BY SIMON REEF MUSA
Tomorrow, being Wednesday October 9, the case involving Steven Kefas and Chairman of Kajuru Local Government Area, Cafra Caino, over charges of social media activism will come up before Your Honourable Court. Nigerians and the international community await feverishly your ruling on the bail application for the accused whose case was transferred to you on June 20, 2019.
Permit me to remind Your Justice that Kefas by tomorrow October 9 would have spent a total of 141 days without bail. Out of the total days spent in incarceration, about 109 days was under the watch of Your Lordship, and 32 days on the order of a Magistrate Court and the Police who arrested him in Port Harcourt, Rivers State, on May 8, 2019.
When on June 27, you adjourned ruling of the bail application to September 26, 2019, you stated that the no-bail verdict was hinged on the accused’s continued social activism when he was granted the first bail. Your Justice clearly said that you would only grant bail on the condition that Kefas decline further social media postings. My Lord, I am ignorant of any law in Nigeria that outlaws an accused from engaging in social media activism. One would have thought that if the accused’s social activism was the problem, an order barring him from participating in social media postings should have been included in the bail conditions. Alas, and to the consternation of many, the prison-weary accused whose battle for bail had caused national and global attention was returned to prison on Your Lordship’s orders.
Arising from Your Lordship’s controversial no-bail verdict, not a few believe that, though granting bail to an accused resides in your discretionary powers, the untold deprivations suffered by Kefas should have moved your motherly compassion to grant him respite. While friends and relations of Kefas groan over his continued confinement, we took solace in the fact that power belongs to God. Despite the clouds of uncertainties that had withered our hopes, we looked forward to the adjourned date of September 26, but the case never came up. Perhaps, the annual vacation for judicial officers may have been responsible, but our hope for Kefas’ bail has been rekindled, with the final slating of tomorrow for resumed hearing.
Come tomorrow October 9, Your Justice will meet a young man who is filled with the conviction of demonstrating his dream of ensuring that all voices are not shut out in deepening Nigeria’s democracy. In his social media activism, thousands and millions of our young men and women have found irreplaceable outlets to share information and commentaries/news on all subject matters. Above the floods of desolation plaguing the hopes and aspirations of our people, including massive destructions decimating our communities, Kefas, like many others, is outraged and found solace in social media platforms to highlight the despondency of the people.
This young man is not a busy body as some of his decriers would want the public to believe. As at the time of his arrest in Port Harcourt, he was actively engaged in active employment to provide his means of livelihood and that of his mother, including other relations. Regrettably, since his incarceration, the health condition of his mother has taken a terrible turn, while those who are dependent on him are left to grope in the dark in biting hunger.
Freedom of expression is a basic and inalienable right in a democracy. Where people are denied that right; such a country is no better than a reserve for tyranny. It is only when citizens’ right to freedom of expression is guaranteed, pseudo democracy will continue to be the bane of our corporate existence. Kefas was engaged in social media activism, no doubt, but that is not to assume that his critics were happy with his postings. He may have cross some red lines, but it is for the court to declare as such, and not those he allegedly offended.
Your Justice, the activities of Kefas may have infuriated his foes who felt affronted at his commentaries and stories on social media. On that basis, both the Kaduna State Government and the Chairman of the Kajuru Local Government Area petitioned the police for redress. It is right for those offended to approach the court for redress, but it is a deliberate dishonesty to keep an accused in jail for 141 days without a bail in a bid to demean and reduce him in the eyes of the public.
Ours is a growing democracy that has been infiltrated by elements determined to ride on the public interest. As an impartial Judge, Your Lordship remains the last hope of the common man. When those without power are hounded down into incarceration over their rights to freely share information and express opinions, the roles of noble judges like Your Justice should rise up in defence of the common good.
For these 140 days Kefas has been clamped down in jail, we have forlornly waited to witness the commencement of the case that been fraught with legal technicalities. Kefas remains the longest serving accused that has been denied bail for 141 after his arrest over an offence that is said to have become obsolete. Could it be that, taking into consideration that Kefa’s alleged offence was no offence, his traducers are deploying legal technicalities to unleash collateral damage on his rising profile?
Your Lordship may remember that Kaduna State Government has become a platform for an absurd democracy under whose watch a respected traditional ruler, elders and journalists, among others, have been guests of prison detentions for several months. Your Justice, if at the end Kefas is not found guilty of these allegations that is before you, for which he has spent 141 days without bail, what compensation would Your Justice grant?
Madam Justice, a century in the life of a country may not be something to be worried about. But, one day in the life of a man is enough to alter his destination. Kefas has suffered untold desecrations of his rights as a Nigerian. For Your Lordship to continue allowing Kefas to suffer captivity after 141 days without bail before you amounts to judicial travesty.
However, I have been informed by some people close to Your Lordship that you have a conscience and will do the right thing tomorrow. Others have debunked the assertion and advised me to perish any hope for Kefas’ bail.
I am convinced and hopeful that when Kefas appear before Your Justice tomorrow, you will see in him a passionate Nigerian whose Plato’s cave of hopelessness will end. I assure My Justice that Kefas won’t run away from facing his accusers in court.
When tomorrow October 9 comes, My Lord, Please do not disappoint me. Just simply grant bail to Kefas and let fireworks commence over the substantive.
Simon Reef Musa