El-Rufai reacts to court judgement mandating payment to Audu Maikori

Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai
Kaduna State Governor, Nasir el-Rufai

Governor Nasir El-Rufai has vowed to challenge Friday’s Federal High Court ruling which awarded up to N40 million in damages to Audu Maikori in a fundamental rights suit.

In a statement to PREMIUM TIMES Friday evening, Mr. El-Rufai said the matter may drag to the Supreme Court, but won’t truncate an ongoing criminal proceeding he earlier caused the police to file against Mr. Maikori.

Mr. Maikori, CEO of Chocolate City Entertainment, filed a fundamental human rights enforcement suit on May 5, after he was arrested for allegedly inciting the public in Kaduna State.

Other respondents in Mr. Maikori’s suit are the Inspector-General of Police, the Commissioner of Police in Kaduna State, and the state’s Attorney-General.

The presiding judge, John Tsoho, also ordered the respondents to “pay jointly and severally, as general damages, the sum of N10 million only for injury to character, self-reputation, business reputation, esteem, proper feeling of pride of the applicant, his staff, management and the applicant’s other international business concerns”.

Aside from that, Justice Tsoho also directed the respondents to pay damages in the sum of N20 million only for injury to health, for medical bills being incurred by the applicant in treating himself and for psychological damage done on the applicant.

He further awarded N1,430 as cost of the suit, as well as, 10% interest per annum on damages until total and final liquidation of same.

He, however, noted that his verdict does not preclude the ongoing trial of Mr. Maikori in Kaduna, adding that the police could justifiably arrest suspects for allegedly breaking the law in the cyberspace.

The judge, however, noted that following the tweet, Mr. Maikori made himself liable to be arrested even though he realised that he was misinformed by his driver.

 He said, “I hold the respectful view that by virtue of his act, the applicant made himself liable to be deprived of his personal liberty”.

Justice Tsoho further stressed that an arrest made by the police upon reasonable suspicion of commission of a crime is lawful. He said the judgment went in favour of the applicant in view of the fact that the police, in carrying out its duty, violated Mr. Maikori’s fundamental rights.

“This judgement is without prejudice to offences that the applicant is standing trial for. The judgement will serve as a lesson to law enforcement agencies, they should discharge their duties in accordance with constitutional requirements, and not discharging their duties with impunity,” he held.

Justice Tsoho also said though citizens have a right under the constitution to express themselves, he said such rights should not be abused through the social media.

He also observed that it was for the purpose of control and regulation of the social media that the federal government enacted the Cyber Crime Act.

In his reaction to the judgement, which was signed by his spokesperson Samuel Aruwan, Mr. El-Rufai said Kaduna State is a “complainant in a criminal matter involving Audu Maikori.”

“The judgment will not stop this criminal trial. There is no malicious prosecution going on,” the governor said, adding that “the government can file complaints, but it is the business of the police to make arrests following the normal procedures.”

Police spokesperson, Jimoh Moshood, did not immediately respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ request for comments about if they intend to join Kaduna State in appealing the ruling.

Mr. Maikori, 41, was first arrested in Lagos on February 17 after a petition was filed by the Kaduna State Government over a story he published on his social media pages that turned out to be false.

The story had to do with the purported killing of five College of Education students in Southern Kaduna.

The label boss later apologised for posting the story, adding that his driver relayed it to him, and said his (driver) brother was among the victims.

He was subsequently transferred to Force Headquarters in Abuja for interrogations. He was eventually released on bail and cleared of any complicity by the Police Force Headquarters.

He was then rearrested and taken to Kaduna where he was detained for four days before he was charged to court. He was granted bail on health grounds.

In May, Mr. Maikori had in his suit marked FHC/ABJ/CS/385/17, prayed the court to award N21 billion to him as damages. He challenged his arrest and detention by the police over a message he passed through his Twitter handle.