A Federal High Court in the capital of Nigeria’s Kaduna state has adjourned the hearing of Luka Binniyat, a journalist and spokesperson for the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU), until Thursday 27 January. The trial was meant to commence on 24 January; however, the presiding judge failed to attend the hearing.
Mr Binniyat has been detained since 4 November 2021. He was arrested at the SOKAPU office by members of the Kaduna State Investigation Bureau in connection with an article he had written criticising the Kaduna state government’s inadequate response to September 2021 attacks on communities in three Local Government Areas (LGAs) of southern Kaduna, in which at least 49 people died and 27 were abducted.
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. However, the judge had reportedly missed his flight to Kaduna, and the hearing was adjourned until 27 January. Earlier hearings at a magistrate court were also delayed on three separate occasions, when the judges failed to attend court on 22 November, 6 December and 29 December 2021.
The multiple delays in Mr Binniyat’s case, which effectively extended his time in detention, have prompted concern, as have reports of Mr Binniyat’s health whilst in prison, where he was reported to be gravely ill in early January 2022.
This is the second time Mr Binniyat 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 apologised, having made strenuous attempts to retract prior to publication. After many adjournments and lengthy gaps between hearings, he was released on bail after spending 96 days in detention.
CSW’s Founder President Mervyn Thomas said: “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. We urge the Kaduna state authorities to ensure due process is observed once Mr Binniyat’s trial is underway, and that he receives appropriate treatment for any health concerns arising during or as a result of his continued detention. We also continue to urge them to prioritise the arrest and prosecution of genuine instigators and perpetrators of violence, and the protection citizens regardless of creed or ethnicity. 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.”