Nigerian separatists demand 'justice' for detained leader

The charges against Nnamdi Kanu include 'terrorism'
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A group seeking a separate homeland for the ethnic Igbo people of Nigeria's southeast demanded 'justice and fair hearing' on Wednesday after their leader Nnamdi Kanu was detained.

The head of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) was arrested and brought back to Nigeria to face trial, the authorities announced Tuesday.

The 53-year-old had jumped bail in 2017 and disappeared, only to reappear in Israel and Britain. It was not immediately clear where he was arrested.

A spokesman at the British High Commission in Nigeria's capital Abuja said "Kanu was not arrested in the UK for extradition purposes."

Kanu faces charges "bordering on terrorism, treasonable felony, managing an unlawful society, publication of defamatory matter, illegal possession of firearms," Nigeria's justice minister Abubakar Malami said in a statement.

Kanu was arraigned in a federal high court on Tuesday and remanded in custody pending his trial in July.

IPOB, founded by Kanu in 2013, called on Wednesday for fairness for its leader.

"We remind the Nigeria government and her security agencies that our leader deserves justice and fair hearing," IPOB spokesman Emma Powerful said in a statement.

"We also want to state unequivocally, that no harm should befall our leader. Should anything untoward happen to him, Nigeria Government will be held accountable for it."

IPOB added that it would "not relent in the pursuit of Biafra freedom."

Calls for a separate state of Biafra are a sensitive subject in Nigeria, after a unilateral declaration of independence in 1967 sparked a brutal 30-month civil war.

More than one million people died, most of them Igbos, from the effects of conflict and disease.

In the region, many residents questioned by AFP predicted that that Kanu's detention would not douse the agitation.

"I can assure you that MNK's (Kanu's) arrest will not stop the struggle of Biafra," said Elder Kelechi Egmenogu.

Kenneth Okwudiri, a resident of Owerri, the capital of Imo state, said "God will continue to support our course to having our country."

"Personally I'm still with Kanu no matter the situation".

Another resident, Ogochukwu Emenogu, said that Kanu was being persecuted.

"What crime has Kanu committed that Sunday Igboho in the west did not commit?" she asked, referring to an activist demanding independence for the ethnic Yoruba people in southwest Nigeria.

IPOB has been accused of recent violence against security personnel and facilities in southeast Nigeria.

Some 130 security officials, mostly police, have been killed while dozens of electoral offices have been burnt and materials destroyed. The outlawed group has denied the charges.