The leader of a pro-Biafran group that wants to break away from Nigeria failed to show up in court on Tuesday as his treason trial resumed, a reporter said. Nnamdi Kanu has not been seen for several weeks and his lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, told the Federal High Court in Abuja his client was “in the custody of the (federal government)”.
The leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) group is facing a number of charges linked to his calls for a separate state for the Igbo people who dominate the southeast. He was first arrested in October 2015, stoking long-held grievances that have festered since a previous declaration of independence in 1967 sparked a bloody, 30-month civil war.
Kanu, who also runs the London-based Radio Biafra station, was released on bail in April this year on health grounds but under strict terms. The judge ordered him not to attend any rally, be in a crowd of more than 10 people or give any media interviews while on bail.
He was ordered to pay sureties totaling 300 million naira ($835,000, 710,000 euros) to ensure his attendance at trial. Ejiofor told reporters at the time they were “very sure we will fulfill the conditions for bail”. But since then, Kanu has rarely been out of the spotlight.
He said in an interview in May to mark the 50th anniversary of the declaration of independence that he was “more determined than ever” to secure a breakaway republic. He also called for “civil disobedience” until a referendum was granted on self-determination.
Kanu’s whereabouts have been the source of increasing speculation in recent weeks, after a military surge in his home city of Umuahia and the surrounding area. The IPOB leader’s younger brother, Prince Emmanuel Kanu, said the army attacked the family’s compound last month, killing 28.
The army has denied the claim and also that they were holding Kanu, as their tactics come in for criticism for fueling tensions in the restive region. “If anything happens to him (Kanu), the reactions are likely to be very violent in the southeast,” said security consultant Don Okereke.