Kaduna defends prosecution of Odinkalu, Maikori, says ‘Incitement is not freedom of speech’

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The Kaduna state government says statements that could incite violence should not be categorised as freedom of speech.

The government is currently in court with Chidi Odinkalu, a former chairman of National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and Audu Maikori, president of Chocolate City Entertainment, who were both accused of inciting the public against the government.

A group of lawyers had petitioned the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), seeking the withdrawal of the invitation of Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna, as a speaker at the annual conference of the association.

The petitioners had accused the governor of violating human rights, citing the cases of Odinkalu and Maikori as examples of breach of rights to freedom of speech.

But in a statement on Monday, Aisha Dikko, Kaduna’s attorney-general and commissioner of justice, said the government has never disregarded court processes.

She also accused the petitioners of personalising an issue which the state government is handling.

“A government that goes to court as the proper arena for deciding cases cannot be reasonably accused of not respecting the rule of law. Those who assert the contrary have the burden of showing how the rule of law can be advanced without the courts and whether society is better served by permitting license, or confusing incitement with freedom of speech.

“In the case with Odinkalu, the government said on the February 16, 2019 while on Channels TV, he made serious allegations against the governor of Kaduna state which were capable of inciting disturbance and the breakdown of law and order in the state.

“Consequently, the Director of Public Prosecutions, Ministry of Justice filed an application before the Chief Magistrate Court No.1 Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Kaduna State with case No. KMD/27DC/2019 for the issuance of criminal summons against Chidi Odinkalu for committing the offences of inciting disturbance, injurious falsehood, public nuisance and furnishing false information punishable under sections 77, 373, 104 and 150 respectively of the Penal Code Law of Kaduna State, 2017

“The DPP applied for an order of the court for the police to investigate the allegations against Mr. Odinkalu and report the outcome of the investigations to the court, an application that was granted by the court which ordered the police to investigate the case.”

The government said a counter action filed by Odinkalu had stalled the trial before the chief magistrate court (1) in Kaduna.

On Luka Binniyat and Audu Maikori,she said “both cases are before the Kaduna State High Court 2 with Charges Nos. KDH/KAD/41C/2017 and No. KDH/KAD/38C/2017 respectively”.

“Early in 2017, Audu Maikori claimed in a tweet that five students of the College of Education, Gidan-Waya, had been ambushed and killed by Fulani herdsmen. Based on Maikori’s false tweet, Luka Binniyat fabricated a news story in Vanguard newspaper, assigning names, place of origin and course of study to the alleged victims, including the claim that one of them was studying Mass Communication,” the statement read.

“Mr. Binniyat is charged for inciting public disturbance and injurious falsehood, while Mr. Maikori is charged for inciting public disturbance, injurious falsehood and conspiracy. Mr. Binniyat alleged that when he discovered that the statement was false, he told the Editor not to publish same, but he was surprised to find out that the information was published, while Mr. Maikori alleged that his driver was the source of the information.

“Mr Binniyat’s case is adjourned to 22nd September 2020, for continuation of trial, while Mr. Maikori has failed to appear in court for arraignment in his case and the court has issued bench warrant against him.

“Much has been made of the damages Audu Maikori was awarded by a Federal High Court over the circumstances of his arrest in Lagos by the police who were executing the warrant of arrest. The Kaduna State Government complied with the law in obtaining the necessary warrant of arrest, but it must rely on the police to execute it properly. The state government has appealed the award of damages.”

The government added that it is committed to the rule of law and respects court process, and it does not have the luxury of indulging conducts that threaten the peaceful coexistence of the people of the state.

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