Pro-Biafrans protest for Nnamdi Kanu release
A pro-Biafra supporter holds a poster of jailed activist Nnamdi Kanu in Aba AFP/Getty Images

At least four people are believed to have been killed in Anambra State during celebrations following a high court decision to release controversial director of Radio Biafra.

Thousands of people took to the streets of Onitsha, a town in Anambra, on 17 December after learning that charges against Nnamdi Kanu – arrested by the state security department (DSS) in Lagos in October – had been dropped.

While supporters of Kanu – who is the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) – were celebrating, the army allegedly used live bullets on the cheering crowd, some alleged. There are contrasting reports on the number of the alleged victims as local media say the death toll could be as high as 10.

Mazi Mmaduabuchi Anyagulu, a member of Ipob, told IBTimes UK: "Yesterday (17 December) four of our people, who were rejoicing for the release of our leader, were murdered by the Nigerian Army at the Onitsha Bridge Head. Thirteen were hospitalized at the Multicare Hospital.

"Last night around 10 pm, members of the Nigerian army invaded the hospital where they were being treated and took away those at the hospital. They were taken back to the military barracks in Onitsha."

Biafra protests
A pro-Biafran lies on the floor after being allegedly shot by the army Ipob

IBTimes UK has contacted the army and the defence spokespersons for a comment on the claims, but has not received a response at the time of publishing.

Amnesty International in Nigeria told IBTimes UK it was aware of the reports and was currently investigating. A spokesperson for the rights group said: "We are aware of local reports saying some people were killed. At the moment, we cannot confirm the death toll."

At least nine pro-Biafrans were believed to have been killed during a protest in Onitsha in which more than 20,000 people called for the release of Kanu earlier in December.

Ipob, the Movement for the Actualization of the Sovereign State of Biafra ( Massob) and other pro-Biafran groups hold regular marches across several states in south-eastern Nigeria calling for independence.

The Biafran territories were annexed to Nigeria during the British colonisation, ended in 1960. The Republic of Biafra was declared independent again in 1967 and reannexed to Nigeria in 1970, following a civil war that claimed between one and three million lives.

Kanu 'still with the DSS'

Kanu spent more than two moths in jail since he was apprehended in Lagos on charges of criminal conspiracy and belonging to an unlawful organisation.

The DSS refused to release him after the magistrates' court in Abuja granted him bail later that month. The DSS argued the conditions for bail were not met and obtained permission from the high court to detain Kanu for a further 90 days to investigate on alleged terrorism charges.

It later dropped the criminal charges but maintained the Biafran leader instigated terrorism. However, on 16 December the high court ruled the prolonged detention of Kanu was unlawful.

Although Kanu's family members and supporters reacted with relief, many expressed concern as the Radio Biafra director has not been seen since the ruling.

Kanu's wife, Uchechi Okwu-Kanu, told IBTimes UK: "He has been released unconditionally but he was not brought to court. What have they done with my husband? I will wait till he's been seen. I am only worried at the rate the DSS is evading his presence to the public. I am now putting in a motion to look into his state of health asap as his life is in danger."

Nigeria up close: Check out our Flipboard magazine