian government fumed at the deal, which it claimed was aimed at discrediting the country in the U.S. and Europe.
PREMIUM TIMES got the details of both the old and new deals from the contractors’ registration statements and agreements filed at the Foreign Agents Registration Unit of the U.S Department of Justice.
The registration, mandatory under the U.S. Foreign Agents Registration Act of 1938 and for “public disclosure”, entails filing documents, including completed predesigned forms marked Exhibits A and B, and the agreements stipulating the full details of the contract.
Failure to provide this information “is subject to the penalty and enforcement provisions established in Section 8 of the Act,” FARA says in one of the documents reviewed by this reporter.
The services Nnamdi Kanu wants
The terms of the successive contracts with a strict focus on the U.S appear to be part of Mr Kanu’s quiet but broad efforts to win the support of the U.S. government, Congress, policymakers, and opinion leaders for IPOB.
The filings by BW Global Group (BWGG) after negotiations were concluded in February show that the firm was engaged by Mr Kanu to undertake “political activities” in the U.S. on behalf of IPOB.
The activities include engaging the U.S. government, Congress and the Department of State, (the equivalent of Foreign Affairs Ministries in Nigeria and other countries) and engaging policymakers on behalf of IPOB.
“The registrant (BWGG) expects to advocate on behalf of IPOB within the US Government (including the U.S. Congress and the U.S. Department of State) and otherwise engage policymakers and opinion leaders,” a part of the registration statement marked Exhibit B, read.
The agreement, signed on February 24, 2021, by Mr Kanu, another representative of IPOB, Rita Eze, and a co-owner of BWGG, Mr White, provides further details of what the job entails.
“BWGG shall provide the IPOB with services relating to the promotion of human rights and democracy and shall otherwise act as an advocate for the indigenous people of Biafra,” the document reads in part.
It added that BWGG “may also undertake other similar services that might be referred to BWGG from the IPOB from time to time by mutual agreement.”
The deal has the same scope as the expired contract executed by Mercury Public Affairs, LLC.
Under that agreement, Mercury provided “strategic consulting and management services specific to issues facing the client in the areas of government relations and issues management.”
The payment mode
BWGG is expected to provide the agreed services under the new agreement to IPOB for a period of one year from March 1, 2021, through February 28, 2022.
The firm is to receive its payment for “professional services” of $750,000 in monthly instalments.
But $100,000 is to be paid at the signing of the agreement covering the first two months – March and April 2021 – “leaving a balance of $650,000”.
The balance of $650,000 “will be paid in monthly instalments of $65,000 USD per month commencing on May 1, 2021, and paid successively on the 1st of each month until the total fee of $750,000 USD has been paid to BWGG by the client”.
“Payment to BWG shall be by bank wire or bank draft,” the document added.
The firm, under the agreement “will provide monthly status reports as deliverables regarding the progress and status of the project.”
Nnamdi Kanu and the separatist campaign
Mr Kanu, a British and Nigerian national, has a relatively strong footing in the U.K.
His engaging lobbyists to win the support of the U.S. appear to be part of a broader move to win the buy-in of western powers in the separatist cause of IPOB.
IPOB, known for its agitation for an independent Republic of Biafra, has had a series of violent confrontations with Nigeria’s security agencies.
Weeks of deadly encounters between the group’s members and soldiers culminated in a military invasion of Mr Kanu’s home in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, the Abia State capital, in September 2017.
Mr Kanu, who wants the Igbo-speaking states in Nigeria’s South-east carved out of Nigeria, fled the country in the wake of the military invasion.
Following that encounter with IPOB militants, the Nigerian government obtained a court order on September 20, 2017, to designate the organisation a terrorist group and to proscribe it.
But the British government has yet to recognise IPOB as a terrorist group. There is even suspicion by some officials of the Nigerian government that Britain facilitated Mr Kanu’s return to the U.K after he escaped the military invasion of his home. PREMIUM TIMES has yet to independently verify that claim.
With the charges of treasonable felony still pending against him at the Federal High Court in Abuja, the Nigerian government has repeatedly fumed about the protection he and other IPOB members appear to be getting from the British government.
Since fleeing Nigeria, Mr Kanu continues to engage IPOB members through his social media channels, with the government often attributing escalating violence in the Southeast region to IPOB.
Many local and international human rights organisations have also condemned years of military attacks on the group that started as a peaceful organisation pursuing the rights of its members to self-determination.
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