For Jacob Onjewu Dickson, the consulting editor of Authentic News Daily, an online paper, it was another day of uncertainty and anxiety in the court in Kaduna State.
It has been so for Onjewu for the past 36 months and each of these months, the versatile journalist made a total appearance at the court for over 36 times.
What were the offences of the writer?
Arrested April 26, 2016 after invitation from Kaduna State Commissioner of Police on 3-count charge that followed :
1. False Impersonatiion for using a pen name (pseudonym)
2. Causing disaffection for the government of Kaduna State
3. Criminal defamation of the Kaduna State Governor, Malam Nasir el-Rufai, after publishing a story that he was stoned by angry youth.
The editor was in detention for seven days in Kaduna Convict Prison before granted bail.
Initially, it was a two-count charge, the First Information Report (FIR) was amended subsequently after he was released to accommodate a third charge bordering on defamation of the governor.
Since the advent of Malam Nasir el-Rufai as the Governor of Kaduna State, journalists and bloggers have been at the rough end of the road as Kaduna now holds the dubious title of the state with the highest numbers of journalists in jail or facing charges carrying jail terms.
It has gotten to the point where no journalist is willing to write an article or cover a story that is too critical of the governor.
Again, the state Government has a divide and rule policy that guides its relationship with journalists in the state .
There are members of the press which are termed as friends of the Government by and large, these government house journalists cover government house events, follow the governor everywhere he goes and file reports about the governor’s itineraries.
Besides, reporting activities of the governor, they are also obliged to ameliorate any reports that is negative or critical of the governor and his cabinet and in return they are believed to be handsomely rewarded.
The other set of the media are those perceived to be the independent or rebel press.
They don’t go near the governor’s office or official residence, they don’t get invited to any government function.
They also work in an environment which may be stifling financially and in terms of being expressive.
Furthermore, they are at risk of getting arrested or victimized for anything they write.
Since assuming office on May 29th, 2015 over 10 journalists and bloggers have been arrested for criticising him or disagreeing with him.
The glaring aspect that has come out from all these arrests and detention is that Governor el-Rufai is highly intolerant of any criticism. Once, you decide to speak against any of his policies, you are marked for arrest.
By and large, in this present Democratic dispensation, El Rufai holds the dubious title of having arrested and gaoled the highest number of journalists and bloggers in Nigeria a situation that many have said is killing the journalism in the state .
1. Gabriel Idibia
The Union Newspaper
El-Rufai sued the paper and the reporter for writing a story on his monetary worth. The case is currently in court.
2. Jacob Onjewu Dickson
The Authentic News Daily
Arrested, detained and charged to court. He was taken to prison for seven days before he was eventually granted bail. He was not granted access to his lawyer before his first appearance in court and was not allowed to make calls or receive visitors on first day of detention at the Gabasawa Police Division. The case is still in court.
3. Luka Binniyat
Arrested, detained and charged to court. He also spent over 80 days in prison before his bail condition could be met. The case is currently in court.
4. Midat Joseph
Arrested, detained and charged to court. He spends two days in the Police cell before his bail hearing came up. He has been charged to court over a WhatsApp chat discussion.
5. Audu Maikori
CEO Chocolate City Company
Arrested, detained and charged to court. This was after the governor openly boasted to have him prosecuted. The case is currently in court.
6. Dr John Danfulani
Lecturer Kaduna State University
Suspended, arrested, detained and charged to court for allegedly criticising the Governor through a Facebook post. He was in prison for days before his bail condition was met. His case was initially struck out at a magistrate court, but the state government filed it afresh before another court. The case is currently in court.
7. Sunny Yayock
A freelance Journalist
Arrested detained and charged to court for his comment on social Media supporting a call for peaceful Demonstration. He slept for two days in the police cell before he was taken to court and granted bail. The case is currently in court
8. Segun Onibiyo
A radio presenter with Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria was arrested for posts he was accused of making which were critical of El Rufai and President Buhari and held in Kaduna Prison for more than a month .
Though, he was released on bail, the case is still in court .
9. Daniel Karl Max
He went along with other reporters from Kaduna News Online, Oasis Reporters to Kataf hall where they interviewed refugees from the Adara crisis .
During the interview, the refugees alleged that they have not received any form of aid from the state government.
On airing the interview Karl Max was reported to his superiors and he was queried. Those that lodged the complaint are from Kaduna State Government..
10. Gloria Ballason
A lawyer and social critic
Harrassed and threatened with arrest and prosecution directly by the Governor over an article she wrote in Blueprint News paper on the killings in Southern Kaduna
To forestall the threat of the Governor ,Gloria quickly went to court and sued him for harrassment and abuse to her right of opinion .The case is ongoing.
11. Jeremiah Sunday
A lecturer with the College of Education Gidan Waya
Was sacked for allegedly being too critical of the Governor.
12. Adamu Abdullahi
Was invited by the police for questioning, for re-tweeting a tweet about El-Rufai being stoned.
So many others are being lined up for arrest according to the governor, from his various media interviews.
Mike Odeh James is a political activist and advocate for justice and peace in the Middle Belt of Nigeria. He can be reached by email HERE.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author.