Kanu, Igboho: End to agitations in sight?

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The leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Mazi
Nnamdi Kanu and Yoruba activist, Sunday Igboho, are presently facing
prosecution from the federal government over various offences
bordering on treason, incitement, among others. With both standing
trial in different courts, PAUL OKAH wonders if their prosecution will
put an end to agitations by various groups for secession.

Since independence, Nigeria has faced agitations from different ethnic
groups under different governments, including the Movement for the
Emancipation of the Niger Delta (MEND), Afenifere, Movement for the
Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Movement for
the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOB), Niger Delta Avengers,
Pan-Niger Delta Forum (PANDEF), Arewa Consultative Forum (ACF), Niger
Delta Volunteer Force, the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Odudwa
People’s Congress, Miyetti Allah/MACBAN, among others.

In fact, the peak of the agitations is the 30-month civil war from
1967 to 1970, which was as a result of the Maj.-Gen. Odumegwu
Ojukwu-led South-east trying to secede from Nigeria over alleged
massacre or pogrom carried out on Igbo people living in the North and
the “police action” taken by the Gen. Yakubu Gowon-led military
government, at the backdrop of the January 15, 1966 coup d’etat,
resulting in the deaths of over three million people.

Enter Nnamdi Kanu

Mazi Nnamdi Kanu was a relatively obscure figure until 2009 when he
began his activism for the freedom of Biafra, as a Radio Biafra
director and anchor of Biafra awareness under the leader of MASSOB,
Chief Ralph Uwazuruike, and founded IPOB in 2014, “to restore the
separatist state of Biafra that existed in Nigeria’s eastern region
during the Nigerian Civil War.”

However, he was arrested by the Department of State Services (DSS) on
treason charges in Lagos, on October 14, 2015, and was detained for
more than a year. On April 28, 2017, he was released from prison on

After jumping bail and fleeing abroad, in December last year, Kanu
announced that IPOB had organised the Eastern Security Network (ESN),
which was supposed to defend the Southeasterners from bandits and
Fulani herders, but played a major part in the insurgency in the
region. Despite this, he insisted that IPOB was interested in a
non-violent solution of the conflict and that ESN was supposed to
fight bandits, not the Nigerian security forces. Regardless, Nigerian
authorities designated IPOB as terrorist organization and claimed that
Kanu was inciting violence.

On June 27, 2021, Kanu was arrested in Kenya by Interpol, brought to
Nigeria and detained by the DSS before he was arraigned on June 29. At
his trial, he told the presiding judge that the Nigerian military
forced him to flee the country in 2017, after the invasion of his home
in Abia state and killing of IPOB members.

However, on Monday, July 26, though the DSS failed to produce him at
the Federal High Court in Abuja “for logistics reasons,” Justice Binta
Nyako, in her ruling, turned down the application by Kanu’s lawyer,
for his client to be moved to Kuje Correctional Service Centre from
DSS’ custody and stipulated October 21 for continuation of his trial.

Igboho’s grouse

On the part of Yoruba Nation agitator, Sunday Adeyemo, popularly known
as Sunday Igboho, the activities of killer Fulani herdsmen in the
South-west should not be tolerated; hence his constantly leading of
protest and even invasion of bushes in to flush them out.

Several audacious protests and utterances in Ekiti, Ondo, Osun, Oyo,
Ogun attracted the attention of the state, federal governments and
other concerned authorities, with Igboho, like Nnamdi Kanu, basking in
the euphoria of encouragement of supporters to continue protesting the
activities of herdsmen in the South-west and demanding for the
emancipation of the Yoruba Nation from Nigeria.

However, on July 1, a few hours to Igboho’s planned protest in Lagos,
the DSS raided his house in Soko area of Ibadan, Oyo state, arrested
13 of his associates with incriminating objects (who are currently
undergoing trial), allegedly killed two, while Igboho escaped and was
declared wanted. He was arrested in Cotonou, Benin Republic, en route
Germany on July 19, where he is presently facing trial on different

Speaking with reporters Tuesday, his Benin-based lead counsel, Ibrahim
Salami, a professor of law, said Igboho, who has been transferred to a
new detention facility in Cotonou, Benin Republic as, after Monday’s
hearing, the activist’s trial took a new twist. He noted that new
charges had been filed against him, including illegal migration,
dubious connivance with immigration officers and an attempt to cause
civil unrest.

He said: “We are now nine lawyers on this case in Benin Republic,
among whom only three of us can speak Yoruba. There is no adjournment
date. There are now new charges. The lawyers will now go and apply for
his bail and get a date for the hearing. We will now defend him
against the fresh charges. Also, there is no day for judgement on the
old charges.

“We were first surprised, because it was like magic. We went to court
for a reason and we were confronted with fresh charges after sailing
through two stages on the initial allegations. It’s surprising that
was done. Igboho only passed through Benin Republic, while heading for
Germany. He didn’t spend up to a day in Benin. We do not think that is
rational. One of the fresh charges against him is a criminal case. It
is a big offence. It will require a senior judge to adjudicate. It is
a serious crime here in Benin Republic.

“I urge his family and supporters to be patient and prayerful. They
should support him with prayers. When they attacked his house in
Nigeria, he jumped from the top of a building. His ribs were hurt. He
was severely injured. In fact, he could not stand before the judge. He
sat to address the judge. He needs freedom for medical attention.
Those of us that are his lawyers are making a stringent effort.”

He added, “Between God and man, Nigeria has not sent anyone. No one
represented Nigeria. No representative requested that Sunday should be
charged. We also did not see any correspondence or request by Nigeria
that he should be extradited. But we are surprised that a case that
was initially linked to Nigeria has now become a Benin case. No
judgement has been given. He has only been remanded for further probe
over his alleged infractions in Benin.

“When we realised that Nigeria did not ask for his extradition, we
worked to save him from being detained. The court did not give any
ultimatum to Nigeria to file extradition charges. Nothing like that
came up. Our law does not permit giving any 20-day ultimatum.”

Way forward

In an interview with this reporter, a public affairs analyst, Peter
Adekunle, said agitations are permitted in international laws and
advised the federal government to look into curbing the issue of
unemployment, insecurity, injustice and other reasons cited by
different ethnic groups as reason for protesting or seeking secession.

He said: “In different countries of the world, groups and
organisations arise to demand separate things from government, which
is permitted in international laws. Whether in Western or third world
countries, you would see regions and groups demanding for secession or
autonomy, hence countries being created out of other countries with or
without bloodshed.

“In Nigeria, the story of the Nigeria-Biafra war will be told by
historians and generations to come, apart from the Ken Saro-wiwa
protest. The protests by Nnamdi Kanu for the Igbo and Sunday Igboho
for the Yoruba are just few of other modern day agitations and many
will expectedly come in coming years or decades as even minority
tribes in Nigeria are also not happy with many things happening in the
political space.

“However, I will never be surprised by actions taken by the federal
government to keep this nation united and peaceful. No government will
stand and watch the formation of other illegal governments under it,
especially when it comes with the shedding of innocent blood. That’s
why certain actors are charged for treason, prosecuted or persecuted
until freed by law courts.

“Nevertheless, I will advise the federal government of Nigeria to look
into the issue of unemployment, poverty, insecurity and injustice and
these are some of the remote and immediate causes or reasons for the
agitations and dissenting voices from different ethnic groups across
the country. You cannot beat a child and then tell him not to cry.”

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