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 Jan. 27. The trial was meant to begin Jan. 24; however, the presiding judge failed to attend the hearing.
Binniyat has been detained since Nov. 4, 2021. He was arrested at the SOKAPU office by members of the Kaduna State Investigation Bureau in connection with an article he had written criticizing 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 Jan. 24, 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 leveled against him. The judge reportedly missed his flight to Kaduna, and the hearing was adjourned until Jan. 27. Earlier hearings at a magistrate court were also delayed on three separate occasions, when the judges failed to attend court on Nov. 22, Dec. 6 and Dec. 29, 2021.
The multiple delays in Binniyat’s case, which effectively extended his time in detention, have prompted concern, as have reports of Binniyat’s health in prison. He was reportedly gravely ill in early January.
This is the second time 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. He publicly apologized and 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 prioritize 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.”