The trial of one of the leaders of a pro-Biafran movement accused of treason has failed to begin due to a motion filed by the defence. Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), is standing trial on six counts of treasonable felony charges along with Benjamin Madubgwu and James Nwawuisi.
The three defendants have been represented by lead counsel Chuks Muoma. However, during a hearing at the Federal High Court of Abuja on Monday 20 June, Muoma claimed a new lawyer had been introduced to represent Madubgwu without his knowledge.
Muoma described the unexpected change as an affront to him, declaring "my appearance in this case will be conditional", the Daily Post website reported. He also told the court to adjourn the trial to allow the new lawyer, Amobi Nzelo, to study the documents relating to the ongoing trial.
Judge James Tsoho adjourned the trial to 26 September. This is not the first time that Kanu and his co-defendants' trial has been adjourned, amid widespread criticism among Kanu's supporters.
Reports claimed that Kanu, also director of UK-based Radio Biafra, arrived in court on 20 June wearing a bracelet with the inscription 'I love Biafra'. The leader was arrested in Lagos in October 2015 on conspiracy and terrorism charges, which were later dropped.
His wife, Uchechi Okwu-Kanu, told IBTimes UK she was concerned following allegations her husband had been harassed in his cell. She also claimed her husband was a prisoner of conscience and urged the international community to intervene to free him.
Pro-Biafrans call for the independence of Biafran territories, forcibly annexed to modern-day Nigeria during British colonisation – which ended in 1960. A Biafran Republic was established in 1967 and re-annexed to Nigeria in 1970, following a bloody civil war that claimed millions of lives. However, calls for a breakaway have continued since.
The Nigerian government has always maintained that Nigeria's unity was a priority for the country and that although peaceful pro-Biafran protests were welcome, demanding the breakaway of the Biafran territories went against the constitution.