Nigeria has arrested Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra, IPOB.
Attorney-General and Minister of Justice of the west African nation Abubakar Malami(SAN) on Tuesday disclosed to journalists that Kanu was arrested and brought back to Nigeria on Sunday.
Kanu and his co-defendant are facing treasonable felony charges at the Federal High Court in Abuja, Nigeria's capital. He also faces charges on unlawful possession of firearms and management of an unlawful society.
He had fled Nigeria in September 2017 after the military invaded his home in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State, in the southeast of Nigeria.
The Nigerian army then insisted it was not holding him and the Nigerian government secured a controversial court order proscribing IPOB as a terrorist group.
Kanu failed to show up at the last hearing date for his trial. The trial judge ordered his lawyer to produce him at the then next sitting on March 28 2018. But his whereabouts remained unknown until this arrest.
Malami described the arrest as the result of a collaborative effort between security agencies in Nigeria and Interpol.
Extradited from the UK?
Local news sources say Nnamdi Kanu was arrested in the UK, blindfolded and sneaked into the courtroom in handcuffs by operatives of Nigeria's Department of State Services (DSS). But the veracity of this remains unclear.
According to multiple sources, he was hurriedly taken to Court where the presiding judge told the prosecution lawyer, Shuaib Labaran to inform the defence counsel of the new date for the continuation of the trial.
The prosecution applied that Kanu jumped bail and wanted him to be remanded in DSS custody. The court granted the application and the judge adjourned the case to July 26, 2021.
Who is Nnamdi Kanu?
Nnamdi Okwu Kanu is a Nigerian Biafra political activist, being the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra IPOB. Kanu founded IPOB in 2014 and wants to create an independent state for the people of old Eastern Region of Nigeria through an independent referendum.
He began his activism for the freedom of Biafra as a Radio Biafra director and anchor of Biafra awareness under Ralph Uwazuruike, leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), who said while in a meeting in Kaduna, Nigeria on June 12, 2014, that he handed over Radio Biafra to Nnamdi Kanu but Kanu disappointed him.
Until 2009 when he started Radio Biafra, a station that called for an independent state for the Igbo people and broadcast to Nigeria from London, Kanu was a relatively obscure figure.
He would later run into trouble with the Nigerian government and was first arraigned over allegations of terrorism, money laundering, treason, others, on October 14, 2015. He was later granted bail in 2017 but on March 28, 2019, his bail condition was revoked.
The earlier push for a separate republic of Biafra was championed by Emeka Ojukwu nearly 50 years ago. The declaration of independence sparked a three year civil war which left more than a million people dead, mostly Igbos from the South Eastern region of Nigeria aimed for the breakaway.
The agitation for Biafra continues till this day and has been given momentum by Nnamdi Kanu. Nigerian authorities however clamp down heavily on the separatist groups and blames Kanu's social media posts for a spate of violent attacks across the southeastern part of the country.
Earlier this month, Information Minister Lai Mohammed cited Kanu's posts as a factor in the government's decision to suspend Twitter after Twitter had deleted a tweet from President Muhammadu Buhari threatening IPOB.