Nigerian Igbo Jewish leader arrested with Israeli visitors freed

Written by on August 9, 2021

A leader of Nigeria’s black Jewish community, jailed for a month without charge after being arrested with three visitors from Israel, has been freed.

Authorities suspected the visitors had links with a separatist group which had hailed their arrival in Nigeria.

Lizben Agha, from the Igbo ethnic group, was released after appeals, including from another African country.

Practising Jews form a tiny fraction of the Igbo population, one of the largest groups in multi-ethnic Nigeria.

Mrs Agha had been providing assistance to the trio, who came to her community in Ogidi to film part of a documentary.

According to her son Emmanuel, Mrs Agha and her husband Peniel were taken at gunpoint by security forces from their home late at night on 9 July. He says they were driven to the hotel where the visitors, who have dual Israeli-US or Israeli-French citizenship, were staying and where they too were taken into custody.

Emmanuel says his mother and father were released but his mother was then arrested after pleading to go with her guests to act as a mediator.

Mrs Agha was driven to the headquarters of the Department of State Services (DSS) in the capital, Abuja, where all four were held.

The men say their interrogators suspected they had ties to an insurgent movement known as the Indigenous People of Biafra (Ipob), considered a terrorist group by Nigeria. Ipob seeks to recreate a short-lived independent state of Biafra in the south-east of the country.

Its leader Nnamdi Kanu claims that the Igbo people as a whole are descended from the Biblical Israelites and describes himself as a follower of Judaism, something dismissed as a façade by mainstream Igbo Jews.


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