A coalition of human rights organisations on Monday took to the streets in Abuja to protest against the detention of a journalist and social media activist, Steven Kefas, who had been held for 139 days in Kaduna prison, despite a court order, for criticising Governor Nasir el-Rufai.
While demanding his immediate release and enforcement of his fundamental human rights, the protesters called on the National Judicial Council to investigate how a Nigerian citizen could be detained indefinitely in prison over a spurious allegation that attracts simpler bail conditions.
“The intolerance of the El-Rufai government towards Kefas’ relentless criticism reached its crescendo during the massacre of Adara natives and the decimation of their villages in the Kajuru Local Government of Kaduna State in March 2019,” they stated.
Kefas was said to have been arrested on May 8, 2019 in Port Harcourt, Rivers State by a combined team of policemen from Kaduna, initially detained in Minikoro Police Area Command, from where he was driven to Kaduna and detained by the Kaduna State Investigation Bureau.
The protesters, under the aegis of Citizens for Steven Kefas, Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria and Coalition of Friends, carried placards with inscriptions such as ‘139 days in Kaduna prison as @ October 7 2019; Steven Kefas deserves bail,’ ‘Rise up for Steven Kefas’ bail’; ‘El-Rufai, stop the tyranny’ and ‘Steven Kefas has spent 139 days in Kaduna prison as @ October 7 2019 over social media posts.’
When contacted, Muyiwa Adekeye, Special Adviser (Media and Communication) to Governor el-Rufai, said freedom of expression did not confer licence for irresponsible speech, incitement and falsehood.
He said, “The Kefas’ matter is in court. That is the proper place to litigate the issue. The laws of this country protect free speech, but these laws do not confer licence for irresponsible speech, incitement and falsehood. The cyberspace is for enlightened discourse, not the propagation of lies and injurious falsehood.”