Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra, was arrested in June and brought back to Nigeria from an undisclosed country to face trial, said Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami. Kanu is due to appear in court next month.
Kanu is facing trial for “terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods, among others.” Kanu fled Nigeria in 2017.
Kanu’s movement calls for an independent state of Biafra to be carved out of southeast Nigeria, a region inhabited by the Igbo people who are Nigeria’s third-largest ethnic group.
Kanu is pushing for a separate republic of Biafra, nearly 50 years after a previous declaration of independence sparked a civil war.
The 1967-70 conflict left more than a million people dead, most of them from starvation and disease, as the Igbo nation was blockaded into submission.
A similar movement for a state of Biafra to secede from Nigeria that was headed by another Igbo leader, Chukwuemeka Odumegwu-Ojukwu, led to Nigeria’s civil war in the late 1960s, during which more than 1 million ethnic Igbos were killed, many of them through starvation.
The Igbos, who are mainly Christians, say they are marginalized by Nigeria’s federal government, especially when mainly Muslim Fulani candidates are elected. Nigeria’s more than 200 million people are almost evenly divided between Christians and Muslims.
In May, a large contingent of troops and police were deployed to eastern Nigeria to quell growing renewed agitation for a state of Biafra.
President Muhammadu Buhari, a Fulani, caused outrage earlier this month when he posted a tweet that seemed to threaten violence against the Igbos. The Nigerian president referred to the loss of lives and destruction that resulted from the Biafra civil war and threatened to treat the current agitators for an independent state in “the language they will understand.”
Twitter deleted the president’s post saying it violated its rules against language promoting violence. The Nigerian government responded by banning Twitter in the country. The government is also accusing Twitter of allowing Kanu to use its platform to engage in subversive activities.
The lawyer for the Biafra movement, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, confirmed Kanu’s arrest and his extradition. Ejiofor has asked authorities to give Kanu a fair trial in line with “his constitutionally protected right.”
Who is Nnamdi Kanu?
Nnamdi Kanu is the founder of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), who had fled the country in 2017 but took credit for a growing separatist sentiment in the south-east.
Nnamdi Kanu formed the IPOB in 2012 to voice concerns for the indigenous people of Biafra.
The Nigerian government later called it a terrorist group and even went ahead to ban its activities.
The main aim of IPOB is to break the South Eastern region of Nigeria to form its own civil state.
He escaped Nigeria in 2017 after he was released on bail
By 2020 Nnamdi Kanu formed the Eastern Security Network [ESN].
ESN was formed to provide internal security against herders invasion of farmlands for the Igbo-speaking south-eastern region of Nigeria.
In 2009, Kanu started a local radio station that vigorously campaigned for the independent state of Igbo-speaking people.