Nigerian Separatist Leader Turns Up in Israel

(Bloomberg) -- The leader of a separatist movement in southeastern Nigeria who fled the West African nation where he’s facing trial for treason is in Israel, his lawyer said.

Nnamdi Kanu was last seen in public in September 2017 before troops raided his residence in the southeastern city of Umuahia. His Indigenous People of Biafra, or IPOB, is seeking independence for the mainly ethnic Igbo region. A failed attempt to declare independence in 1967 in the area led to a civil war that claimed the lives of more than a million people.

“Kanu is currently in Israel,” Ifeanyi Ejiofor, who is representing the accused in the treason trial, said by phone Monday from Abuja, the Nigerian capital. “He even made a broadcast from there yesterday.”

Ejiofor declined to give further details about how Kanu left Nigeria and why he is in Israel.

President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration declared IPOB a terrorist group days after Kanu disappeared. He skipped subsequent court dates for his treason trial and was not seen until he made an appearance at what seemed to be the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem in a Facebook live post Oct. 19. Then he spoke to his supporters on Sunday, saying he was evacuated to safety as troops raided his home and plans to return soon to Nigeria.

Call for Boycott

Kanu called his supporters on Oct. 21 to boycott Nigeria’s general elections scheduled for early next year, until there is a referendum on the status of Biafra, according to Malte Liewerscheidt, vice president of London-based risk advisory group Teneo Intelligence. This could negatively affect voter turnout, he said. “IPOB’s mobilizing potential should not be underestimated.”

Buhari, 75, who will seek a second term, will face the main opposition candidate and former vice president Atiku Abubakar, whose running mate Peter Obi is a former governor of Anambra state, in the heart of the Igbo region.

Police spokesman Jimoh Moshood didn’t answer calls to his mobile phone seeking comment.

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