Kaduna State senator, Shehu Sani, on Monday demanded the immediate release of Audu Maikori, describing the latest arrest and incarceration of the Chocolate City boss as an affront to constitutional democracy.
“The case of Audu is becoming a stain and embarrassment to our country as a constitutional democracy,” Mr. Sani said in a statement to PREMIUM TIMES Monday morning. “He should be released or charged to court and without extra-legal interference.”
The demand came hours after Mr. Maikori’s associate and lawyer, John Danfulani, told PREMIUM TIMES the label executive took ill at the police facility where he was held and was rushed to the hospital Sunday night.
“He had since regained his consciousness and fine now,” Mr. Danfulani told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone. “He just had a brief respiratory crisis and had been returned to custody.”
Mr. Sani, a civil rights activist, said allegations of hate speech and incitement must not be used as a “smokescreen to stifle dissent or persecute people for their right to freely express their opinion.”
“Civil liberties and freedom must not be strangulated under the guise of security exigencies. As a democracy, we must learn to balance our obligation to respect constitutional rights and the urgency to tackle a persistent danger,” he said.
Mr. Sani urged concerned authorities to channel their attention and resources towards holistic eradication of pastoralists’ clashes across the country.
“Armed herdsmen represent a collective danger that needs a collective response,” Mr. Sani said. “An onslaught against armed herdsman is what is needed and not an onslaught against freedom of speech.
“Go find herdsman and not scapegoats.”
Kaduna State Government takes possession of case file
Meanwhile, Mr. Danfulani has informed PREMIUM TIMES that Kaduna State Ministry of Justice has taken Mr. Maikori’s case file from the police.
But police in Kaduna have since denied responsibility for Mr. Maikori’s latest arrest.
“We’re not aware of his arrest,” Kaduna police spokesperson, Aliyu Usman, told PREMIUM TIMES over the weekend.
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.
Mr. Danfulani identified the official who received the documents as Barrister Isiaka, an official of the ministry.
He described the development as “a very terrible ploy to keep him for days without charge.”
Mr. Danfulani said he had been reliably informed that Kaduna State Attorney-General’s office might be arraigning Mr. Maikori before a State High Court in the coming days.
“He will be charged at State High Court, not Magistrate’s Court as we earlier assumed,” he said.
The Attorney-General, Umma Hikima, could not be reached for comments about her office’s alleged involvement in the matter.
As at 1:34 p.m., Mr. Danfulani said himself and other lawyers and supporters of Mr. Maikori’s were still waiting outside the Magistrate’s Court along Ibrahim Taiwo Road in downtown Kaduna.
Threats of prosecution
Mr. Maikori’s latest ordeal came a week after Governor Nasir El-Rufai pledged to ensure his 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 on 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.
Several text messages and WhatsApp requests sent to him between Friday and Monday afternoon were not responded to.