A group of Netherlands-based lawyers has set Friday 29 January as the date they will file a complaint with the International Criminal Court (ICC) on alleged human right abuses committed by the Nigerian government against pro-Biafrans. Dutch lawyer and professor Göran Sluiter, from the Amsterdam-based law firm Prakken d'Oliveira, is to file the complaint.
Pro-Biafrans demand the independence of the Biafran territories forcibly annexed to modern-day Nigeria during British colonisation, which ended in 1960.
"To date, there is clear and consistent evidence that crimes against humanity within the jurisdiction of the ICC have been committed in the context of politically and ethnically-motivated state violence against, primarily, IPOB [Indigenous People of Biafra] members and the Igbo people of South-Eastern Nigeria," Prakken d'Oliveira said in a statement on Tuesday 19 January.
Sluiter, who specialises in international criminal law, told IBTimes UK earlier in January that his team interviewed dozens of people who had been victim of alleged abuses, including murder, unlawful imprisonment, torture and enforced disappearance.
Nnamdi Kanu's detention source of concern
In the latest developments, at least three pro-Biafran demonstrators are believed to have been killed in Abia state, southeastern Nigeria, during protests held by Ipob on 18 January.
Ipob announced the demonstrations a few days before a scheduled hearing on the bail application for Nnamdi Kanu – director of Radio Biafra and Ipob leader – arrested in Lagos by the State Security Service (DSS) last October. The hearing was however postponed to 20 January as the judge failed to appear in court.
Kanu, who has been accused of inciting hate during his broadcasts, was apprehended on conspiracy and terrorism charges that were later dropped. However, a day after the Abuja High Court ruled he should be released, officials pressed new treasonable felony charges against him.
During a media chat in December, President Muhammadu Buhari sparked outrage after stating that Kanu would not be freed in spite of the High Court rulings due to the "atrocities" allegedly committed.
"President Buhari, for his part, has publicly endorsed — and presumably ordered — the prolonged unlawful imprisonment, suggesting that the situation is far too politically sensitive to be entrusted to the court system," Prakken d'Oliveira said.
"Kanu and the many other victims of the Federal Government's anti-Igbo campaign have been specifically targeted for their actual or perceived support of Biafran self-determination. The right to publicly advocate and support political positions that may be disagreeable to the government of the day is protected by both Nigerian and international law."
IBTimes UK has contacted Buhari's spokesperson Femi Adesina for a comment on the allegations, but has not received a response at the time of publishing.
In a previous interview, Adesina told IBTimes UK: "The lawyers have a right to their opinions. It does not make what they say gospel truth. With regards to Nnamdi Kanu, the president already spoke on the matter during the Presidential Media Chat."
Pro-Biafrans' demands and government's position
Buhari's government has always mantained that Nigeria's unity is a priority for the country and that although peaceful pro-Biafran protests are welcome, demanding the breakaway of the Biafran territories is against the constitution.
Mike Omeri, a spokesperson for the Nigerian government, denied any wrongdoing by the leadership. He told IBTimes UK: "No, the Nigerian government is not committing abuses, we reject such allegations. The government of Nigerians say individuals have the right to demand for anything, but without acting to sabotage the nation.
"The government recognises the rights of the Igbo men, but it will not just watch these freedoms and rights being trampled upon by a few people," Omeri continued. "Nigeria has had a civil war. The government and 99% of the people in Nigeria do not think that we should have another one."
Former President Olusegun Obasanjo accused some people behind the protests of commercialising the Biafran cause as a way to extort money. He said during a conference in Abuja on 16 January: "There is even some suspicion that the agitators embarked on the act in order to extort money from outsiders and to also extract financial support from the government."
The former leader – who was an army commander during the civil war (1967-1970) spurred by the declaration of the Republic of Biafra, later re-annexed to Nigeria – also said Nigeria cannot afford to face another insurgency like the one carried out by Boko Haram terrorists in the north-east.
"Youth education, welfare, well-being, empowerment and employment for ever must be our collective duty, obligation and responsibility," Obasanjo said.