The UK government is seeking clarification on circumstances under which the Nigerian government extradited Nnamdi Kanu, a dual national of both countries, over crimes related to his secessionist movement.
Mr Kanu, who the Nigerian government labelled as a fugitive for being the leader of the proscribed organisation Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), was brought to Court in Nigeria on Wednesday after officials claimed they had arrested him in London, UK.
However, the British government has denied that the 53-year-old Kanu was arrested or extradited from the UK.
Mr Dean Hurlock, the Head of Communications of the British High Commission in Nigeria, said on Wednesday that the UK will seek clarification from Nigeria on the circumstances surrounding Kanu’s arrest and extradition.
“We can reaffirm that Nnamdi Kanu was not arrested in the UK nor was he extradited from the UK.
“With regards to any questions about the possible legality of his arrest, the British High Commission in Abuja is currently in the process of seeking clarification from the Nigerian government about the circumstances of the arrest.”
The IPOB is a proscribed organisation in Nigeria but has since 2014 been fighting for the actualisation of the 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 Nigeria’s South East was first declared a Biafra republic and led to a three-year civil war, 1967-1970, in which three million people died.
Kanu, who also founded a militia group, Eastern Security Network (ESN), fled to London in 2017 after jumping bail while standing trial for treason and was re-arrested and brought back to Nigeria on June 26, 2021 and arraigned before the Federal High Court in Abuja on June 29, 2021.
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 the usually secretive police squad, Department of State Service (DSS), to allow them access to their client.
Justice Binta Nyako of the Federal High Court, Abuja, on June 29 ordered that Kanu be remanded in the custody of the Department of State Services until July 26 when the case would he heard.
Amidst speculations that Kanu was arrested in UK, Ethiopia, and Brazil, his younger brother, Mr Kingsley Kanu, on Wednesday night claimed 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.
“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.
“Foreign Secretary, Raab, must be clear. There will be consequences for those who resort to extraordinary rendition. The British Government must insist upon justice for Nnamdi Kanu,” he said.
Kenya’s High Commission in Abuja did not immediately comment but an official at the Foreign Affairs Ministry in Nairobi said the government will check whether he travelled to Kenya using different passport and names.
A spokesperson from the British High Commission in Nairobi too said the government was seeking information from Nigeria.
“We are seeking clarification about the circumstances of the arrest from the Nigerian government,” the spokesperson told The EastAfrican.
Nigeria’s Attorney General and Minister of Justice, Mr 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).
Kanu was first arrested on October 14, 2015 and taken to court to answer to, among others, charges of terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms and improper importation of goods.
A judge at the Federal High Court, Abuja, revoked Kanu’s bail that was granted him on health ground and issued a bench warrant for his arrest on the same date, over his failure to appear in court for hearing.
He has, upon jumping bail, been accused of engaging in subversive activities that include inciting violence against Nigeria and Nigerian State and institutions using television, radio and online broadcasts.
Kanu was also accused of instigating violence, especially in Southeastern Nigeria, that resulted in the loss of lives and property of civilians, military, paramilitary and police forces, and the destruction of civil institutions and symbols of authorities.
Kanu’s arrest is similar to that of high profile politician, the late Umaru Dikko.
In 1984, Mr Dikko was abducted in London and put in a crate for repatriation to Nigeria before an intelligence report prompted British police to detect the crate at the luggage compartment in a Nigerian Airways plane in Heathrow airport.
The politician was Minister of Transport in the Second Republic and had fled to the UK when then Gen Muhammadu Buhari overthrew civilian President Shehu Shagari.