Ifeanyi Ejiofor, one of the lawyers representing the pro-Biafran leader, told IBTimes UK: “The bail application was heard today [25 January]. The ruling on the application has been adjourned to 29 January. He [Kanu] has just gone back to prison”.
Kanu is the director of Radio Biafra and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob). He was arrested by the State Security Service (DSS) in Lagos in October 2015 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, while President Muhammadu Buhari said Kanu would not be granted bail due to the “atrocities” allegedly committed.
A senior advocate of Nigeria (SAN) representing Kanu urged the court to release the defendant, arguing that a Criminal Justice Act implemented in 2015 guarantees bail for people charged with non-capital offences, The Cable reported.
“The right to agitate is inherent in a democracy. People must not be denied of their rights to protest by way of being kept in custody,” Kanu’s lawyer argued. “If national security was a ground to throw people into detention the Criminal Justice Act would have said so.”
However, Mohammed Diri, counsel to the federal government, said he was opposed to Kanu’s release alleging the pro-Biafran leader could jump bail and flee the country as he has dual British and Nigerian citizenship.
“He sneaked into this country. He didn’t enter the country the proper way. He may sneak out,” the counsel said. “I urge this court to refuse this application and order for accelerated hearing.”
Earlier in January, the new judge appointed for the trial, Hon Justice John Tsoho, ruled that Kanu should no longer be in custody of the DSS and be transferred to the the Nigeria Prison Service in Kuje, about 40 km south-west of Abuja.
Pro-Biafrans’ demands and government’s position
Pro-Biafrans have been holding several marches calling for the independence of the Biafran territories, forcibly annexed to modern-day Nigeria during the British colonisation.
Protests have increased following Kanu’s arrest, amid allegations of police and army violence against unarmed protesters. According to recent reports, between three and 11 people were allegedly shot dead in Abia state.
President Muhammadu Buhari’s 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.
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”.