Nnamdi Kanu, the head of a group pushing for the independence of a region of southeastern Nigeria previously known as Biafra, was detained on Tuesday, June 29, and is being detained in the capital Abuja awaiting trial, according to the justice minister.
A spokesperson said Kanu arrived in court and his case was postponed till July 27. Kanu was arrested on June 27 and “taken back” to Nigeria, according to Attorney General and Justice Minister Abubakar Malami, who did not specify where from.
“He was intercepted as a result of the Nigerian intelligence and security services working together,” Malami added.
Kanu was freed on bail in April 2017 after spending more than a year and a half in a Nigerian jail without being tried on treason charges. In 2014, Kanu formed the Indigenous People Of Biafra (Ipob). The movement seeks a collection of states in south-east Nigeria, primarily made up of Igbo people, to secede and create the sovereign nation of Biafra.
The strategy isn’t new. In 1967, Igbo leaders declared a Biafran state, but the separatist uprising was crushed after a devastating civil war that killed up to a million people.
However, the concept of Biafra has never faded, and despite arrests of his members, Kanu’s movement has recently grown in size.
Last year, Ipob formed an armed branch, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), which officials claim is responsible for a spate of attacks on police stations and other public buildings in southern Nigeria.
President Muhammadu Buhari has vowed to crush Ipob. He tweeted last month about security concerns in south-east Nigeria, saying that “those misbehaving today” will be dealt with in “the language they will understand.” After Buhari received a reaction, Twitter deleted the post for breaching its rules, resulting in the suspension of the microblogging service in Nigeria.
Kanu is a popular figure who has been a thorn in Nigerian authorities’ sides since 2009. He utilized his London-based Radio Biafra channel to push for an independent state for the Igbo people. Kanu was raised in Nigeria’s south-east and attended the University of Nsukka, but he relocated to the United Kingdom before completing his studies.
Soon after setting up Ipob, he spoke to gatherings of the large Igbo diaspora, calling for Biafran independence. He pushed Biafrans to take up guns against the Nigerian state in part of his remarks.
In one of his speeches, he remarked, “We need guns and we need bullets.”
And that is what brought him to the attention of Nigeria’s security services.