Nnamdi Kanu, a British national who has lived in south London, had been wanted by Nigerian authorities since 2015, when he was charged with terrorism offences and incitement, after broadcasts aired on Radio Biafra, a digital station he founded and ran from his home in Peckham.
Nigeria’s attorney general, Abubakar Malami, said on Tuesday that Kanu had been extradited to the capital Abuja, after cooperation between Nigerian intelligence services and Interpol.
“He has been brought back to Nigeria in order to continue facing trial after disappearing while on bail,” Malami said. He accused Kanu of “engaging in subversive activities” and also alleged that Kanu was responsible for armed attacks.
Malami did not say where Kanu was extradited from, although British government officials have said he was not arrested in the UK. British MPs have in the past raised concerns for Kanu’s wellbeing while held in detention in Nigeria.
A lawyer for Kanu confirmed the arrest. “He was brought before the Federal High Court … today on an 11 count charge, though without our knowledge,” Ifeanyi Ejiofor said in a statement.
Kanu is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), a secessionist group which has been proscribed as a terrorist organisation in Nigeria. In recent months, police have blamed Ipob for a series of arson attacks and killings targeting police units and civil authorities across southern Nigeria.
Kano was first arrested in Nigeria in 2015, and was granted bail on medical grounds in 2017 before fleeing the country.
His prominence in Nigeria has soared in recent years, as secessionist sentiment for an independent country of Biafra in south-east Nigeria has seen a marked rise.
Secessionist sentiment was inflamed by the 2015 election of President Muhamadu Buhari who was a brigade major during the Biafra civil war, one of the darkest chapters in Nigerian history where an attempt to form an independent Biafran state was quelled.
Millions of people in south-east Nigeria died, many from starvation after a government blockade of the region prevented food supplies and humanitarian support.
Earlier this month, Twitter deleted a post by Buhari for violating its rules on abuse, after he referred to the civil war in a threat against armed Biafran groups.
“Those of us in the fields for 30 months, who went through the war, will treat them in the language they understand,” the president said, drawing mass condemnation.
In retaliation for the deletion, the government soon after banned Twitter in Nigeria.
The legacy of the war is still bitter. Authorities censor cultural depictions of the conflict and the war is not taught in most schools.
Since 2015, secessionist protests have met a brutal response by Nigerian security forces. More than 150 people were killed at pro-Biafra rallies between August 2015 and August 2016 according to Amnesty International.
Security operations in south-east Nigeria, a largely ethnically Igbo region, have received allegations of rights abuses against civilians. Armed attacks blamed on pro-Biafran groups have soared this year.
Since fleeing Nigeria, Kanu had been sighted in different countries including Israel.
His fierce monologues on Radio Biafra, taunting President Buhari, targeting ethnic groups and calling for armed uprising have drawn an international following – and also the ire of Nigerian authorities.
By Emmanuel Akinwotu