Three Israelis shooting a documentary in a separatist region in Southeast Nigeria were arrested last week, the Foreign Ministry has confirmed.
According to Times Of Israel, Nigerian authorities arrested and interrogated the trio on suspicion that they had come into contact with ‘Biafran separatists.’ According to the Foreign Ministry, the Israeli Embassy in Abuja is following the case closely and is in contact with Nigerian authorities.
One of the Israelis arrested is Rudy Rochman, a Zionist activist with almost 95,000 followers on Instagram. Making the flight with him were filmmaker Noam Leibman and French-Israeli journalist E. David Benaym.
The Israelis were in Nigeria to film “We Were Never Lost,” a documentary exploring Jewish communities in African countries such as Kenya, Madagascar, Uganda, and Nigeria.
They took off from Ben Gurion Airport on July 5 and landed in Nigeria the next day.
According to residents, the crew was detained at a synagogue during Friday night services in the Igbo village of Ogidi by Nigeria’s secret police, the Department of State Services (DSS) and taken to Abuja. Ogidi is the headquarters of Idemili North Local Government Area, Anambra State.
The filmmakers were aware of the political sensitivity surrounding the filming of the Igbo community. Last Thursday, the “We Were Never Lost” Facebook page stressed: “We do not take any position on political movements as we are not here as politicians nor as a part of any governmental delegations.”
Last week, the group met with Igbo leader, Eze Chukwuemeka Eri, and presented him with a framed Shiviti made in Jerusalem.
Rochman also presented another Igbo community with a Torah scroll whose cover was designed by British-Israeli street artist Solomon Souza.
The Igbo consider themselves a lost tribe of Israel. In January, a conflict broke out in southeastern Nigeria between Nigerian forces and the military wing of the Indigenous People of Biafra (IPOB) movement. The fight is ongoing.
A previous unilateral declaration of independence by the Igbo people in 1967 sparked a brutal 30-month civil war that left more than a million dead.
In 2018, IPOB leader Nnamdi Kanu gave a radio broadcast saying he was in Israel and indicating he owed his survival to the Jewish state. Kanu, a former London estate agent, heads IPOB and the outlawed pirate radio station Radio Biafra.
He maintains the Igbo people, who are in the majority in southeast Nigeria, are a lost tribe of Israel and it is his mission to lead them to the promised land of Biafra.
The Nigerian government, on June 21, announced Kanu’s arrest and extradition to Nigeria to continue facing trial. He was subsequently arraigned before Binta Nyako, a Judge of the Federal High Court in Abuja.
Kanu is facing charges bordering on treasonable felony instituted against him at the court in response to years of the campaign for the independent Republic of Biafra through IPOB.
He was granted bail in April 2017 for health reasons but skipped bail after disregarding some of the conditions given to him by the court.