The family of a British citizen who was reportedly arrested in Kenya and brought to Nigeria in an act of extraordinary rendition has accused the UK government of abandoning him to illegal detention and the risk of torture.
Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), a prominent separatist movement outlawed in Nigeria, fled the country in 2017 while on bail after soldiers attacked his family’s home in Abia.
Last month, Nigeria’s attorney general said Kanu, a father of two, had been extradited to the country’s capital Abuja with the help of Interpol. Kanu entered Kenya this year on his British passport, with a visa that expires in June.
His wife, Uchechi Okwu-Kanu, and his brother, Kingsley Kanu, threaten to carry out a judicial review against the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, Dominic Raab, for an alleged “illegal failure” in the provision of consular assistance. Although the government has requested access to Kanu, his family said they must act urgently, claiming that his life is in danger.
His wife said, “Until you have access to my husband and can talk to him, the FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] not doing enough. My husband was kidnapped in Nairobi on June 18, re-emerged on June 29 in Abuja; for 10 days he was missing. He is the victim of an extraordinary delivery; He is being held in the building of the State security services, as far as we know, he is being held incommunicado.
“His request to be transferred to a regular prison has been denied; everything about my husband’s incarceration screams torture. My husband is British, his children are British. The foreign secretary should be on the phone with his counterpart in Nigeria and refuse to end the call until the Nigerian government grants the British high commission immediate access to my husband. If that fails, Boris Johnson should call President Buhari. “
She said her last contact with her husband was on June 18, when her five-year-old son sent her a Father’s Day card, and Kanu said she would call him after a few meetings, but never did. “He’s upset because he hasn’t heard from his father and he doesn’t understand,” he said of his youngest son.
In 2015, Kanu was arrested in Nigeria and charged with terrorism and incitement offenses, after broadcasting on a digital radio station, Radio Biafra, which he founded at his home in London. He was released on bail in 2017 and fled the country after an attack on his family’s home, which he says killed 28 Ipob members.
His wife said his only “alleged crime” is to demand a referendum on Biafra’s self-determination. “Only the British government can prevent it from further damage,” he said. “The future happiness of my family depends on Dominic Raab. You can end all of this in an instant. He can stop my nightmare. “
Kanu’s supporters were arrested outside the Abuja High Court Monday. A pre-action judicial review letter, prepared by attorneys for Bindmans LLP, said the Ipob leader previously held Nigerian citizenship but renounced it in 2015 and had his Nigerian passport taken from him in response.
The letter stated that Kanu told his Nigerian lawyers that he was tortured by the Kenyan authorities prior to his transfer to Nigeria, adding: “There is concern that he is currently being tortured in custody in Nigeria. Similar actions by the Nigerian authorities against pro-Biafra activists have been widely denounced and condemned by the international community. Human rights NGO as well as the United Nations. “
His family also said he is being denied treatment for a heart condition.
His brother Kingsley accused Britain of being affected by its “mistakes” during the 1967-70 Biafra war when it covertly armed the Nigerian military dictatorship and millions died after an attempted secession.
“That is the real problem,” he said. “Nnamdi Kanu is a symbol of self-determination, Nnamdi is the face of Biafra.”
A spokesperson for the FCDO said: “We are in contact with the Nigerian authorities after the arrest of a British citizen.
“We have requested consular access as soon as possible and we continue to be in contact with the family and legal representatives.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism