Arrested Biafra separatist’s family accuse Raab of ‘unlawful failure’

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The family of a British national said to have been arrested in Kenya and taken to Nigeria in an act of extraordinary rendition has accused the UK government of abandoning him to illegal detention and risk of torture.

Nnamdi Kanu, the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob) – a prominent separatist movement proscribed in Nigeria – fled the country in 2017 while on bail after soldiers attacked his family home in Abia.

Last month, Nigeria’s attorney general said Kanu, a father of two, had been extradited to the country’s capital city, Abuja, with assistance from Interpol. Kanu entered Kenya this year on his British passport, on a visa expiring in June.

His wife, Uchechi Okwu-Kanu, and brother, Kingsley Kanu, are threatening judicial review against the foreign secretary, Dominic Raab, over an alleged “unlawful failure” to provide consular assistance. Although the government has requested access to Kanu, his family said it must act with urgency, claiming his life is at risk.

His wife said: “Until they have access to my husband and are able to talk to him, the FCDO [Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office] is not doing enough. My husband was abducted in Nairobi on 18 June, he re-emerged on 29 June in Abuja – for 10 days he was disappeared. He is the victim of extraordinary rendition; he is detained in the state security services building, as far as we know, he is held incommunicado.

“His application to be transferred to a regular prison has been denied; everything about my husband’s incarceration screams torture. My husband is British, his children are British. The foreign secretary should be on the phone to his counterpart in Nigeria and refuse to get off the call until the Nigerian government grants the British high commission immediate access to my husband. If that fails, Boris Johnson needs to call President Buhari.”

She said her last contact with her husband was on 18 June, when her five-year-old son sent him a Father’s Day card, and Kanu said he would call after some meetings but never did. “He’s upset that he hasn’t heard from his dad and he does not understand,” she said of their youngest son.

In 2015, Kanu was arrested in Nigeria and charged with terrorism offences and incitement, after airing broadcasts on a digital radio station, Radio Biafra, which he founded at his home in London. He was released on bail in 2017 and fled the country after an attack on his family home, which he claimed killed 28 members of Ipob.

His wife said his only “so-called crime” is to demand a referendum on Biafran self-determination. “Only the British government can prevent him from being subjected to further harm,” she said. “My family’s future happiness rests with Dominic Raab. He can end all of this in an instant. He can stop my nightmare.”

Supporters of Kanu were arrested outside the Abuja high court on Monday. A judicial review pre-action letter, prepared by lawyers at Bindmans LLP, said the Ipob leader formerly held Nigerian citizenship but renounced it in 2015 and in response his Nigerian passport was taken away from him.

The letter said Kanu told his Nigerian lawyers that he was tortured by the Kenyan authorities prior to his transfer to Nigeria, adding: “There are ongoing concerns that he is currently being tortured in detention in Nigeria. Similar actions by the Nigerian authorities against pro-Biafra activists have been widely reported and condemned by international human rights NGOs as well as the United Nations.”

His family also said he is being denied treatment for a heart condition.

Related: Buried for 50 years: Britain’s shameful role in the Biafran war | Frederick Forsyth

His brother Kingsley accused Britain of being affected by its “mistakes” during the 1967-70 Biafran war when it covertly armed the Nigerian military dictatorship and millions died after an attempted secession.

“That is the real issue,” he said. “Nnamdi Kanu is a symbol of self-determination, Nnamdi is the face of Biafra.”

Both Nigerian and Kenyan authorities have denied that Kenya was involved in the arrest. However, NGOs have implicated Kenya in extraordinary renditions and enforced disappearances in the past.

An FCDO spokesperson said: “We are in contact with the Nigerian authorities after the detention of a British national.

“We have requested consular access as soon as possible and remain in contact with the family and legal representatives.”

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