Nnamdi Kanu's Wife Opens up About Nigeria 'Home Raid' As Pro-Biafra Leader Still Missing

The wife of a British-Nigerian separatist leader has expressed concern over the fate of her husband, who has been missing since last September, amid fears his life could be in danger.

Nnamdi Kanu, leader of the the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) and director of U.K.-based Radio Biafra, was arrested in Nigeria's Lagos city in 2015, and is standing trial on treasonable felony charges.

Kanu's trial resumed on February 20, but he failed to appear in court, with the prosecution saying his prolonged absence was "frustrating" the case.

The separatist leader, who lived in the U.K. before his arrest, was released on health grounds last April, but went missing five months later. His family maintains his house in Nigeria was raided by security forces and the man is being held in government custody. Authorities deny Kanu's home was raided.

"[Kanu] is either alive and injured in the custody of the military or dead," Kanu's wife, Uchechi Okwu-Kanu, told Newsweek.

"The last time I spoke with him was on the day of the shooting, on September 14," she said, referring to when Kanu's house was allegedly raided last year.

"He rang to tell me what was happening. It was as if they were at war. The shootings were sporadic and lives were lost. Has anybody analysed the impact of those shootings? Those lost are not being asked about. Lives mean nothing to these people," she continued.

Nnamdi Kanu
Pro-Biafran leader Nnamdi Kanu with his wife Uchechi. Kanu, leader of the the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) and director of U.K.-based Radio Biafra, was arrested in Nigeria's Lagos city in 2015 and is standing trial on treasonable felony charges. He has been missing since September 2017. Uchechi Okwu-Kanu / Facebook

Judge Binta Nyako ruled on Feruary 20 that the trial of Kanu's three co-defendants will continue separately in March.

Kanu's lawyer, Ifeanyi Ejiofor, said three people who stand surety for his client will appear in court on March 28 to explain why he failed to answer his bail.

"[The government] should be in a better position to explain to court where he is," Ejiofor told reporters outside court, according to AFP.

"That is the fact which the sureties are coming to present to the court. Nnamdi Kanu never jumped bail and at no point has he indicated interest of not coming to face his trial."

Ejiofor previously told Newsweek he last spoke with his client on September 13 and he did not know whether Kanu "was dead or alive".

Okwu-Kanu said: "The trial is supposed to be postponed pending when they determine the status of my husband.

"On the other hand, the court needs to see the evidence, which is in abundance, that our home was invaded. The Nigerian government and military are also evading the charge against them regarding this heinous act."

Kanu went missing days after the Nigerian government declared Ipob—which calls for the independence of Biafran territories that were forcibly annexed to Nigeria during British colonization— a terrorist organization. Both the U.S and the E.U. rejected such designation.

An investigation by the Sunday Punch claimed that Kanu and other members of his organization were advised to go into hiding following the government's decision to proscribe Ipob activities.

"We have to apply wisdom to whatever we are doing. We have realized that there is a grand conspiracy against Kanu and other top leaders of our group," an unnamed source was quoted as saying.

Independence calls

Nnamdi Kanu
Political activist and leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, Nnamdi Kanu, wears a Jewish prayer shawl as he walks in his garden at his house in Umuahia, southeast Nigeria, on May 26, 2017, before meeting veterans of the Nigerian civil war, whose 50th anniversary was commemorated on May 30, 2017. Kanu is standing trial on treasonable felony charges. He was released on bail in April 2017, but went missing in September. MARCO LONGARI/AFP/Getty Images

The so-called Biafran territories lie in southeastern Nigeria and are inhabited mainly by the Igbo, one of the country's largest ethnic groups. An Independent Republic of Biafra was declared in 1967 and re-annexed to Nigeria in 1970, after three years of civil war.

During the war, one of the bloodiest in Africa, the Nigerian government fought the separatists and imposed strict blockades on food and medicines in Biafra. It attacked hospitals and facilities run by humanitarian organizations.

Independence calls have gained renewed momentum following Kanu's arrest, with people calling for an end to perceived disenfranchisement. Independentists accuse the federal government of not investing in infrastructure and education and neglecting the Igbo people.

Protests and rallies calling for a breakaway from Nigeria have resulted in deadly clashes and a crackdown by security forces.

Rights group Amnesty International has released reports alleging abuses against pro-Biafra supporters, claiming security forces had killed at least 150 people "and injured hundreds more during peaceful assemblies" since August 2015.

On one occasion, security forces allegedly "gunned down" 60 people who were holding demonstrations to mark the 50th Anniversary of the end of the Biafra War on May 30, 2016.

The army denied the allegations, claiming it intervened to prevent "ethnic clashes" and accused Amnesty of trying to tarnish its image.

The Nigerian government has always maintained the country's unity was a priority and that while peaceful pro-Biafran protests were welcome, demanding the breakaway of the Biafran territories went against the constitution.