While the Bill sponsored by Senator Bala Na’Allah, the Senate Deputy Leader seeking to control social media activities is yet to be passed by the National Assembly, the Vice Chancellor of Kaduna state University, KASU, Professor Williams Quirix has suspended one of its lecturer, Dr. John Danfulani pending the decision of University Council on the matter.
A Lecturer from the Political Science Department, John Danfulani’s suspension is coming on the heels of a petition written against him by one Mukhtar G. Maigamo, a resident of N0.125 KofarDoka in Zaria city. The petitioner’s main grouse has to do with Dr. Danfulani’s purported article published in the social media (Facebook) titled: “APC Simpleton of Northern Nigeria”. Maigamo petitioned the Kaduna state governor, Nasiru El-Rufai over what he described as Danfulani’shate speech in the social media.
KASU had on 6th January, 2016 written a query to Dr. John Danfulani asking him to explain within 48 hours why disciplinary action will not be taken against him. The query letter made available to our correspondents reads: “You will explain within 48 hours why disciplinary action will not be taken against you (in line with section 15 of the Kaduna State University Staff Conditions of Service) in respect of your gross misconduct demonstrated in the social media article “Our problems in Nigeria.” The content of the publication you authored is divisive, injurious to the University and tantamount to hate speech capable of inciting particular group of students against staff and other students. This behavior is unbecoming of a Lecturer who is supposed to mould students’ character and impart learning,” the query read. The query was signed by the Deputy Registrar, Mrs. Talatu A. Kuri. New Impression later gathered that Dr. Danfulani replied the query earlier than the dateline but the University management considered his reply unsatisfactory and went ahead to suspend him from office.
Mukhtar Maigamo, the petitioner accused Dr. Danfulani of generating hateful statements capable of causing crises in the state. The petition reads in part, “Your Excellency Sir, Perhaps you do not notice, but of late, the social media of Kaduna state is hypersaturated with distasteful commentaries which was generated first by one John Danfulani with his article titled “APC Simpleton of Northern Nigeria”. The article in question is laced with inciteful, hateful, spiteful, and bigoted statements carefully choreographed and dutifully posted in a deliberate attempt to cause crises in the state. And unless something is done swiftly the keg of gunpowder would be let loose by this single hate speech from John Danfulani,” (sic) the petitioner said.
A photocopy of the said petition dated 4th January, 2016, was made available to New Impression which was addressed to Governor Nasiru El-Rufai and copied the Kaduna state police Commissioner, CIB and the Executive Secretary of the National Human Rights Commission but was not copied Kaduna state University.
The question begging for answers is why the University would rush into suspending one of its staff over a petition that was not addressed to it. New Impression investigations however revealed that Governor El-Rufai had directed the state ministry of justice to petition the state police commissioner. Our reporter further gathered that before directing the Ministry of Justice to write a letter of complaint to the police commissioner, the governor directed the Vice Chancellor to immediately suspend the lecturer who has been a torn on the flesh of his APC administration in the state. Dr. Danfulani who worked tirelessly for the victory of Governor Nasiru El-Rufai and the APC in the 2015 general election in his known characteristics of criticism has in recent past continued to criticize most of the governor’s anti-people policies and programmes. Danfulani is known in the past to have consistently criticized the Kaduna state governorship administrations of Arc. Namadi Sambo, late Patrick Yakowa and Ramallan Yero. Critics wonder why when he was criticizing these past PDP governors in favour of other parties including the APC, his social media posts were never considered injurious to the peace of the state until now. They believe that Danfulani was working for the APC.
A coalition of youth groups namely, Nerzit Patriotic Front, Young Nigerian Christian League and Southern Kaduna Lawyers in a press conference tacitly fingered the governor for the plight of the University don.
The youth groups accused the state government of putting Dr. John Danfulani under surveillance in what they described as a Gestapo style since he anchored the hundred days assessment of Governor El-Rufai’s administration of Kaduna state. The text of their press conference reads in part, “It appears Doctor John Danfulani, has been kept under surveillance by the powers that be in a Gestapo style ever after he anchored CEDRA on a Hundred Days Assessment of governance at both the state and federal level.”
The group also views government and the University management action as a dangerous move employed to stifle opposition voices in the state. “The style of using his place of work and his source of livelihood to hunt and track him down typifies a dangerous precedence employed by this government in stifling opposition voices. This is because the Doctor John Danfulani is simply a lecturer with KASU,” their statement averred.
Observers are of the opinion that another aspect of the controversy is the supersonic speed, with which the whole suspension episode was handled.They argue that the whole drama is in the guise of the voice of Jacob and the hand of Esau. Some lecturers who also spoke to New Impression on condition of anonymity for fear of victimization say the whole suspension saga smacks of malice, blackmail and intimidation. “I really do not understand why a petition addressed to the governor and not copied this University would be the basis for the suspension of a lecturer without recourse to the Governing Council. The Vice Chancellor should have known that he is not a Sole Administrator of this University. This is a citadel of learning for crying out loud, where the freedom of speech is guaranteed. The implication of this suspension is that lecturers will begin to be sanctioned for their thoughts and remarks in the course of their lecture,” a lecturer said, adding that, “It should not be forgotten that Dr. Danfulani is lecturer in the department of political science and has been a consistent critic of past administrations in this state”.
It will be recalled that while Mukhta rMaigamo’s petition to Governor El-Rufai was dated 4th January, KASU’s query to Danfulani followed only two days after, that is, 6th January. Danfulani’s letter of suspension was written to him in another two days interval, being 8th January, 2016. All these took place while he was out of the country. 14 days after KASU had written Dr. Danfulani the suspension letter, the Ministry of Justice forwarded its letter of complaint to the state police Commissioner, Umar Shehu who now wrote the Vice Chancellor, Professor Williams Quirix requesting him to produce Danfulani over an alleged inciting comment he made on Facebook.
The police letter dated 21st January, 2015and with reference – CR:300/KDS/X/D6/Vol.82/150 signed by Umar Kofar-Naisa which was made available toNew Impression was however received at the office of the Vice Chancellor, KASU on 22nd. The letter reads: “This Department is investigating the above mentioned case involving one of your lecturers, Dr. John Danfulani.
You are kindly requested to release him to interview the undersigned through O/C General Surveillance State SCIID Kaduna on 25/01/2006 at about 1000hrs to enable complete our investigation.
Accept the assurance of the Command’s continuous regard, please,” the letter concluded.
Reacting swiftly, Nerzit Patriotic Front, Young Nigerian Christian League and Southern Kaduna Lawyers in their press conference kicked against the suspension of the lecturer, asking KASU to rescind its decision. The group view KASU’s illegal suspension of Dr. Danfulanias an action meant to please the state government in “…persecuting Dr. John Danfulani because he holds a different political ideology, ethnic and religious learning with the government of the day”.
The Chairman of the group, George Makeri said KASU authority should resist the temptation of involving itself in matters outside its jurisdiction. According to him, ideological leanings, political preferences, religious beliefs and personal life of its workers should not be their concern, rather what they should focus on is, the productivity of employees; the value they are adding to the system vis–a-vis the aim of the institution.
Makeri believes that Danfulani’s invitation by the police has exposed the hands behind KASU’s terrorism of a staff. “The invitation by the commissioner of police given to the doctor has exposed the hands behind KASU’s terrorism of a staff.
KASU has been cajoled into becoming a tool of the government suppression of folks holding different opinion from that of government,” said Makeri. The youth groups also believe that Danfulani’s suspension by KASU and his subsequent invitation by the police for interrogation are immoral and amounts to intruding into the privacy and personal liberty of one of her citizens.
The text of the press conference concluded thus: “This is immoral. The powers that be are intruding into the privacy and personal liberty of one of her citizens and it has no such rights. The attempt to criminalize freedom of thought and expression which is fundamental to democracy is criminal in itself because it is in sharp contrast with what holds in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” he said.
Critics of Senator Bala Na’Allah’s Bill seeking to control social media comments are quick to condemn him and his party, the APC which they say rode to power mainly on the wings of social media flagrant abuse and criticism of the previous administration. Recall that the APC greatly exploited the social media platform to further its propaganda which helped to bring down the immediate past administration of President Goodluck Jonathan. Political pundits observe that the greatest weapon that was used to hack down the last administration was the social media, which was daily awash with mischief, inciteful, blackmail and hate messages against Jonathan and the PDP by the APC and its supporters but the same APC is today trying to outlaw the usage of the social media.
A PDP stalwart in Kaduna state, Joe Machu who condemned Governor El-Rufai’s action of directing KASU’s Vice Chancellor to suspend Dr. Danfulani described the governor and APC as ingrates. “I and indeed every rational mind condemn Governor El-Rufai’s action for directing the University to suspend the poor lecturer. It is very clear that the Vice Chancellor did not act independently. He was instructed to suspend the lecturer so as to intimidate him and any other person that may want to do likewise. Governor El-Rufai is only out to shut critics of his anti-people administration. He and his party, the APC are ingrates taking into cognizance the kind of efforts Dr. John Danfulani put in to help the governor and his party to win,” Machu said.
New Impression reliably gathered that Dr. John Danfulani who was abroad in far-away India with his wife for an academic seminar/medical trip was contacted by the management of Kaduna state University about a summons on him by the Kaduna state police command. Upon the receipt of this information, the university don decided to cut short his trip, which was initially billed to end on the 19th of February and return to Nigeria. On his arrival on 27th January 2016, Dr. Danfulani voluntarily presented himself to the state police command by 9am on Thursday, 28th January and was immediately detained at the state CID.
The mild dramas that culminated into hide and seek at the police headquarters and later at the Magistrate Court seem to give credence to George Makeri’s allusion that Dr. John Danfulani is being persecuted for criticizing Governor Nasiru El-Rufai’s administration. Makeri believes that Dr. Danfulani is facing nothing but political trial and victimizationfor calling the El-Rufai administration an anti-people.
As at 11.45am on Friday, 29th January, James KanyipEsq, a legal practitioner told New Impression how he had made frantic efforts to secure Dr. Danfulani’s bail but the police commissioner said he was not going to release him, as he was under directives not to grant the application. However, in what appeared as talking from both sides of his mouth, at 2.55pm, the police commissioner told a team of 5 lawyers led by GamalielKore, a retired Director of Public Prosecutions from the Kaduna state Ministry of Justice, to proceed to the Magistrate Court where they could apply and secure his bail. Kore Esqinformed, police commissioner, Umar Shehu that they were just coming from the Court and that the courts had closed for the day. But Shehu insisted that the Chief Magistrate, being a public servant was bound to return to office, albeit after the Kaduna state official closing hours for public servants on Fridays for the accused to be arraigned before him. The police commissioner however told the team of lawyers that if the court did not sit, they should return for him to grant Dr. Danfulani administrative bail.
In what appears as a cat and mouse game, our reporter was reliably informed by sources at the police headquarters that a police officer had earlier been sent to the Magistrate Court to secure an order for the detention of Danfulani for the next three weeks while investigations continued.
New Impression immediately rushed to the Magistrate Court opposite Gabasawa police station. At the court, the police officer was told that Chief Magistrate, Auwalu Musa had already closed for the day and had since left to spend the weekend with his family at Zaria. Worried by the development, the police officer quickly returned to the state headquarters to brief his superiors. At about 3.50pm, GamalielKore and the team of lawyers again returned to the police commissioner’s office to apply for the administrative bail for Danfulani as the courts were now closed. A sizeable number of journalists followed the lawyers and our reporter was among them. Kore informed the police commissioner and requested for the administrative bail but the police commissioner again declined to grant the bail. Shehu again told the lawyers that Dr. John Danfulani was going to be arraigned that Friday evening, adding that the Magistrate was certainly going to come back to office. He therefore advised the lawyers to return to the court and wait for the arrival of the Magistrate.
Impeccable sources at the state police headquarters later told New Impression that the state Chief Judge had personally phoned and directed the Chief Magistrate who had gone to Zaria to spend the weekend to immediately return to Kaduna for the accused to be arraigned before him.
Our reporter in company of other journalists waited at the Magistrate Court until 6.40pm when the judge, Auwalu Musa arrived and soon after, called for the arraignment of Dr. John Danfulani which commenced at 7.18pm. The two count charge of inciting and publication of false news intent to cause offence against the public was read to the accused who pleaded not guilty. The offences are punishable under sections 417 and 418 of the penal code. While the Chief Magistrate was hearing the case, his hand-phone rang and he immediately picked and said, “Mi Lord, I am in the office hearing the case now”.
GamalielKore, lead counsel to Dr. John Danfulani was to later apply for his bail as the matter was civil and not criminal in nature. Kore pleaded with the trial Magistrate to consider the fact that the University don is a responsible married man who was not going to jump bail and that he is the one who personally reported to the police when he learnt while outside the country that he was needed by the police.
However, the prosecuting police officer opposed the application on the grounds that the accused was going to tamper with investigations. He therefore prayed the court to order that Danfulani be kept in detention for three weeks until the completion of investigations. In his ruling on the application for bail, the trial Magistrate refused to grant Danfulani bail but ordered that he should be remanded in police custody until 9am on Monday, 1st February for further hearing while he also ordered the prosecution to complete its investigations into the matterbefore Sunday 31st January.
On Monday, February 1, 2016 the further trial of Dr. John Danfulani was not to commence until about 12.15pm. The prosecuting officer, Ibrahim Jamilsaid, they were unable to move a step further from where they were on Friday as all telecommunication service providers had closed for the weekend.
Jamil said: “It is an investigation that would be carried out, not on the streets of this town or homes of individuals but in corporate offices and no corporate office was operational within these two days. This investigation involves telecommunication and service providers whose offices are always shut on weekends. It is an investigation that has to reach an international organization; the Facebook and we can only get access to this international organization through the local service providers. We are just about to begin our sojourn of investigation today. We are therefore craving the court as earlier requested for three weeks within which we will round up our investigation,” the prosecution said.
“We also ask that the accused person be remanded in police custody for the continuation of this investigation. This is to enable the investigators an easy access to the accused person in the event that he will be required to accompany the investigators to certain places. “By so doing, we will have some assurance that we will not be stabbed at the back because the subject of investigation is with us and being closely monitored,” the prosecution submitted.
Responding however, GamalielKore who led a team of 12 lawyers vehemently opposed the prosecution’s oral application for the continued detention in police custody of Dr. John Danfulani for another three weeks to enable them conclude their investigation.
Gamaliel who exposed the prosecuting officer for disobeying the court order that they should conclude investigation into the matter by the weekend said the prosecuting officer had only succeeded in giving the court excuses without tendering apology for their failure.
“The order of this court is for the prosecution to conclude its investigation between Friday and Sunday the 31st of January. They have not done so. They have not apologized for doing so. They have only given excuses. All the service providers they referred to in this country operate 24/7 that is, 24 hours a week service. They don’t have weekends. Not obeying this court order and asking the court to remand the accused person in police custody not even in prison custody, the answer must be in the negative,” Gamaliel said.
“This is an attempt on the side of the prosecutor to punish an innocent accused person for an offence he has not been convicted for. We submit that the fact of investigation going by the police has never been a factor to be considered whether to grant or not to grant bail to an accused,” the defense counsel submitted.
The lead defense counsel then cited and relied on the case between Ogor and 5 others against Kolawole and commissioner of police of Oyo state of 1983 volume 1, Nigeria criminal law report, pages 342, part 350, 353, 355 para 15 – 20, page 354 para 5 – 15 and page 357 para 5 arguing that that ruling is binding in the instant case as a factor when the offence is bailable.
Kore further informed that the accused person went to the police voluntarily as a law abiding citizen. “He is not guilty of all the accusations levied against him over an alleged publication on Facebook” adding that “…there will be no justice, fairness and equity if the court grants the application of the prosecuting counsel.
The accused person was arraigned for trial, we are ready to go on but if the prosecutor is not ready, it is only fair that the man should be allowed to go his way on bail and we shall provide sureties who are competent and reliable to guarantee the presence of the accused person whenever needed in court”.
In his ruling, Chief Magistrate Auwalu Musa grantedbail but on stringent conditions to the embattled Kaduna state University Lecturer Dr. John Danfulani who was remanded in police custody on Friday over an alleged hate speech on Facebook. Musa said, “The alleged two count offence is bailable ordinarily but carries three years prison term upon conviction. “The accused is admitted on bail to the sum of five million naira with two sureties for N2.5m each, which must be civil servants not below the rank of directors. Each of the sureties must submit two passport photographs, government identification card, verifiable certificate of occupancy, verifiable bank statement of account and verifiable address of residence”. Meanwhile, the case has been adjourned to March the 7th, 2016 for further mentioning.
Critics and analyst are however quick to condemn Governor Nasiru El-Rufai for being highly intolerant of criticisms the way he criticized past the administration of President Jonathan and for the ordeal of the University don. Recall that El-Rufai before he became governor of Kaduna state had re-tweeted where he made a derogatory post against Jesus Christ, the Author and Finisher of the Christian faith and Mary Magdalene; an action which until tomorrow remains highly inflammatory, hateful, inciting and capable of causing disaffection in the country yet he was not invited by the police for questioning.Dr. John Danfulani, as chairman of Centrum Initiative for Development and Human Rights (CEDRA) organized a press conference to assess El-Rufai’s first one hundred days in office as governor where he criticized El-Rufai’s style of administration declaring it as anti-people. For this singular action, competent sources close to the governor said El-Rufai vowed to deal with the University don, which they allege is now responsible for his suspension, detention and trial.
If all the mild dramas that culminated in what appears as a cat and mouse game at both the police headquarters and the Magistrate Court is anything worth analyzing,also, if the allusions of George Makeri that Dr. John Danfulani was being persecuted for his criticism of Governor El-Rufai’s anti-people administration of Kaduna state is anything to believe, then it will be correct to conclude that El-Rufai’scurrent move to shut critics has been exposed.