Opinions & Features July 27, 2021 at 04:00 pm

Who is Nnamdi Kanu, the man who wants Biafra to tear away from Nigeria?

Nii Ntreh July 27, 2021 at 04:00 pm

July 27, 2021 at 04:00 pm | Opinions & Features

Nnamdi Kanu. Photo: Pulse.ng

The trial of pro-Biafran independence activist Nnamdi Kanu, which was scheduled to start in Abuja on Monday, has been postponed until October 21. After four years on the run, the leader of the Indigenous Peoples of Biafra (IPOB), who has been pushing for the independence of southeastern Nigeria, was apprehended overseas and returned to Nigeria at the end of June.

In a statement, Nigerian Justice Minister Abubakar Malami stated Kanu is charged with “terrorism, treason, running an illegal company, posting libelous information, and illegal possession of firearms.”

Because the authorities failed to bring Nnamdi Kanu before the court, the trial has been postponed until October 21.

Kanu, the head of IPOB, a well-known separatist organization banned in Nigeria, has long been a well-known and divisive personality in the country. Across several venues, he has campaigned for Biafra independence.

Kanu was detained for the first time in Nigeria since the Biafra civil war in October 2015, when Biafra separatist mass demonstrations began. The demonstrations were partly in response to President Buhari’s election, which came after he served as a brigade major in the civil war. During the battle, millions of people perished from famine as a result of a government blockade that prohibited food supplies and humanitarian aid from reaching the south-east region.

Armed attacks in the southern area have increased after security forces violently suppressed major demonstrations that began in 2015. According to Amnesty International, at least 150 people were killed at pro-Biafra protests between August 2015 and August 2016.

Between 1967 to 1970, former Biafra, an impoverished area in the southeast dominated by the Igbo ethnic group, saw a terrible civil war. The “Republic of Biafra” was ultimately reintegrated into Nigeria, a West African country that has been rattled by intercommunal conflicts on a regular basis.

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. Kanu took advantage of his bail to leave Nigeria in 2017 but was rearrested in Kenya last month. 

Kanu’s recent arrest came after months of instability in the region, which resulted in the formation of a regional paramilitary organization. 

Since the beginning of the year, at least 127 police and security officers have been slain, and 20 police stations and electoral commission offices have been attacked, according to local media. IPOB vehemently rejects any allegations of violence.

President Muhammadu Buhari faces a slew of difficulties before his tenure ends in 2023, including calls for independence in southern Nigeria.

Kanu founded the IPOB in 2014 as a movement to separate and create the independent nation of Biafra from a group of states in south-east Nigeria, largely made up of Igbo people. This is not a novel strategy. Igbo leaders proclaimed Biafran independence in 1967, but the separatist movement was destroyed after a horrific civil war that killed up to a million people. 

The notion of Biafra, however, has never disappeared, and Kanu’s movement has recently increased in number, despite arrests of his members.

IPOB created an armed wing, the Eastern Security Network (ESN), last year, which officials say is responsible for a series of attacks on police stations and other government institutions in southern Nigeria.

Kanu is a popular figure who, since 2009, has been a thorn in the side of Nigerian authorities. He used his Radio Biafra station in London to advocate for an independent state for the Igbo people. Kanu was born and reared in Nigeria’s south-east, where he attended the University of Nsukka before moving to the United Kingdom to finish his education.

He addressed gatherings of the huge Igbo diaspora shortly after founding IPOB, pushing for Biafran independence. In part of his speech, he urged Biafrans to take up arms against the Nigerian state.

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