The British Government on Friday refused to categorically accept or deny allegations that it assisted the leader of proscribed Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, with another passport after he escaped from Nigeria.
Kanu was first arrested in Nigeria on October 14, 2015, following campaigns for the Sovereign State of Biafra and arraigned for treason. He was granted bail in April 2017 but fled the country. The IPOB leader was rearrested last Sunday in an unnamed country and returned to court to continue his trial.
THISDAY, in a series of email exchanges with the British High Commission in Abuja, had requested clarifications on how the IPOB leader obtained a fresh British passport.
In the most recent email, THISDAY enquired: “We need some further clarification, please. Are you saying the British government did not assist Mr. Nnamdi Kanu in procuring a new British passport? The information we have is that after escaping from Nigeria through the land borders, the British government assisted him in procuring another passport in the High Commission of one of our neighbouring countries, knowing at the time he was a fugitive running away from justice in Nigeria.
“Do you categorically deny the British government involvement in this? In relation to (b), are you implying that since Mr. Kanu’s trial was not in a British court, you do not reckon with the Nigerian court which impounded his passports?”
In reaction, the High Commission said in order to respond to the question, it would need to send the email to “London” because “it does not specially relate to the British High Commission in Nigeria unlike the question you clarified yesterday and which we have answered.”
Dean Hurlock of the British High Commission, after referring the enquiry to “London”, sent the reply on Friday and it read: “We are seeking clarification about the circumstances of the arrest from the Nigerian government. Our policy on issuing passports to those who are entitled to them is clear and publicly available; we are not going to discuss any individual case.”
Of course, the reply did not address the issues raised by THISDAY. Kanu could not have obtained a new British passport without the approval of the British Government.
In the earlier email, THISDAY enquired from the British High Commission: “The specific allegation we want addressed is whether the British High Commission assisted Mr. Nnamdi Kanu, whose Nigerian and British passports had been impounded by an Abuja court, in jumping bail by issuing him another British passport which he used to travel out of Nigeria and had been using to travel until his re-arrest. How could Kanu have acquired another British travel document in Nigeria without processing it at your High Commission?”
Jonathan Bacon of the British High Commission replied saying the question refers explicitly to British High Commission and that his response earlier directly addressed this allegation: “We can confirm that the British High Commission in Nigeria did not issue any travel documents for Mr Kanu. We therefore reaffirm the categorical denial sent to you yesterday. Your question (b) referred to London, hence my reply yesterday at 17:23 to say that I needed to ask London for a view on the question, and that given the time the email was sent, I might not receive a reply until the morning.”
Charles Ajunwa in Lagos