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Christian Entity Decries Lengthy Detention of Nigerian Journalist Critical of Government

Luka Binniyat. Credit: CSW

Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a UK-based human rights foundation, has described the adjourning of the hearing of Luka Binniyat, a journalist who was arrested in Nigeria’s Kaduna State for criticizing the government’s inadequate response to a past attack in the State as “punitive adjournment.”

The foundation reported that Mr. Binniyat’s hearing, which had been slated to commence on Monday, January 24, had been moved to January 27 January owing to failure by the presiding judge to attend the court session.

In a Tuesday, January 25 report, CSW President Mervyn Thomas describes the detainment of Mr. Binniyat who served as spokesperson for the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) as lengthy and called upon authorities in the Nigerian State to ensure that due process is observed in the journalist’s trial.

“While it is disappointing to learn of yet another delay in court proceedings, we note that in contrast with previous occasions, there has not been an excessively lengthy and seemingly punitive adjournment,” Mr. Mervyn says.

He adds, “We urge the Kaduna state authorities to ensure due process is observed once Mr. Binniyat’s trial is underway.”

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The leadership of CSW reports that Mr. Binniyat has been detained since 4 November 2021.

According to the Christian human rights entity, the journalist was arrested by members of the Kaduna State Investigation Bureau in connection with an article he had written criticizing the Kaduna state government’s inadequate response to the September 2021 attacks on communities in three Local Government Areas (LGAs) of Southern Kaduna, in which at least 49 people reportedly died and 27 were abducted.

The leadership of the foundation further reports that on 24 January 2022, Mr. Binniyat was brought from Kaduna Maximum Custodial Centre to the Federal High Court in Kawo, marking his first appearance before a court with jurisdiction over the cybercrime charges levelled against him. 

The judge is, however, said to have missed his flight to Kaduna, and the hearing was adjourned until January 27.

Earlier hearings at a magistrate court were also delayed on three separate occasions, when the judges failed to attend court on multiple occasions last year, namely, November 22, December 6, and December 29, CSW leadership reports.

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According to the UK-based Christian entity, the multiple delays in Mr. Binniyat’s case hence his long detention has led to his ill health.

CSW President appeals to the Kaduna State authorities to ensure that the Nigerian journalist receives appropriate treatment “for any health concerns arising during or as a result of his continued detention.”

Mr. Mervyn reports that the journalist’s current detention is the second time he has been detained arbitrarily.

“In 2017 he was arrested and charged in connection with an article based on information which was later found to be false, and for which he publicly apologized, having made strenuous attempts to retract prior to publication,” the foundation reports, adding that after many adjournments and lengthy gaps between hearings, he was released on bail after spending 96 days in detention.

Mr. Mervyn also urges the Nigerian authorities to prioritize the arrest and prosecution of genuine instigators and perpetrators of violence, and the protection of citizens “regardless of creed or ethnicity.”

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“We also urge the international community to closely monitor the situation in Kaduna, and across central Nigeria, raising this ongoing human rights crisis with the Nigerian government whenever necessary, and assisting in addressing the violence in every possible manner,” the official of CSW says.