*“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.” .
Within the past 38 months or so, journalists in Kaduna, Northwest Nigeria have been living in Coolio’s ‘Gangsters Paradise’ sort of, where no one is sure of living past the age of 23. In order words , Journalism in Kaduna is under siege and journalists are unsure of their fates if they write ….
And it all stated in 2016, when Jacob Onjewu Dickson, the Online Editor of New Nigerian Newspapers was invited by the Nigerian Police, after questioning him at the Police Commissioner’s office on Thursday, they seemed to be acting on orders as they later grudgingly detained him at Gabasawa Division that night and took him to the Kaduna Magistrates Court the following day, where he was charged without giving him a right to defend himself with a counsel, with incitement and returned him to Prison custody the same day.
There seemed to a synergy between those accusing Dickson of an offense, those that arrested and those that should adjudicate.
What was Dickson’s offense?
According to the Committee To Protect Journalists, Dickson was said to have written a report that cited witnesses as saying youths had pelted the state governor, Nasir el-Rufai, with rocks as he tried to broker peace between residents of two adjacent neighbourhoods.
Before Mr. Dickson’s arrest, former don with the Kaduna State University, KASU, Dr. John Danfulani, was arrested on Friday and remanded in the Kaduna Prison this same day.
He spent 12 days in the prison before he was released on bail.
Again, his offence was his persistent criticisms of the administration of Malam Nasir el-Rufai mainly on Facebook pages.
It is also instructive to note that, Danfulani helped el-Rufai to power via his Facebook posting in the period between 2013 to 2015.
Mr. Joseph Midat, Bureau Chief of Leadership Newspaper in Kaduna was also arrested and detained on April 19, 2017 over a comment he had made in a WhatsApp chat.
He was later released on bail after spending two nights in police custody.
The journalist was charged with criminal conspiracy, inciting disturbance, and injurious falsehood.
Prosecutors assigned to the case, however, failed to appear in court for both the first and second hearings.
Similarly, another prominent Kaduna Journalist, Mr. Luka Binniyat was charged to court for publication of a story that turned out to be false.
He was wrongly informed and sent in the story which the government deemed as a threat to public peace, though, Mr Luka was said to have written to the editor of his newspaper not to publish the story, but some how, the story was still published the following day.
Luka Binnyat spend 90 days in prison before being released on bail.
According to informed sources, Luka Binnyat has had a spat with a media aide in the government, the spat went awry, since then he was marked. The same aide was also fingered for Dickson Onjewu’s detention.
If Dickson, Danfulani, Midat, Audu Maikori, Binnyat had it rough with the authorities, Nasiru Jagaba, the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) was lucky to have escaped arrest over a statement he was alleged to have made over Gbagyi village saga.
He was almost detained but for the intervention of SOKAPU leaders.
Gabriel Idibia, a journalist with The Union Newspaper is also in court over a publication not so favourable to the state Governor. He was lucky to have been charged to court rather than being arrested.
The latest victim of the state’s quest for ‘right and factual news ‘ is blogger, and stanch critic of the state governor, Segun Onibiyo.
Mr. Onibiyo, a staff of the Federal Radio Corporation Of Nigeria (FRCN) was arrested in December also promised n a Friday by the security personnel, interrogated same day and catapulted to prison the same day.
As of today, 14, December, Mr Onibiyo would has spent 14 days in Prison. Though he was granted bail on the 12th December 2018, but he is yet to perfect his bail conditions.
PERVADING FEAR & INTIMIDATION
In the case of Onibiyo, the Nigeria Union Of Journalists (NUJ), denied him as a member, he was referred to Radio Television and Theatre Workers Union (RATTAWU) which was also reluctant to move for his release.
Even newsmen refused to air the news of his arrest nor cover his court case.
I took timeout to ask why couple of journalists were reluctant on Segun’s case and was told that journalists in the state are under some form of surveillance that would warrant being arrested on the slightest slip, hence no one wants to be seen or associated with Onibiyo.
One thing is however clear, conventional Online journalists and activists are subject to increasing extralegal harassments and intimidation for their activities so that they are reluctant to write a critical piece.
Journalists have therefore opted for developmental journalism.
KADUNA UNDER EL-RUFAI HAS THE HIGHEST RECORD OF ARREST OF MEDIA PRACTIONERS .
Apart from the administration of former Edo Governor, Adams Oshiomole, the Kaduna State Governor has the highest records of arrest and intimidation of journalists, activitists and bloggers.
As of today, the list is
1- Jacob Onjewu Dickson
2- Dr. John Danfulani
3- Luka Binnyat
4- Audu Maikori
8- Stephen Kefas