Coalition condemns continued incarceration of activist-journalist Steven Kefas by Kaduna Government

Posted by News Express | 23 July 2019 | 1,021 times

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•Incarcerated activist journalist Steven Kefas

A coalition of civil rights groups has risen stoutly against the endless incarceration of Steven Kefas, a Kaduna based journalist and human rights activist by the State Government describing it as unjust, illegal, suppressive and a violation of his fundamental human rights.

The group in a statement declared, among others: “The continued incarceration of Kefas, who has committed his life to the exposure of injustice and mass killings that have decimated communities and wreaked monumental havoc on ethnic nationalities of the North and Southern Nigeria by terrorist foreign herdsmen, especially in Kajuru Local Government Area of Kaduna State, in our view is illegal and a deliberate ploy deployed by Governor El-Rufai to unleash terror on active voices opposed to his tyrannical disposition.

“We can no longer keep quiet in the face of galloping totalitarianism that is sweeping Kaduna State. To save the state from anti-democratic forces that are committed to keeping Kefas in detention, Nigerians and the international community, especially Amnesty International, should rise and beam its searchlight on the violation of fundamental human rights, including the detention of persons deemed as 'enemies' of Kaduna State Government.

“The denial of bail to Kefas by Justice Mairo Mohammed is a violation of his Fundamental Human Rights. We totally disagree with the judge over her reason in denying bail to Kefas. It is not heard anywhere in the world where persons under bail are restrained from social media postings. We want to know whether the bail conditions bar him from social media postings, apart from the matter under adjudication. Therefore, the grounds for refusing bail are not tenable.

“Kaduna State is becoming an axis of violent suppression of opposition voices and violation of individual liberties. This has been made possible through the courts under the cover of some farfetched laws to cover up the conspiratorial tyranny. We recall the detention of Adara elders who were set free after spending 100 days in prison remand without any proof to the alleged offence. Dr John Danfulani, a lecturer with Kaduna State University critical of the Kaduna State Government, not only lost his lecturing job but was detained for over two months also. Audu Maikori, a Southern Kaduna son resident in Lagos was arrested in Lagos and unjustly detained for a couple of days in Kaduna.

“The Paramount Ruler of the Kurama Chiefdom, Dr Ishaku Damina, who is a first-class monarch, was also detained for over two months without bail. He had handed over alleged kidnappers to the military who later disclosed that they shot the alleged kidnappers to death while attempting to flee detention. The paramount chief was later detained over criminal conspiracy in the killing, among other charges...

“Journalists and other media practitioners, including clerics, have also been guests to prison officials over their professional works. Among them was Luka Binniyat, then a reporter with Vanguard Newspaper. He spent 93 days before he was granted bail. In 2017, Kaduna State was voted by the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) as the “worst place to practice journalism in Nigeria” after unprecedented clampdown and imprisonment of its members.

“Clerics on humanitarian services and other humanists, moved by the needs and anguish of victims of killings in the state, have been invited by the Kaduna State Investigation Bureau (SIB) office on unfounded allegations just to intimidate them. Among them is Father Williams Kaura Abba who was instrumental in bringing succour to some victims of the Kajuru killings.

“All these are pointers that Kaduna State citizens are now faced with crippling tyranny that seeks to keep people silent in fear of perpetual detention.

“We call on Nigerians to brace up in the days ahead to confront this emergent tyranny associated with the culture of impunity that has been emboldened by judicial recklessness. We can no longer keep silent and give up our rights under the present democratic setting. The violation of anyone’s right is the violation of everybody’s rights.

“We call on Nigerians and other international bodies to rise up and stave off further violation of individual liberties, just as we call on Justice Mairo Mohammed to do the needful and grant bail to Kefas.”

The statement was by signed by Nze Ugo-Akpe Onwuka (Oyi II), International Coordinator of Citizens Against Tyranny; Abigail Kakiyes, Jostice4women; Rev. Frank Okechukwu, Country Director, Bridge-Builders International Network; and Mr Joshua Peter Akunji, National Youth Leader, Adara Youth Congress.

Others are Sunday Auta, Southern Kaduna Indigenous People’s Forum (SKIPFo); Fr Williams Kaura Abba, Convener, Coalition Against Kajuru Killings; and Comrade Deji Adeyanju, Convener, Concerned Nigerians.

The statement noted that “following refusal by Justice Mairo Mohammed of the Kaduna High Court 2, Bida Road, Kaduna, to grant bail to Mr Steven Kefas, who has at July 19, 2019, spent 59 days in detention, we wish to condemn the underhand dealings that have kept the accused for so long in prison remand.

“Kefas is being charged to court over a Facebook posting in which the Chairman of Kajuru Local Government Area, Mr Cafra Caino, alleges is injurious to his person and made him a scornful object among electorates.

“Activist Kefas was arrested in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on May 8, 2019, by operatives from the Kaduna State Police Command, following two petitions: one was by Aisha Dikko who was Governor Ahmad El-Rufai’s legal adviser and now the present State Commissioner of Justice. The other petition was from Cafra Caino.

“Kefas was accused of using social media to spread 'malicious falsehood' among others, with the intent to incite members of the public. He was granted bail by a magistrate court on May 13, 2019, and June 4 fixed for the commencement of his trial.

“In the terms of the bail, the court ruled that Kefas must not be invited or be re-arrested by the police on the matter, pending the disposal of the matter by the court. Despite the bail, he was re-arrested on May 21, and charged to another Magistrate Court on June 4, using Caino’s petition. He was later sent to prison remand, to await hearing on his bail. When the Magistrate Court was about to deliver the verdict on his ruling, the case was transferred to High Court 2, presided by Justice Mairo Mohammed,” the statement said.

It continued: “We have been reliably informed that despite efforts by Kefas’ lawyers to secure bail, Justice Mairo Mohammed reneged, claiming that the accused was engaged in social media posting within the period of the bail. She did not state if he violated the terms of his earlier bail or whether his alleged use of the social media was incriminating. Neither was any proof shown that he had used social media as alleged.  She has fixed September 26, 2019, as the date for commencement of the trial of Steven Kefas based on the allegations levelled against him.

“Considering the trauma Citizen Kefas has suffered, it is categorically clear that he is being persecuted and not prosecuted. As a citizen of Nigeria who is entitled to bail over the alleged offence, those opposed to free speech in the state are using the judiciary to further trample on his rights to bail.

“Consequent on the above, we note that there exists presently a culture of impunity and judicial recklessness that is ably encouraged by Governor El-Rufai, and arising from this unholy alliance between the governor and the judicial arm in the state, the courts have now been turned into an effective tool to silence opposition and punish rights-seeking activists and media practitioners in order to serve as deterrent to others.”



Source: News Express

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