The British government is seeking clarification on the circumstances under which Nigeria extradited Nnamdi Kanu, a dual citizen of both countries, over crimes related to his secessionist movement, even as his family insists Kenya played a role in his capture.
Mr Kanu, whom the Nigerian government labelled a fugitive, was brought to court in Nigeria on Wednesday after officials claimed they had arrested him in London.
But the British government now says that the 53-year-old leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was not captured from UK soil.
“He was not arrested in or extradited from the UK. We are seeking clarification about the circumstances of the arrest from the Nigerian government," a spokesman told Nation.Africa on Thursday.
Nigeria’s attorney-general and minister of justice, Abubakar Malami, told Nigerians that Kanu’s arrest was planned and executed by the Nigerian security and intelligence agencies. It was coordinated by the Nigeria Intelligence Agency (NIA).
'Arrested in Kenya'
Meanwhile, his younger brother, Kingsley Kanu, broke the family’s silence on Wednesday night by alleging that his brother was arrested in Kenya.
“My brother has been subject to extraordinary rendition by Kenya and Nigeria. They have violated the most basic principles of the rule of law. Extraordinary rendition is one of the most serious crimes states can commit. Both Nigeria and Kenya must be held to account. I demand justice for my brother, Nnamdi Kanu,” he said, but did not share evidence to back up his claim.
Kenya has not officially commented on the claim, but an official at the Foreign Affairs ministry in Nairobi suggested the government will check whether he may have travelled to Kenya using a different passport and name.
The IPOB is a proscribed organisation in Nigeria but has since 2014 been fighting to establish a sovereign state of Biafra, whose dream in the 1960s had caused a deadly civil war in the country.
The IPOB agitation has brought back memories of when South East Nigeria was first declared the Biafra republic and led to a three-year civil war, between 1967 and 1970, in which three million people died.
Kanu, who also founded the militia group Eastern Security Network (ESN), fled to London in 2017 after jumping bail while standing trial for treason and was rearrested and brought back to Nigeria on June 26 this year and arraigned in the Federal High Court in Abuja on June 29.
The British government said its Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office was ready to provide consular assistance to Kanu as it expected the trial of the Biafran separatist to follow due process.
His lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, has formally applied to Nigeria’s secretive police squad, the Department of State Service (DSS), to allow him access to his client.
“The British High Commission in Nigeria must insist upon my brother’s immediate release. They must guarantee his safety and security. Nnamdi Kanu must be returned home to the UK to his wife and his sons who live here. The Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, must make clear to the Nigerian authorities that they will not tolerate the unlawful detention of British citizens and that the UK Government condemns the Nigerians and Kenyans for undermining the rule of law,” his brother said.
Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court in Abuja on June 29 ordered that Kanu be remanded in the custody of the Department of State Services until the case could be heard.
Kanu was first arrested on October 14, 2015 and arraigned on 11 counts of terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods, among others.
A judge at the Federal High Court in Abuja revoked Kanu’s bail that was granted him on health grounds and issued a bench warrant for his arrest on the same date over his failure to appear in court for a hearing.
He has, upon jumping bail, been accused of engaging in subversive activities that included inciting violence through television, radio and online broadcasts against Nigeria and the Nigerian state and institutions.
Kanu was also accused of instigating violence especially in southeastern Nigeria that resulted in the loss of lives and property of civilians, military, paramilitary, police forces and destruction of civil institutions and symbols of authorities.
The arrest of Kanu is similar to that of the high-profile politician, the late Umaru Dikko, who was abducted in London and put in a crate for repatriation to Nigeria in 1984 before an intelligence report prompted British police to look for him, finding him in the crate in the luggage compartment of a Nigerian Airways plane at Heathrow airport.
The politician was minister of transport in the Second Republic and fled to the UK when then Gen Muhammadu Buhari overthrew civilian President Shehu Shagari.