The leader of the proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, spoke at the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, denying the allegation that his fleeing the country in September 2017 amounts to him jumping bail.
He said he only escaped to safety after the military invaded his house.
Mr Kanu, who is being prosecuted on charges of treasonable felony, was re-arrested and returned to Nigeria on Sunday, the Attorney-General of the Federation and Minister of Justice, Abubakar Malami, said earlier on Tuesday.
The AGF said, at a press conference in his office in Abuja, that the IPOB leader was arrested through “collaborative efforts of Nigerian intelligence and security services.”
Although, Mr Kanu is believed to have fled to the United Kingdom, the AGF did not give the details of the exact place of his arrest and the diplomatic collaborations the operation must have involved.
The trial judge, Binta Nyako, ordered the detention of Mr Kanu in the custody of the State Security Service (SSS) at his first court appearance since 2017 on Tuesday.
The judge also granted an accelerated hearing in the trial involving charges of treasonable felony filed against him.
Mrs Nyako, in the light of her order of accelerated hearing, brought the case earlier scheduled to come up on October 20, forward to July 26 and 27, 2021.
‘I didn’t jump bail’
Earlier at Tuesday’s proceedings, the prosecuting counsel, Magaji Labaran moved an ex parte application urging the court to remand Mr Kanu in the SSS custody in Abuja.
He anchored his request on the grounds that the IPOB leader violated the conditions of the bail earlier granted him by the court.
After Mr Labaran’s submissions, Mr Kanu sought the trial judge’s permission to speak.
“I did not jump bail, My lord,” Mr Kanu said.
“I only went underground when the Nigerian armed forces raided my residence in Abia State, which led to the death of some people. So, I had to run for my safety,” Mr Kanu explained.
The judge went on to order him remanded in SSS custody and adjourned the trial till July 26.
The IPOB leader, who was earlier brought to court with a huge security presence on the premises of the Federal High Court in Abuja on Tuesday, was later whisked away through the rear exit gate of the court.
A horde of journalists and photographers scampered to catch a glimpse of him, but to no avail.
Mr Kanu, who was then better known as the Director of Radio Biafra, was first arrested in 2015 over his separatist agitations for the independent Republic of Biafra, which will have the Igbo-dominated states in the South-east region and some other neighbouring states carved out from Nigeria.
He was then the leader of the little known IPOB which started as a peaceful separatist group.
Following their arrest, Mr Kanu and his co-defendants were charged with offences of treasonable felony, unlawful possession of arms, and illegal importation of broadcast equipment, at the Federal High Court in Abuja.
The defendants including Mr Kanu denied the charges.
They were not granted bail until April 2017.
In September 2017, soldiers who were in the South-east region under a military operation code-named ‘Operation Python Dance II’ staged to quell violent separatist activities in the region, invaded Mr Kanu’s home, in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, Abia State.
The Nigerian government also obtained a court order on September 20, 2017, proscribing and designating IPOB a terrorist group.
Mr Kanu was no longer seen in the public space after the military attack on his home until months later, when his pictures showing him to be on a pilgrimage to Israel surfaced on the social media.
News also had it at the time that the IPOB leader, who is known to be a dual Nigerian and British citizen, was making moves to return to the United Kingdom.
Mr Kanu eventually returned to the U.K with the assistance of the British government, which stated at the time that it had yet to proscribe IPOB or recognise it as a terrorist group.
Since escape from Nigeria, Mr Kanu has been using the social media space to keep in touch with his followers who have multiplied in Nigeria over time.
Known for making incendiary statements against Nigeria through his posts and broadcasts on social media channels, Mr Kanu has instigated many attacks on state facilities and personnel and innocent citizens in the South-east region.
The Eastern Security Network (ESN), which he formed as a military wing of IPOB, has been accused by the Nigerian government of being responsible for many deadly attacks in the region. Many of the ESN members have also been arrested and killed.
IPOB initially started as an unarmed and peaceful group. Its members however became targets of violent attacks of state forces with many of them extrajudicially killed between 2015 and 2016,
While Kanu was abroad, the Federal High Court in Abuja, in March 2019, revoked the bail earlier granted him in April 2017.
The judge ordered his arrest, and the separation of his trial from that of his co-defendants.
While his trial has been stalled since 2017, that of his co-defendant has made progress.
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