Abuja (Sundiata Post) – Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, (INTERSOCIETY) has berated the Police and Government of Kaduna State over unlawful detention of Stephen Kefas and nine other christian elders, demanding their immediate and unconditional release.
The group disclosed this in a statement signed by the Board Chair, Emeka Umeagbalasi, Obianuju Joy Igboeli, and Chidimma Evan Udegbunam.
The statement reads in full:
The Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & Rule of Law, INTERSOCIETY, is calling on the authorities of the Nigeria Police Force and the Government of Kaduna State to as a matter of uttermost immediacy and inexcusability release, unconditionally, the Kajuru-Kaduna Christian activist, Citizen Stephen Kefas (Stephen Kefason) and other innocent indigenous Christians being presently detained across the State. The detained whose unconditional release is being sought are also the victims of the recent massacre of Christians in Kajuru part of Kaduna State.
The duo of the Government/Gov of Kaduna State and the Nigeria Police Force must stop shrinking the civil/democratic space in Kaduna State in particular and Nigeria in general and allow room for constructive criticism as well as socio-political and ethno-religious tolerance and pluralism. The duo must also desist from promoting Islam or any other religion as a state religion, contrary to Section 10 of the Constitution (1999) and maintain secular status in the State including treating all religions and their leaders with secular respect.
Apart from Comrade Stephen Kefas, Intersociety is also seeking for the immediate and unconditional release from unconstitutional detention of the following nine Christian elders and leaders of the Kajuru Development Association-ADA; namely: Engineer Bawa Magaji (Wazirin Adara), Sani Magaji (a retired Commissioner of Police), Awemi Dio Maisamari (President, Adara Dev Association), Joseph Abdallah (ADA Treasurer), Tanko Maisamari (Village Head, Maro), Hosea Danladi (Village Head, Ungwan Gamo), Joseph Ayuba (Village Head, Kutura), Tanko Wada (Village Head, Ayuba) and Ulu Maitumbi (an Ungwan Barde elder).
By the account of the Sahara Reporters of 9th May 2019, the nine Kajuru Christian elders and community leaders were recently arrested and later dumped in the Kaduna State Prisons, on “orders from above” (i.e. from Government of Kaduna State headed by Gov Nasiru el-Rufai, a Muslim). The Sahara Reporters also said that “it could not locate the criminal charges under which they were arrested and dumped in the Kaduna State Prison custody” and that as at the time of its publication, dated 9th May 2019, “they are still being detained”.
The nine detained Christian elders were said to have met their arrest and detention following a civil court action they filed against the Governor and Government of Kaduna State in connection with recent gubernatorial issuance of “a Village Restructuring (Amendment) Order No. 21 Vol. 52 by the Gov.; on account of which all civil or ADR efforts made by the detained to meet with the Gov to resolve grey areas of the order failed woefully, leading to their recourse to the civil litigation that caused their arrest and detention with “no or unknown charges”.
They were reportedly tricked into a false reconciliation meeting with Fulani Herdsmen from where they were arrested and taken into prison detention reportedly without charge or arraignment. On the other hand, the remote cause of their arrest and detention followed recent massacre and maiming of hundreds of their fellow native Christians and displacement of thousands of others in Southern Kaduna; a massacre widely blamed on the State Government’s complicity and security agencies’ bias, collusion and inaction or gross incompetence.
On the side of Comrade Stephen Kefas, he is human rights and Christian activist of Kajuru-Kaduna extraction and one of the leading critics of the Government/Gov of Kaduna State. He is said to be living and working in Rivers State from where he was tricked into a phantom meeting with “a friend” on Wednesday, 8th May 2019, leading to his arrest same day by operatives of the Nigeria Police Force in Rivers State. His arrest was carried out through a possible tipoff between the Rivers and Kaduna State Police Commands.
As reported by the Sahara Reporters of 8th May 2019, Citizen Stephen Kefas “who has been very critical of Gov Nasiru el-Rufai was arrested (reportedly) on orders of Governor el-Rufai for reposting an article on Facebook”. “He had reposted or shared a Sahara Reporters’ exclusive story which detailed the events leading up to the death or murder of the Kajuru Christian Monarch, Dr Galadima Maiwada-the Agom of Adara Chiefdom in Kaduna State”. He was abducted on 18th Oct 2018 and murdered by suspected Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen on 24th Oct 2018.
Further, by the same Sahara Reporters’ account of 8thMay 2019, “Citizen Stephen Kefas is accused of injurious publication, incitement and false accusation and will be transferred to Kaduna State this morning (yesterday, Thursday, 9th May 2019)”. Intersociety’s enquiries from close associates of the detained Comrade further disclosed that “they (police) left with Stephen Kefason in Rivers State to Kaduna this morning (yesterday) around 4am and they will take him straight to the Kaduna State Government House because there is also investigative unit there”.
As it stands, Citizen Kefas is still being detained and has been held in police custody without trial since Wednesday, 8th May 2019, a period of over 48hrs, contrary to Section 35 (5) of the Constitution (1999) and if the Police and the Government/Gov of Kaduna State are allowed, Comrade Stephen Kefas’ detention is most likely to run into weeks without trial or it will be elongated under “a black market” court remand order, in an alleged offense that carries maximum of three years imprisonment on conviction or misdemeanor offenses. Nigeria’s criminal offenses and their punishments are classified into felonies (three years to capital punishment), misdemeanors (three years downwards) and simple offenses (six months downwards).
Intersociety therefore deeply fears that unless formidable voices are raised repeatedly within and beyond the boundaries of Kaduna State and borders of Nigeria against the Nigeria Police Force and the Government/Gov of Kaduna State, Citizen Stephen Kefas may likely end up facing prosecutorial vindictiveness, spurious charges and even a State engineered court conviction, using the so called “Cyber Stalking Act of 2015”.
Under the so called “Cyber Stalking Act”, cited as “Cybercrimes (Prohibition, Prevention, Etc) Act of 2015, scores of political and social commentators including journalists and human rights activists have been targeted for arrest and detention with some ‘tried’ and ‘convicted’; all at the instance of politicians and public office holders including governors and security chiefs. Created to checkmate the abuse of use of social media, though it has some obnoxious contents or provisions; the Cybercrimes Act of the Federation has become an instrument of state and political intimidation and suppression of civil and democratic space and activism in Nigeria and or any part thereof.
The enforcement of the Act is generally characterized by the monsters of criminal labeling, prosecutorial vindictiveness and compromised judicial convictions-generally targeted at critical voices and opponents of the serving public office holders in Nigeria; to the extent that journalists who are in their ancestral homes on holidays with their wives and infant children are swooped on even in hours/days of the blue law; arrested with their family members and detained for weeks without charge before being told that “they are held for committing the offenses of cyber stalking”.
Intersociety hereby sees or regards the Nigeria Police Force and Kaduna State Government crackdown on Christian People of Kajuru and the entire Southern Kaduna as a doubled trauma and persecution. In other words, they are facing a combination of state actor and non state actor persecution-with state actor being Government crackdown instead of protection and non state actor being their continuous and systematic massacre by the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen with the same Government and Nigeria Police Force looking the other side or chasing or persecuting the same Christian Population being targeted for cleansing or extinction by the non state violent actors.
It saddens our heart that Kaduna State has in recent times become “Nigeria’s newest theater of religious intolerance, disharmony and butchery”; having lost close to 3500 innocent citizens or more since June 2015 excluding slain victims of banditry attacks. The State played host to the massacre of as much as 1000 defenseless Shiite Muslims in mid December 2015. The State Government later admitted “347 deaths”.
In 2016, close to 808 Christians were butchered by Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen according to the authorities of the Catholic Diocese of Kafanchan and the Kaduna State Branch of the ECWA Church. Between January 2017 and April 2019, the State had lost over 1500 Christians on yearly average of 500. Between Feb and April 2019 alone, no fewer than 326 Christians including a British tourist have been massacred by the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen.
We therefore call on the Government of Kaduna State and the Nigeria Police Force to release the above named detained Christian Community leaders as well as Comrade Stephen Kefas. Their release must be immediate and unconditional. There must also be cessation of all forms of state persecution including threats, intimidation, arrest, detention and phantom prosecution of the leaders of the Christian communities in Kaduna State and their fellow natives as well as media and human rights activists and legal practitioners among them.
Today, the Government of Kaduna State and the Nigeria Police Force have deployed huge energies, skills and resources in tracking down and arresting Citizen Stephen Kefas, who is innocent, unarmed and defenseless, in far away Rivers State; yet same have never been deployed in fishing out the Jihadist Fulani Herdsmen-the murderers of no fewer than 326 Christians in the State between Feb and April 2019 and thousands of others massacred since June 2015 as well handful of indigenous Christians accused of carrying out acutely asymmetric reprisal attacks.
If the same energies, skills and resources had been deployed in the orgy of massacre by the duo of Nigeria Police Force and the Government of Kaduna State as well as the Federal Government of Nigeria, the senseless killings, maiming, land seizure and property destruction including burning or destruction of the sacred places of worship for Christians and sundry banditry attacks in the State would have been drastically reduced, if not ended.
For: Int’l Society for Civil Liberties & the Rule of Law
· Emeka Umeagbalasi
· Obianuju Joy Igboeli, Esq.
Head, Civil Liberties & Rule of Law Program
· Chidimma Evan Udegbunam, Esq.
Head, Campaign & Publicity Department