THE leader of the Indigenous People Of Biafra (IPOB) has pleaded not guilty to charges brought against him by the Nigerian Department of Secret Service (DSS). Recall, Nnamdi Kanu was abducted from Kenya in June and repatriated to Nigeria to face trial.
On Thursday at the Federal High Court Abuja was the first time Kanu has been seen in public since he was captured.
The IPOB leader/Radio Biafra Director was brought to face trial by heavily armed state security agents; lawyers, journalists and supporters were barred from entering into the court room.
Kanu is charged with terrorism, treason, involvement with a banned separatist movement, inciting public violence through radio broadcasts, and defamation of Nigerian authorities through broadcasts.
Kanu pleaded not guilty to those charges, after the court session his lead counsel, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, addressed the press and supporters that the dismissal of charges is being sought.
“We’re challenging the seven-count amended charge.” Ejiofor said. “Once the court hears it and rules in our favor, that’s the end of the case and he’ll walk out of court a free person.”
The presiding Judge Binta Nyako adjourned the trial to November 10 and denied the defence application for the transfer of Kanu to a correctional facility in Abuja, where he’d be more accessible, instead of the secret service custody.
The IPOB, led by Kanu, is a civil pro-Biafran group agitating for the right to self-determination from Nigeria.
The Nigerian government outlawed the activities of the group in 2017, accusing it of terrorism and seeking to cause disunity in the country.
But the IPOB continued to win supporters, especially in the southeastern region, where the movement is most active.
The IPOB has launched a security arm, the Eastern Security Network, ESN, which authorities blame for unrest in the region and the killing of more than 120 people this year.
The IPOB has denied the allegations. Public affairs analyst Abu Mohammed, a supporter of the separatist movement, said the Nigerian government’s failures are motivating separatists.
“Today they’re calling for another system of government that may not work and that is why people are agitating,” Mohammed said. “If we’re supposed to get to so-so place and we haven’t gotten there, definitely there should be separation for us to go because maybe we have our vision.”
Southeastern Nigeria was largely shut down on Thursday after the IPOB called for a “sit-at-home” strike to show solidarity with Kanu.■