U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin asked a court to dismiss a lawsuit filed by a Nigerian separatist group over the sale of aircraft the plaintiffs say will be used to persecute its supporters.
The two officials, who are the defendants in the case, said a federal court in Washington has no jurisdiction to address the claim brought by the Indigenous People of Biafra, or IPOB, according to their motion submitted Oct. 18.
IPOB filed a complaint against the senior members of President Joe Biden’s cabinet in August, asking a judge to compel them to reverse the recently completed sale of a dozen A-29 Super Tucano aircraft to Nigeria’s air force. The secessionist movement’s complaint argued that the planes will be deployed against their sympathizers.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration, which proscribed IPOB as a terrorist organization in 2017, accuses the group of waging a violent campaign against state personnel and assets. IPOB says it’s a peaceful movement working to establish an independent nation in southeastern Nigeria that will defend the Igbo ethnic group against discrimination by the federal government.
IPOB’s complaint said Blinken and Austin violated laws intended to protect civilians from harm caused by U.S. weapons in the possession of foreign security forces.
“It would be inappropriate for the court to weigh in on a sensitive foreign affairs matter,” the U.S. officials said in their response requesting the dismissal of the case.