By: Mayen Etim
KADUNA, North-West, Nigeria – Kaduna State Government, which is prosecuting Professor Chidi Anselm Odinkalu over alleged “injurious falsehood” and “inciting disturbances” among others, was absent in court when the Human Right Activists, lawyer and former Chairman, Nigerian Human Rights Commission, (NHRC) challenged the Jurisdiction of the Chief Magistrate Court to hearing his case.
Kaduna State Director of Public Prosecution, Barrister Dari Bayero, his team and Kaduna State Ministry of Justice, had filed a case against Kalu on March 18, 2019, saying that the Professor had lied during a television interview aired on Channels Television on February 16, 2019, in which he challenged Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna state to show evidence of mass murder of 66 Fulani in Adara village, Kajuru Local Governmnent Area, of Kaduna State and their burial in a mass grave same place.
In the interview, according to the prosecution, Kalu said that the governor statement was very sensitive coming at the heels of crucial election and could incite violence.
Kaduna State Government quoted the Professor as saying: “I say this as a Nigerian who believes in this country; who believes every life matters. This is too serious for any governor to say and get away with at this election and that is why I keep coming back to this Kajuru story, because we must never allow that story to get away: 66 Nigerians killed. That is 66 too many. If anybody claims that 66 people are killed in Kajuru, including the state governor of Kaduna state, let us all go and verify it. I am not willing to let that story to get away. It is not true,” was part of the quotation the prosecution alleged that Odinkalu had said on Channels.
The Prosecution then accused the professor of:
“Furnishing False Information punishable under section 104 of the Penal Code Laws of Kaduna State.
“Inciting Disturbances under section 77 and punishable under section 78 of the Penal Code of Kaduna State, 2017.”
Stating Point of Law, she said the Defendant was challenging the Jurisdiction of the Magistrate.
“The subject matter is for this suit as found in the Application For Criminal Direct Complaint is an interview granted by the Defendant on February 16, 2019 on Channels Television Broadcast is a Federal matter as can be seen in the 66th item on the Exclusive Legislative List. This Court therefore lacks subject matter jurisdiction on the matter before it,” she told the court.
“The emission and broadcast took place in Abuja not in Kaduna. This court lacks Territorial jurisdiction on the matter,” she added.
“The primary power to sanction broadcast violators is with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation (NBC). There is nothing in the proof of evidence to show that the NBC complained about violation of the code,” she said.
She further argued that as long as the broadcast did not breach the NBC code of conduct, no issue of crime could be raised.
“Nasir El-Rufai, the person deemed to be the nominal complainant if sufficiently aggrieved, could have lodged a complain with the NBC rather than seek to take over their job. This suit by the governor is therefore an institutional overarched, we urge the court to so hold,” she said.
After her presentation, the Presiding Magistrate, Ibrahim Musa, adjourned sitting and gave November 7, for ruling on the matter.
It could be recalled that Spokesman to Governor Nasir El-Rufai, Mr Samuel Aruwan, had issued a statement on February 15, 2019, alleged that 66 Fulani, mostly women and children were killed in 12 Adara villages and buried in a mass grave and cautioned against any reprisal.
On February 20, Governor El-Rufai told the press in Abuja that the casualty figure had risen to 130.
But, then Kaduna State Commissioner of Police Abdulraman Ahmad, said on February 22, 2019 at a press conference in Kaduna that there was no evidence to the figures so announced by the governor, since the police were still investigating the allegations.
Shortly after the controversial statements of the governor, series of bloody invasion of Adara villages in Kajuru LGA took place by alleged Fulani herdsmen leaving a casualty of 148 people dead and 545 houses destroyed by March 11, 2019, according to news reports.