The incarcerated leader of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB), Nnamdi Kanu could be stripped of his British citizenship without warning under a proposed rule change quietly added to the UK nationality and borders bill.
Separatist leader Nnamdi Kanu who was recently re-arraigned at a federal high court in Abuja on charges bordering on treasonable felony and terrorism could in a twist of events lose his British citizenship.
In June, Kanu who pleaded not guilty to the charges, was arrested abroad and brought to Nigeria after he jumped bail and fled to the UK in 2017. Kanu has been in the custody of the Department of State Services (DSS) since his arrest.
Kanu was first arrested in 2015, but disappeared while on bail in April 2017. Security agents produced him in court in Abuja on June 29 after detaining him in an undisclosed country.
Kanu was born in Isiama Afara Ukwu in Umuahia, Abia State. He attended Library Avenue Primary School and Government College Umuahia for his secondary education before studying at University of Nigeria, Nsukka and moved to the UK before graduating. He thereafter became a British citizen under The British nationality act.
Section 40(2) of the act provides that the UK secretary of state can “deprive a person of a citizenship status if the Secretary of State is satisfied that deprivation is conducive to the public good”.
Besides this section of the legislation, a new clause has been added to UK nationality and borders bill which allows the UK Home Office to act retrospectively in some cases and gives the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, unprecedented power to remove citizenship.
UK Home Office powers to strip British nationals of their citizenship were introduced after the 2005 London bombings but their use increased under Theresa May’s tenure as home secretary from 2010, and they were broadened in 2014.
The newly added Clause 9 states that “Notice of decision to deprive a person of citizenship” – of the bill, which was updated earlier this month, exempts the government from having to give notice if it is not “reasonably practicable” to do so, or in the interests of national security, diplomatic relations or otherwise in the public interest.
A lot more persons have also been stripped of their British nationality and banned from returning to the UK, most of them suspected terrorists. A particularly notable case was that of Shamima Begum, who left the UK in 2015 to join the Islamic State group in Syria as a 15-year-old.
In February 2021, the supreme court upheld the decision of Sajid Javid, then home secretary, to revoke Begum’s citizenship later in 2019.
The requirement to give notice had already been weakened in 2018, allowing the Home Office to serve notice by putting a copy of it on a person’s file – but only in cases where their whereabouts were unknown.
The new clause would remove the need for notification altogether in a range of circumstances. It would also appear to be capable of being applied retrospectively to cases where an individual was stripped of citizenship without notice before the clause became law, raising questions about their ability to appeal.
The Home Office said: “British citizenship is a privilege, not a right. Deprivation of citizenship on conducive grounds is rightly reserved for those who pose a threat to the UK or whose conduct involves very high harm. The nationality and borders bill will amend the law so citizenship can be deprived where it is not practicable to give notice, for example if there is no way of communicating with the person.”Nigeria is the UK’s 46th largest trading partner, currently accounting for 0.3% of total UK trade in 2020, according to the UK Department of International Trade.
The British High Commission in Abuja confirmed that the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office stands ready to provide “consular” assistance to Nnamdi Kanu in his ongoing trial.
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