The police in Kaduna on Sunday denied being responsible for the arrest and incarceration of Audu Maikori, CEO of Chocolate City Entertainment, who has been at loggerheads with the Kaduna State government for alleged incitement to violence.
“We’re not aware of his arrest,” Kaduna police spokesperson, Aliyu Usman, told PREMIUM TIMES on Sunday afternoon.
The disclosure, which was made after two days of repeated enquiries from this newspaper, marked the first public statement by the police since Mr. Maikori was arrested on Friday morning for the second time in a month.
It came hours after Mr. Maikori’s lawyer told PREMIUM TIMES that the Kaduna State government had concluded plans to arraign him before a court on Monday morning.
PREMIUM TIMES had reported how the label executive was arrested by the police and subsequently taken to Kaduna, based on information provided by his lawyers.
“I am aware that the police in Abuja are taking Audu to Kaduna,” Mark Jacobs, Mr. Maikori’s lawyer, told PREMIUM TIMES Friday afternoon.
Reports over the weekend, including tweets by the National Human Rights Commission, said police in Kaduna were holding Mr. Maikori at the State Criminal Investigation Department.
— RightsAfrica (@chairmanNHRC) March 10, 2017
To be arraigned Monday— Lawyers
Similarly, John Danfulani, an associate of Mr. Maikori who is also standing in as one of his legal representatives, said he met the embattled label executive in a police facility along Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Kaduna.
“I was with Audu on Friday night. Left him at 8:30 p.m. in Ibrahim Taiwo Road cell,” Mr. Danfulani said.
Mr. Danfulani, a former lecturer at the Kaduna State University who is facing separate charges of incitement also brought against him by the Kaduna State government, said his friend will be arraigned on Monday.
“He will appear in court tomorrow,” Mr. Danfulani said.
Although the police vehemently denied playing any role in detaining Mr. Maikori, a highly-placed source within the organisation said other law enforcement agencies, especially the State Security Service, might be responsible.
“Other government agencies, like the SSS, might have arrested him and placed him in a police cell,” the source told PREMIUM TIMES in Abuja on Sunday.
PREMIUM TIMES could not independently confirm that SSS executed Mr. Maikori’s arrest. The agency’s refusal to appoint a spokesperson running close to two years made it impossible to get clarification.
Threats of prosecution
Mr. Maikori’s latest ordeal comes about a week after Governor Nasir El-Rufai pledged to ensure his thorough prosecution for allegedly circulating inflammatory materials capable of exacerbating the deadly conflict in Southern Kaduna.
“What he posted may have led to killings and we are trying to link the dates of the posting to attacks that may have happened the next day on Fulanis and if we are able to establish that causation, as lawyers, we know what it means,”Mr.El-Rufai said in Lagos March 4. “It is totally irresponsible to do that.”
The governor’s spokesperson, Samuel Aruwan, did not pick or return calls seeking to clarify if the governor ordered Mr. Maikori’s latest arrest.
Mr. Maikori, 41, was first arrested in Lagos in the afternoon of February 17 for allegedly trying to “incite” the public. He was subsequently transferred to Force Headquarters in Abuja for interrogations.
Mr. Jacobs said the arrest was in connection with a series of tweets posted by Mr. Maikori about seven weeks ago in which he alleged the killing of some Southern Kaduna students by Fulani herdsmen.
But details of the tweets, which Mr. Maikori said were obtained from his driver, turned out to be false, earning him vicious social media backlash.
A magistrate in Kaduna issued a warrant for his arrest, his lawyer said.
He was released on bail February 18, but the police said he “will be charged to court promptly.”
Police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, told PREMIUM TIMES investigations were underway and Mr. Maikori will be arraigned after preliminary findings.
“You know investigation is a scientific approach —to actually tell the court that ‘this is the person that committed so, so and so offence’. So there’s no timeline for conclusion of investigation,” he said at the time.
On Sunday, Mr. Jacobs told PREMIUM TIMES that his client was released because the police “found nothing substantial to warrant prosecution.”
Over 200 have been killed and thousands more displaced in the latest violence between Fulani herdsmen and southern Kaduna residents, according to official estimates.