Nigerian secessionist leader Sunday Adeyemo, also known as Sunday Igboho, appeared in a Beninese court on Monday to answer to charges of being in the country illegally.
Igboho, who advocates for independence for the southwestern Yoruba people, is accused of "criminal association," according to a judicial source in Benin's commercial capital Cotonou.
The 48-year-old, who belongs to the opposition Peoples Democratic Party (PDP), was arrested at Cadjèhoun Airport on July 19, 2021 along with his German wife Ropo who was later released.
He was trying to escape through Benin to Germany amid an ongoing crackdown on secessionist elements in Nigeria.
Igboho was arraigned at the Cour D’Appel De Cotonou, where journalists and members of the public, including some supporters, were locked out of the proceedings.
He was remanded in custody, judicial sources told AFP.
"The judge placed him under a warrant of detention," said one of Igboho's lawyers, Toide Behanzin.
"He is being accused of crimes against people and properties in Benin. The case is totally baseless."
On July 1, Nigeria's secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS, raided Igboho's home in the city of Ibadan, Oyo State, later saying he had escaped after they found military equipment and other weapons.
DSS had also placed the country's Immigration on alert amid suspicion that he was trying to get a new passport so he could escape to Germany.
During the raid, 12 of Igboho's aides were arrested after a gun battle in which two of his guards died.
Police said at the time the finds were "confirmation of a grand plan by Igboho and his cohorts to wage a violent insurrection against the Nigerian State".
The Nigerian government accuses the secessionist leader of Oduduwa Republic Agitators of calling for the break-up of the country, inciting killings and stockpiling weapons.
Igboho was arrested last week in neighbouring Benin while attempting to board a flight bound for Germany, an airport source had told AFP.
Another one of Igboho's lawyers, Yomi Alliyu, alleged in a statement that Nigeria captured his client and his wife with the help of Interpol and Benin authorities.
He described the arrest as shocking and urged Germany, Benin and the international community “to rise up and curb the impunity of Nigeria” by rejecting extradition requests.
The Beninese court had last Thursday adjourned Igboho’s case till Monday after his five lawyers failed to convince authorities that he had no case to answer.
After the court session, Igboho was returned to police custody amid speculation are that he may be extradited to Nigeria.
Igboho "will be extradited to Nigeria as soon as the two countries have agreed on conditions," a senior Benin police official had said, with a second confirming the arrest.
Igboho's legal team say they are not aware of any extradition request.
However, an extradition agreement between the country, Benin and other West African countries under Ecowas (Economic Community of West African States) excludes those wanted for political reasons, and may complicate Nigeria's plan to get him back.
The decision on whether to send him back now lies with the court, where Igboho's lawyers argued that extraditing him would endanger his life.
Rise to 'fame'
Mr Adeyemo is a Yoruba politician, business magnate and an activist who gained notoriety by playing an active role during the communal crisis involving the ancient city of Ife and neighbouring Modakeke in 1997.
He claimed that he had powers that made him a formidable foe in battle against the Ife people.
He gained social media notoriety in January when he gave an ultimatum to Fulani herdsmen in Ibarapa, Oyo state, to leave the land after herders were accused of the gruesome murder of Dr Fatai Aborode.
He led supporters in an attack on settlements belonging to Fulani herdsmen and accused the Nigerian government of supporting killer herders.
His capture came after Nigeria announced it had gotten hold of another secessionist leader, Nnamdi Kanu, in June.