October 7, 2019

HURIWA demands release of Kaduna journalist, Kefas


…..…Asks NJC to probe his 130 days in prison without bail

By Chris Ochayi, Benue

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, has called on the National Judicial Council, NJC, to investigate why a Kaduna-born journalist and social activist, Mr. Steven Kefas would be detained for 139 days in prison without bail.

The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA

HURIWA said Kefas was clamped into Kaduna Prison without bail for criticizing Governor Nasir Ahmed el-Rufai of Kaduna state over devastations of Southern Kaduna communities and mindless murders of peaceful citizens by rampaging herdsmen, among others.

National Coordinator of HURIWA, Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko, while addressing newsmen said the NJC must probe how a Nigerian citizen could face such indefinite prison detention over a spurious allegation that attracts simpler bail conditions.

He also called on all people of conscience should join in calling Justice Mairo Mohammed to grant Kefas bail to allow for a dispassionate dispensation of justice.

Onwubiko recalled that “On the 8th May 2019, Kefas was arrested in Port Harcourt, Rivers state, in a mafioso-style operation by a combined team of policemen from Kaduna.

“He was initially detained in Minikoro Police Area Command in Port Harcourt, from where he was driven to Kaduna and detained by the Kaduna State Investigation Bureau (KSIB).

“On the 13th of May, 2019, Kefas was arraigned before Magistrate Court 11 where he was told that his arraignment were based on two petitions.

“One of the petitions emanated from the Office of the Special Adviser to Governor Nasir el-Rufai on Legal Matters, Aisha Dikko (now the current Commissioner of Justice), dated 21st March.

“In the petition, Kefas had on his twitter handle, @realKefason, made disparaging remarks against Governor el-Rufai which the Kaduna State Government deemed were capable of inciting public disturbance in the state.

“The second petition was from Cafra Caino, dated 24th April 2019, in which he accused Kefas of disparaging his name to the extent that he had become a subject of public odium in his LGA.

When the charges were read to him, Kefas pleaded not guilty.  Despite argument against his bail by the prosecution team, led by Barr. Bayero, the Magistrate granted Kefas bail with two sureties.

“He was subsequently set free and the Magistrate warned the police not to arrest him on the same issues again. But in flagrant disregard to the ruling of the court, the sureties of Kefas were put under pressure by the police to turn in the activist to the SIB Kaduna.

“On the 21st May 2019, Kefas turned himself in. The police seized his phones as exhibits to be tendered during prosecution. He was detained by the KSIB for two weeks, despite an earlier bail ruling by a Magistrate Court. On the 3rd of June, he was re-arraigned before another Magistrate Court.

“This time around, the charge was premised on Cafra’s petition. The new Magistrate refused to grant bail to Kefas and upheld the argument by the state counsels that, while Kefas was under the two week’s detention of the police, he was engaged in social media activism.

“No evidence whatsoever was tendered to prove the frivolous allegation. How Kefas could be engaged in social media postings, using a phone that had been seized by the police, still remains a mystery.

“With bail denied by the Magistrate, Kefas was remanded in Kaduna Prison. On the 20th of June 2019, his case was transferred to Kaduna High Court 2 before Justice Mairo Mohammed. After studying arguments for and against bail, she adjourned judgment to 27th June, 2019.

“Justice Mairo on that day claimed that Kefas was still accessing social media platforms while under police detention.  Ever since Kefas has so far spent 139 days in Kaduna Prison over a bailable offence.

“In the first place, it is impossible for Kefas to have had access to social media platforms since his phones were seized by the police who had kept him under tight custody.

“Again, there was no court that had ruled that it was an offence on the part of Kefas to use social media while undergoing prosecution.”

According to Onwubiko, “Let Nigeria and the world know that Kaduna State has become a center of intimidation, harassment and human rights violations unleashed by agents of Kaduna State who are clearly in bed and in a conspiracy with judicial officials to foist an atmosphere of fear, panic and lack of observance of constitutionally guaranteed freedoms of citizens.

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