Nigerian separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu, arrested abroad and returned back

2021-06-30 13:31:18
Nigerian separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu, arrested abroad and returned back

Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of a separatist group that wants a breakaway state in eastern Nigeria, has been arrested and "brought back" to the West African country to face trial.

Nigeria’s Justice Minister, Abubakar Malami, who is also attorney general, said Tuesday Kanu was arrested on Sunday but gave no details about the location.

Kanu's outlawed movement, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), which agitates for a separate state for ethnic Igbos in southeast Nigeria, is accused of fomenting violence, something which it denies.

The 53-year-old was put on trial in 2015 but disappeared while on bail and his recent whereabouts had been unknown.

"Nnamdi Kanu has been intercepted... He has been brought back to Nigeria, in order to continue facing trial after disappearing," he said in a statement.

He faces charges "bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms," Malami said.

A lawyer for Kanu confirmed the arrest.

"He was brought before the Federal High Court... today on an eleven count charge, though without our knowledge," Ifeanyi Ejiofor said in a statement.

The lawyer said Kanu was entitled to a fair trial and that his client's safety should be guaranteed throughout the process.

"No matter the gravity of the offences or charge preferred against him... the Constitution still presumes him innocent," said Ejiofor.

Kanu first started launching virulent diatribes against Nigeria from London, where he settled after his studies and founded a campaigning radio station, Radio Biafra, in 2009.

He worked in real estate and campaigned on the airwaves at night. For a time he was a member of another pro-independence group, the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra, or MASSOB.

He left that organisation and founded IPOB in 2013, saying his aim was "civil disobedience until we get a referendum (on self-determination)," calling it "the only way forward."

Two years later at the World Igbo Congress in Los Angeles, Kanu crossed a line with an apparent call to take up arms. "We need guns and we need bullets," he said.

He was arrested during a visit to Nigeria in October 2015. His detention sparked mass protests and clashes with security services.

In December that year, President Muhammadu Buhari alleged Kanu had committed "atrocities" against Nigeria.

Troubled region -

Kanu was released on bail but disappeared in 2017, resurfacing in Israel and then in Britain.

He appeared in a court in Abuja on Tuesday, where Judge Binta Nyako remanded him in custody until his trial resumes in July.

Southeast Nigeria has seen a surge in attacks in recent months, with around 130 police and security officials killed and around 20 police stations attacked this year, according to local media tallies.

Election offices have also been attacked. IPOB has denied being behind the violence, accusing the government of a smear campaign.

Calls for a separate state of Biafra are a sensitive subject in Nigeria, after a unilateral declaration of independence in 1967 sparked a brutal 30-month civil war.

More than one million people died, most of them Igbos, from the effects of conflict and disease.

The pro-Biafra agitation is one of many security challenges facing Buhari, a former army general.

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