The day started blurry in Kaduna metropolis, northwestern Nigeria, on Nov. 4, 2021. Luka Binniyat was home with his wife, Gladys, until 2 p.m. when he left for the secretariat of the Southern Kaduna Peoples Union (SOKAPU) to visit a friend.
Luka is the spokesperson of SOKAPU. Due to the nature of his job and insecurity in the state, he called his wife frequently to update her on his movement.
The situation was, however, different that day as he neither called his wife nor returned home. She had a sleepless night calling his friends and family about the development.
The following morning, Gladys’ residence was besieged by the executive members of SOKAPU, who came to inform her about Luka’s arrest by the Nigeria Police.
HumAngle learnt that Luka was arrested by the Kaduna State Command Criminal Investigation Department (CID) over his publication on the killings in Southern Kaduna communities.
The report titled, “In Nigeria, Police Decry Massacres as ‘Wicked’ but Make No Arrests” was published by a New York-based online newspaper, The Epoch Times, on Oct. 29, 2021.
Luka’s report was about how terrorists killed 38 people in Madamai and Abum villages in Kaura Local Government Area of Kaduna state early October 2021 and the failure of authorities to arrest any suspect.
HumAngle learnt that the state’s commissioner of internal security and home affairs, Samuel Aruwan, considered the publication offensive; hence, he ordered investigations.
“The government of Kaduna state is using Samuel Aruwan, a Christian, to cause confusion to cover up the genocide going on in Christian Southern Kaduna by describing the massacre as a clash”, Luka quoted Danjuma La’ah, a senator representing Kaduna South Senatorial District, to have said.
Following the above quote, Aruwan alerted the Police in a complaint letter made available to HumAngle. He was concerned about his safety following the allegations against him in the report.
He said the part of the report which purportedly quoted the Senator has put his life and those of his family and relations in danger considering the weighty allegation of the cover-up of genocide against Christians in Southern Kaduna.
Senator La’ah, who was quoted in Luka’s publication, refused to speak with HumAngle when asked if he ever talked to the journalist on Southern Kaduna’s killings.
But Aruwan, in a separate letter on Nov. 1 2021, wrote La’ah through his lawyer, Sule Shu’aib, asking if the senator truly spoke with Luka as ascribed to him in the controversial publication.
In reaction to this, Senator La’ah responded through his lawyer, Gideon Solomon, saying, “though he knows Luka Binniyat, he never granted any interview or made any comment casting aspersion either on the Kaduna State Government or Samuel Aruwan, the Commissioner of Internal Security of Kaduna State who he regards as a younger Brother and holds in high esteem.”
Following Aruwan’s petition to the police, Luka was apprehended and arrested on Nov. 4, 2021, for alleged cyberstalking, an act of threatening, harassing, or annoying someone through multiple email messages, through the Internet, especially with the intent of placing the recipient in fear that an illegal act or an injury will be inflicted on the recipient.
Section 24 of the Cybercrime (Prevention & Prohibition) Act 2015 prescribed punishment ranging from a fine of not less than N2 million or imprisonment for a term of not less than one year or to both fine and imprisonment, up to a term of not less than ten years or a fine of not less than N25 million or both fine and imprisonment; depending on the severity of the offence.
Before now, there have been arguments that the Cybercrime Act violates the constitutional provision of the right to freedom of expression and consequently tagged a legal restriction on the right to freedom of expression in Nigeria.
Five days after his arrest, Luka was arraigned before a magistrate court on Nov. 9, 2021. The court, thereafter, ordered that he should be remanded at Minimum Security Custodial Centre, Kaduna.
His lawyer, Ehizogie Imadojemu, told HumAngle that “he has been in prison since then and has already spent over two months. The matter was filed in December, but the case is yet to be assigned to any judge.”
Luka rots in jail
Speaking on the plights of her husband, Luka’s wife, Gladys told HumAngle that the journalist’s health is deteriorating in prison. Our reporter learnt that he had a domestic injury before his arrest and now uses crutches due to the inability to get proper treatment.
“I saw him recently in prison, and I was not happy with his situation. He’s having issues with his legs and now uses crutches. I heard he was recently taken to the prison clinic in a wheelchair.
“I am calling on authorities to please release my husband so that he can be taken care of. His absence has caused a huge challenge to the family because I cannot focus on my business. My children now feed on pennies from his friends and family. We want him out.”
Corroborating this, his lawyer, Imadojemu, said his client “has little or no medical attention as he’s being treated by a health care provider instead of a medical doctor.
“While charges have been filed against him last year December with the suit number FHC/KD/79c/2021, the case is yet to be assigned to any judge. Hence, he is yet to be officially arraigned at the high court. We hope that his bail will be heard when arraigned.”
In reaction to his detention, the Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has charged the government to release Luka.
HumAngle understands that the journalist has been standing trial since 2017 for alleged injurious falsehood and other charges following a story he published during his time as a reporter for Vanguard newspaper.
He was said to have created five fictional students of the College of Education, Kafanchan, Kaduna state and alleged that Fulani herders had them murdered while in transit.
He claimed that one of the murdered students studied mass communication but the college authorities debunked the report, saying the college does not offer the said course of study.
He was later arrested and charged for breach of public peace and injurious falsehood punishable under sections 114 and 393 of the penal code laws of Kaduna.
He admitted wrongdoings but claimed he tried to withdraw the story from the newspaper when he realised that it was fake. He spent 96 days in prison before regaining his freedom.
Luka later left Vanguard newspaper to become the spokesperson of SOKAPU, a group of ethnic associations in southern Kaduna.
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