An ad hoc committee of the House of Representatives investigating communal clashes in Abia State has called for the release of the leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu, who is currently in the custody of the State Security Service (SSS).

The committee, chaired by Obinna Aguocha, is investigating banditry around Isiukwuato and Umunnochi Local Government Areas of Abia State.

Mr Aguocha, in his speech at the commencement of the hearing on Thursday, said the committee must navigate the complexity of insecurity in the South-east by tackling the root cause of the problem. He said the steps start with the unconditional release of Mr Kanu.

“For absolute peace, reduction of crime and criminality, investment in meaningful infrastructure development, ending the unproductive sit-at-home and improving economic growth and opportunities in the South-east, starts with the government’s recognition of the rule of law, justice, and equitable inclusion of the South-east zone in the project Nigeria and the unconditional release of Mazi Nnamdi Kanu from unlawful detention to ensure lasting peace and security in the entire region,” Mr Aguocha said.

The IPOB leader has been in and out of detention in Nigeria since 2015, the fallout of his run-in with the Nigerian government over his separatist campaigns.

He and IPOB, already designated as a terrorist organisation in Nigeria, are seeking the creation of an independent Biafra nation, comprising most of the areas of the old Eastern Region.

He was arrested in September 2015 and subsequently charged with treasonable felony for allegedly attempting to take up arms against the Nigerian state. The Federal High Court in Abuja granted him bail in 2017.

While he was on bail, the military invaded his country home in Afara-Ukwu, near Umuahia, the Abia State capital, in September 2017. He fled Nigeria in the wake of the military invasion.

He would later appear in Israel after a period of confusion about his whereabouts. After some time, he re-emerged in the UK, where he continued his incendiary Biafra secessionist campaigns through his social media channels, instigating violence in Nigeria’s South-east region.

Mr Kanu has been in detention in Nigeria following his arrest and repatriation from Kenya.

Speaking further, Mr Aguocha said the insecurity in the South-east is impeding development in the region, adding that it is beyond statistics or newspaper headlines.

“The challenges we face are not mere statistics or headlines; they are real-life manifestations that affect the lives of our people, disrupt the functioning of our institutions and communities, thus impeding the growth of our region,” he said.

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The lawmaker said there is a cross-border element to the communal clashes in the state because Abia State shares boundaries with four other states.

“The cross-border dynamics of the primary focus areas bring additional complexity to the challenges of the task ahead. The common borders, shared with four other states connect the primary focus areas to Ebonyi State via Isiagu, Enugu State via Agwu, Imo states via Okigwe and Anambra via Awka,” he said.

“The opportunity for interstate collaboration presents itself and must be explored to foster regional participation.”

The committee subsequently went into a closed-door session with the Abia State Commissioner of Police, Kenechukwu OnOnwumelie.

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