Lawyers of a British-Nigerian secessionist leader currently detained in Nigeria have called on the UK government to intervene to stop alleged attempts by the Nigerian government "to subvert the course of justice". Nnamdi Kanu is one of the leaders of a movement demanding the independence of the Biafran territories forcibly annexed to Nigeria during British colonisation, which ended in 1960.
Kanu, director of Radio Biafra and head of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), was arrested in Lagos in October 2015 on conspiracy and terrorism charges, which were later dropped. He is now standing trial on six counts of treasonable felony charges.
Ifeanyi Ejiofor, one of the lawyers representing Kanu, wrote a letter to the British High Commission in Abuja, capital of Nigeria, calling for help. In the letter, seen by IBTimes UK, Ejiofor alleged, among other things, that the defence team is denied access to materials and facilities relevant to the case, including copies of rulings delivered in February and March.
"On the face of this frustration, the defence is confronted with apparent dilemma in offering our client the best legal services he deserved, in the defence of these bogus charges preferred against him," he wrote.
Referring to a December 2015 presidential media chat in which Nigeria's President Muhammadu Buhari said Kanu would not be released amid fears he could jump bail and flee to the UK, Ejiofor said: "Our reservations on the president's comment was underpinned by the findings made in the ruling delivered on 29th February 2016, by Hon Justice John Tsoho, wherein Our Client and the two other Defendants were denied bail.
"It is apposite in the circumstance to remind the British Government, that judges of the Federal High Court of Nigeria are appointed by the president of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in line with the provisions of Section 250(2) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as Amended 2011," the letter continued.
"We are therefore constrained in the circumstance, to formally notify the British Government vide [via] this medium, of our well informed reservations, and apprehension, that Our Client is undergoing persecution in the charge above referred, and deliberate design by the persecutors to frustrate every effort of the Defence team aimed at giving Our Client a fair trial."
The British High Commisson is yet to reply to Ejiofor's letter yet. Responding to a freedom of information request, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) told IBTimes UK: "The British government only provides consular assistance to dual nationals in the country of their other nationality in exceptional circumstances. If the High Commission is approached for consular assistance by a British National in Nigeria who also holds a Nigerian passport, the level of support that could be offered in their case would be discussed with the individual concerned."
The FCO added British officials visited Kanu in prison on 2 and 17 November 2015, bur refused to disclose further details in order not to breach data protection principles.
Pro-Biafrans 'have not read Nigeria's history'
A Biafran Republic was established in 1967 and re-annexed to Nigeria in 1970, following a civil war that claimed between one and three million lives. The Nigerian government has always maintained 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.
Garba Shehu, presidential media aide, told the New Telegraph that those who support the secession of Biafra "have not read Nigeria's history". He said: "Remember that this country fought a civil war for 30 months in which one million people were killed. The issue of Biafra was settled at the end of that civil war, what is there again? It is people who haven't read Nigerian history and don't know about it that are trying to raise new dust. Biafra is for the dismemberment of the Federal Republic of Nigeria which is already a settled entity. "
Shehu also rejected allegations that Buhari went against court rulings granting bail for Kanu and former security chief Sambo Dasuki, arrested on corruption and fraud charges. "I must say [Buhari] has the highest regard for the rule of law. President Buhari is the best friend of the rule of law and due process this country has seen so far," he said.