The Bauchi State Government has filed fresh charges against a popular Islamic cleric, Idris Abdulaziz, who campaigned against Governor Bala Mohammed in last year’s governorship election in the state.
Mr Abdulaziz supported Mr Muhammad’s main opponent, Abubakar Sadiq of the All Progressives Congress (APC), in the 18 March 2023 election.
PREMIUM TIMES reported how Mr Abdulaziz’s lawyer, Ahmad Musa, said the cleric fled into exile after security agents raided his Dutsen Tanshi residence in the Bauchi metropolis on 24 January to execute a search warrant.
“Abdulaziz left Bauchi State to flee persecution and arbitrary arrest and detention by the Bauchi government following trumped-up charges accusing him of committing blasphemy against religious creed. He has successfully left Bauchi to a safe place,” the lawyer earlier told PREMIUM TIMES.
On Monday, the state government through the office of the State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Hassan El-Yakub, filed fresh charges at a chief magistrate’s court in Bauchi, against Mr Abdulaziz.
The fresh charges accused Mr Abdulaziz of “Inciting disturbances, insulting or inciting contempt of religious creed”. The cleric has denied any wrongdoing.
The hearing notice for the fresh case against Mr Abdulaziz was pasted at his residence situated at Dusten Tanshi, in the Bauchi metropolis. According to the court documents, the case was coming up on Tuesday (6th February).
Mr Abdulaziz’s lawyer, Ahmad Musa, on Tuesday, said the new charges contain the same allegations being tried at the Upper Sharia Court 1, Bauchi after Mr Abdulaziz was first arraigned last April.
“The case went from the Upper Sharia Court 1, Bauchi state to High Court, Bauchi and now it is properly before the Court of Appeal, Jos Division”, Mr Musa said.
The lawyer alleged that the new twist in the case against his client has allegedly exposed the political witch-hunt of the state government using the state judicial branch to persecute Mr Abdulaziz. But a state counsel on the case, UB Babayo, said the state was still prosecuting Mr Abdulaziz because he was yet to move a motion concerning an appeal he claimed to have filed in Jos.
“The state government has not received any notification from Mr Abdulaziz that he has appealed his case, thus, the state is continuing with the prosecution of Mr. Abdulaziz like any other Nigerian”, Mr Babayo said.
“It is public knowledge that the case of our client Dr. Imam Idris AbdulAziz of Dutsen Tanshi, Bauchi was filed initially at Chief Magistrate Court 1, Bauchi state by the Commissioner of Police, Bauchi before it was later taken over by the State Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Hassan El-Yakub, SAN.
“To diligently pursue his appeal and save himself from the political witch-hunt of the state governor using the state judicial branch to execute, we filed, on behalf of our client, a motion for a stay of proceedings at the Court of Appeal (Jos Division). The process aimed to stop the judge of the Upper Sharia Court 1, Bauchi, Hussaini Turaki from continuing with the case pending determination of the appeal at the Court of Appeal, Mr Musa said.
Mr Musa said the case also suffers delay at the Appeal Court in Jos.
“The date for the motion was set for Wednesday 7th February, 2024 and all the parties involved were duly served with the hearing notices. However, late on Friday 2nd February 2024, I received a notice of cancellation of the hearing of the motion from an official of the Court of Appeal with no other scheduled date for the hearing of the motion for now. This brings the cancellations of the hearing of the motion to the 4th time.
“In an egregious case of abuse of judicial process and show of desperate effort to further flout the constitutional rights of our client in serving the dirty political interest of the governor, the state Attorney General and Commissioner for Justice, Hassan El-Yakub, SAN filed yet another frivolous criminal complaint against Dr Imam Idris AbdulAziz at Chief Magistrate Court, Bauchi.
“How this case is being handled; the level of abuse and politicization of judicial processes in Bauchi state is quite alarming and embarrassing for a state claiming to be “democratic.” It is more alarming that the scenes of the abuses are being directed by a learned silk, a Senior Advocate of Nigeria who must uphold the principles of human rights and help in the development of legal systems!” Mr Musa said.
Mr Abdulaziz’s ordeals began last April when he told a gathering that he does not need the support of any person when in difficult times, not even Prophet Muhammad, but only God.
“In difficult times I don’t need the support of Ibrahim Niase, Abdulkadir Jelani, Ahmad Tijjani (Sufi scholars), and even Prophet Muhammad except for Allah,” Mr Abdulaziz, a strong Sunni Muslim said in his lecture on the oneness of God.
The comments generated controversy in the state and beyond. While his brethren in the Sunni sect supported him, some of his rivals from the Sufi sect have called for his prosecution, accusing him of disrespecting a religious creed. The state government subsequently took over the case and prosecuted Mr Abdulaziz.
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