The wife of controversial Radio Biafra director Nnamdi Kanu has expressed concern over the prolonged detention of her husband, who she says "is a prisoner of conscience". Uchechi Okwu-Kanu told IBTimes UK she fears for her husband's well-being and alleged he is being tortured by the Nigerian state security service (DSS).
Okwu-Kanu said she had been able to speak with Kanu only once since he was arrested by the DSS as he travelled to Nigeria from London in October. She warned her husband's health is worsening as he is no longer able to take medicine for "his life-threatening ulcer".
Kanu is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob). Ipob and other pro-Biafran groups call for the independence of territories that constituted the Biafran Republic, established in 1967 and reannexed to Nigeria in 1970, following a civil war that claimed between one and three million lives. The Radio Biafra director was apprehended on charges of criminal conspiracy, intimidation and belonging to an unlawful society. He pleaded not guilty.
Okwu-Kanu defended her husband's struggle for independence and argued pro-Biafrans have the right to self-determination. She also urged the Nigerian government to release her husband and engage in dialogue rather than arresting people "who agitate for freedom".
Kanu was due to appear in court on 1 December but his lawyer Vincent Obetta said the hearing had been postponed as the judge's father had died and could not attend. Obetta and Kanu's sister, Princess Chinwe Kanu, also expressed concern over what they described as Kanu's "deteriorating health" after seeing him in court on 23 November.
IBTimes UK has contacted the DSS for a statement on allegations of torture but has not received a comment at the time of publishing.
Government's position on pro-Biafran movement
The Nigerian government told IBTimes UK that it does not consider the separatist movement a threat to the current leadership and defined pro-Biafrans as an "insignificant number of frustrated people who are not a threat to the existence of Nigeria".
Army spokesman Colonel Sani Usman told IBTimes UK: "The message to the Biafrans is clear: The army and police might use the Rules of Engagement on security operations to the fullest depending on the circumstances."
Amnesty International said in an exclusive report by IBTimes UK there was "credible evidence that pro-Biafranseparatists in Nigeria are targeted by police". However, the police denied these claims, arguing that pro-Biafrans hold violent rallies that disrupt peace.
Oleehkukyu Ali, a public relations officer for the police in Anambra state, told IBTimes UK the police have nothing against pro-Biafran groups as long as they behave in a peaceful way.
He said: "Our country provides freedom of association, speech and movement. But groups have to behave peacefully. Police in Anambra are operating a very open policy and leaders of groups should engage with us and let us know what they are doing so we are aware of protests."