Nigeria reacts to separatist leader’s appearance

By Abubakar Ahmadu Maishanu

A statement issued by the Nigerian presidency on Tuesday October 23 has confirmed the re-appearance of the Nigerian separatist leader, Nnamdi Kanu who was rumored to have been killed.

A media aide to the Nigerian president, Garba Shehu told the BBC’s Hausa Service that Kanu, the controversial leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), who disappeared last year after clashes between his supporters and soldiers involved in a military campaign in Abia State, is still alive. Many IPOB supporters had accused the Nigerian military of killing the IPOB leader. A lawyer representing him in his felony trial brought against him by the Nigerian government insisted he was either killed or kidnapped by soldiers who attacked his family house during the military campaign in Abia State.

“The truth has now been revealed about his alleged assassination against Nigerian government,” Garba Shehu told the BBC.

Kanu, the controversial leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB), disappeared last year following clashes between his supporters and soldiers involved in a military campaign in Abia State.

Kanu has been campaigning for an independent Biafran in south-eastern Nigeria since 2009. He was a relatively obscure figure until 2009 when he started Radio Biafra, a station that called for an independent state for the Igbo people and is broadcast to Nigeria from London. Though he grew up in Nigeria’s south-east and went to the University of Nsukka, Kanu moved to the UK before graduating. Soon after setting up IPOB in 2014, he spoke to gatherings of the large Igbo diaspora, calling for Biafran independence. In some of his comments, he urged Biafrans to take up arms against the Nigerian state.

“We need guns and we need bullets,” he said in one such address. This comment is what brought him to the attention of Nigeria’s security services. In 2015, Kanu was charged with “criminal conspiracy, intimidation and membership of an illegal organization”, charges that could amount to treason. He was released on bail last year after spending more than 19 months without trial on treason charges. He then renewed his campaign for independence, before his house in the south-eastern Abia state was raided by the military.

The separatist leader however appeared in a video last Friday; with his lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, saying he had since spoken to his client who apparently escaped out of Nigeria. Although the video showed him in Israel, the Israeli government denies that Kanu entered the country recently, saying that the video could be an old one. Kanu later issued another broadcast last Sunday from his hideout, saying he is still alive and safe.

“I have returned full-time and I’m coming back home, and I will bring hell with me,” he said in the broadcast, which is posted on the IPOB Facebook page. Kanu insisted on his group’s demand for a referendum for Igbos.

A photograph of Kanu praying in Jerusalem last Sunday.

“We have the right to determine if we want to be part of Nigeria or we want a separate Biafra country,” he stated. On Tuesday morning, Shehu told journalists in Abuja that the Nigerian government was put under pressure on false accusations they had killed or kidnapped Kanu following the military campaign at Abia state.

“Now, this fairy tale went up to United Nations General Assembly where some IPOB members staged a protest accusing the Nigerian government of kidnapping and even killing of Kanu,” Shehu said, adding that Kanu’s appearance now shows how his supporters lied against the government.

When asked what will happen if Kanu eventually returns to Nigeria, Shehu said his trial would be expected to continue.

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