BY AMOS TAUNA, KADUNA – The Nigeria Union of Journalists on Friday took a critical look at the constant threats, intimidations and persecution of journalists by the Governor Nasir el-Rufai administration and warned that enough was enough.
The NUJ in a statement signed by its National Secretary, Malam Shuaibu Usman Leman pointedly told el-Rufai, who it noted rode to power through the formidable use of the media to desist from having journalists arrested, detained and taken to court for writing stories and reports on the crisis in Southern Kaduna which he feels do not reflect the thinking of the State government.
The NUJ was particularly irked by the remand in prison for the second time of a Kaduna based journalist, Mr. Luka Binniyat, stressing that it was terrifying that Binniyat with health challenges as a result of a vehicle accident and on clutches can be reminded in custody.
The body of journalists in Nigeria stressed that it would hold Governor Nasiru el-Rufai fully responsible if anything mysterious happens to Binniyat in prison, adding that it is disturbing that the governor choose to be harsh with the media as a result of his lack of tolerance of criticism.
Leman further said; “The government of Kaduna State in its further drive to cage the media and muffle freedom of expression, had this week arraigned a Kaduna based journalist, Luka Binniyat before a Kaduna State High Court charged with injurious falsehood and incitement.
“We are terrified by the remanding of Binniyat in prison custody because of his health challenges. He had an accident and came to court on crutches to answer the summons but instead of being in hospital, he is now behind bars.
“This development calls for concern, because the government of el-Rufai rode to power on the formidable use of the media and therefore it cannot now turn round to want to instruct journalists on how to do their jobs.
“Certainly the Governor cannot make untoward rules for journalists outside their extant code of practice. Journalists should not be used as scapegoats to cover up for his numerous gaffes.
“Binniyat was earlier charged to a Magistrate and High Courts for the same allegations, remanded in Prison custody before being granted bail.
“Another Kaduna High Court equally remanded Luka Binniyat in Prison custody pending the hearing of his bail application next week.
“It will be recalled that Kaduna State government had issued a stern warning to journalists on the 28th of January this year, threatening of dire consequences if they file any story considered false by the State Governor.”
The NUJ also noted that recently, some other journalists that included Midat Joseph of Leadership Newspapers was detained and charged to court for alleged injurious falsehood by Governor el-Rufai, over alleged publication of a story on plan for mass demonstration that will shut down Kaduna.
Leman further said; “Others being hounded are Dickson Onjewu of New Nigerian Newspapers and Gabriel Idibia of Union Newspapers. el-Rufai’s numerous actions are clearly aimed at his perceived political opponents which ridiculously include the media.
“As a result of his intolerance for criticisms and aversion for the media, many journalists in the State are now being persecuted by the government.
“The NUJ counseled that the problems of Southern Kaduna can never be resolved through threats and intimidation by the Kaduna State government on journalists.
It advised Governor el-Rufai to appeal to the media to help him mobilise citizens to appreciate the benefits of peace and peaceful coexistence.