The fugitive leader of a prominent Biafra secessionist group has been arrested and extradited to Nigeria for trial, in a move likely to fuel separatist unrest in southeastern Nigeria.
Nnamdi Kanu, a British citizen living in South London, had been wanted by the Nigerian authorities since 2015, when he was charged with terrorism and incitement offenses, following broadcasts on Radio Biafra, a digital station that he founded and ran from his house in Peckham.
Nigerian Attorney General Abubakar Malami said on Tuesday that Kanu had been extradited to the capital Abuja following cooperation between Nigerian intelligence services and Interpol.
“He has been returned to Nigeria to continue to face trial after disappearing while on bail,” Malami said. He accused Kanu of “participating in subversive activities” and also claimed that Kanu was responsible for armed attacks.
Malami did not say where Kanu was extradited from, although British government officials have said he was not arrested in the UK. In the past, British MPs have expressed concern for Kanu’s well-being while he was detained in Nigeria.
A lawyer for Kanu confirmed the arrest. “He was brought before the Federal High Court … today on a count of 11 counts, albeit without our knowledge,” Ifeanyi Ejiofor said in a statement.
Kanu is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), a secessionist group that has been outlawed as a terrorist organization in Nigeria. In recent months, the police blamed Ipob for a series of arson attacks and killings against police units and civil authorities in southern Nigeria.
Kano was first arrested in Nigeria in 2015 and released on medical bail in 2017 before fleeing the country.
Its prominence in Nigeria has exploded in recent years, as secessionist sentiment for an independent Biafra country in southeastern Nigeria has seen a marked rise.
Secessionist sentiment was ignited with the 2015 election of President Muhamadu Buhari, who was a brigade major during the Biafra civil war, one of the darkest chapters in Nigerian history, where an attempt to form an independent state was stifled. of Biafra.
Millions of people died in southeastern Nigeria, many of them starving after a government blockade of the region prevented food supplies and humanitarian support.
Earlier this month, Twitter removed a post by Buhari for violating its rules on abuse, after he referred to the civil war as a threat against armed groups in Biafra.
“Those of us in the field for 30 months, who went through the war, we will treat them in the language they understand,” the president said, sparking massive condemnation.
In retaliation for the removal, the government shortly afterwards banned Twitter in Nigeria.
The legacy of the war remains bitter. The authorities censor cultural descriptions of the conflict and the war is not taught in most schools.
Since 2015, secessionist protests have met with a brutal response from Nigerian security forces. More than 150 people died in pro-Biafra demonstrations between August 2015 and August 2016, according to Amnesty International.
Security operations in southeastern Nigeria, a predominantly Igbo region, have received reports of civilian rights abuses. Armed attacks attributed to pro-Biafra groups have skyrocketed this year.
Since fleeing Nigeria, Kanu had been spotted in different countries, including Israel.
His fierce monologues on Radio Biafra, mocking President Buhari, attacking ethnic groups and calling for an armed uprising have attracted international followers, as well as the ire of the Nigerian authorities.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism