Alhaji Mujahid Dokubo Asari, leader of the largest militant group in Nigeria's volatile oil-producing Niger Delta, was on Thursday arraigned for alleged attempt to topple the government.
Asari was arraigned before a high court in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, with 5-count charge of treasonable felony but he pleaded not guilty and the court ordered that he be remanded in custody till November 10.
Unrest caused by the arrest of Asari, who leads the banned Niger Delta People's Volunteers Force (NDPVF), hit the Niger Delta last month, resulting in the brief shut-down of two oil flowstations operated by US oil giant Chevron.
Nigerian police said Asari was arrested over "seditious and treasonable" comments in a newspaper interview, in which he vowed to "continue to fight and try to see that Nigeria dissolves and disintegrates."
On Thursday, security agents cordoned off the court premises in anticipation of the militant leader's followers, who came in thousands calling for his release. Lawyers, the staff of the court and reporters were subjected to thorough search.
When Asari was brought to the court, he put on white vest with inscription "Self Determination and Resource Control Any Means Necessary" in front and the picture of the late founder of the NDPVF, Isaac Adaka Boro, behind.
While in the court room, surrounded by a team of volunteer lawyers for his defense, the accused changed to another black vest of his militant NDPVF.
Inside the court, Asari was alleged to have conspired with others now at large to commit felony in the charge read to him.
Specifically, he was said to have planned to remove President Olusegun Obasanjo through "unconstitutional means" and have also conspired with his movement and other forces to take up arms against the government.
The 41-year-old accused was further said to have planned to form, manage and assist unlawful societies to levy war on the government or to subvert it.
Shortly after the charges were read and the accused had taken a plea of not guilty, his lawyers, led by Festus Keyamo, protested the "harsh and unfair treatment" meted out to the supporters of the militant leader.
Keyamo complained that they have just been served with a copy of the charge and that it did not contain the proof of evidence and the list of witnesses the prosecution intended to call.
The Niger Delta has a daily oil output of more than 2 million barrels, but locals have been living in poverty.
Although President Obasanjo has tried to change the situation by setting up the Niger Delta Development Commission, the impoverished local population are not happy about the slow pace of work.
Violence in this region leads to about 1,000 deaths per year and has a negative impact on world oil prices.