Nigerian separatist Kanu seeks talks on terror charges, lawyer says

Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) leader Nnamdi Kanu seen at the Federal high court Abuja, Nigeria

By Camillus Eboh

ABUJA (Reuters) - Separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu is willing to negotiate with the Nigerian government over his continued detention and trial on terrorism charges, his lawyer said on Wednesday.

Kanu, a British citizen who leads the banned Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement, was first arrested in 2015 but disappeared from Nigeria while on bail in 2017.

He was subsequently arrested in Kenya in 2021 and charged in Nigeria with seven counts of terrorism. Kanu has pleaded not guilty.

Alloy Ejimakor, Kanu's lawyer, presented the negotiation option in court during a trial on Wednesday, arguing that Nigerian law allows for an amicable resolution in such cases.

Judge Binta Murtala Nyako said negotiations were not part of formal court proceedings but did not prevent the parties from exploring that avenue.

"The duty of the court is to hear the matter that was brought before it and not to act as a solicitor for any of the parties. It is left for the parties to agree on the way they want the matter to go," Nyako said.

Prosecutor Adegboyega Awomolo, however, said he lacks the authority to negotiate without approval from Nigeria's Attorney-General, adding that such discussions would need to take place directly with the Attorney-General's office.

The Attorney-General's office didn't immediately return a request for comment.

Ejimakor's move to seek negotiations came after filing two motions: one seeking to hold a government official in contempt of court and another challenging the court's jurisdiction.

Ejimakor said if these motions are dismissed, he would pursue negotiations as outlined in Nigerian law.

Kanu, who has been held in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS), has been denied bail twice since he was re-arrested.

Kanu's IPOB campaigns for the secession of southeastern Nigeria where the majority belong to the Igbo ethnic group. Nigerian authorities have labelled IPOB a terrorist organisation.

(Writing by Elisha Bala-Gbogbo; Editing by Sharon Singleton)