UPDATE, 13 May 2022: Binniyat's case has been rescheduled to Monday, 16 May. It will be heard by Judge Binta Balogun at Kaduna High Court 2.
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Christian Solidarity International has learned that Nigerian authorities have resurrected long-dormant charges against the journalist and human rights activist
Binniyat, 57, will appear in court this Friday, 13 May, before Judge Binta Balogun of Kaduna High Court 5, to answer for charges related to his reporting on
violence against Christians in his home state of Kaduna.
Binniyat has been jailed three times since 2017 for his reporting on Fulani Muslim militia attacks on indigenous Christians in southern Kaduna. Binniyat has won several awards for his reporting, including the 2018 Press Freedom Award from the Nigerian Union of Journalists.
The new legal proceedings come as violence in southern Kaduna is reaching crisis levels. Fulani militias have killed hundreds of people in attacks on Christian villages in the last two months, in addition to attacking Kaduna state’s airport and waylaying a train running between Kaduna city and Nigeria’s capital, Abuja.
Binniyat was jailed twice for his reporting in 2017. In that case, Kaduna State Government vs. Luka Binniyat, he was charged with “injurious falsehood” and “breach of public peace” for reporting on an alleged attack by Fulani militants in a story for Vanguard newspaper. After his initial detention and release on bail, Binniyat was re-arrested in July and languished in jail for over ninety days, as the authorities repeatedly changed the venue for his trial, and judges failed to appear for crucial hearings. He was finally released on bail once his supporters were able to meet the onerous conditions demanded by the court, but the charges were never dropped.
In November 2021, Binniyat was arrested again, this time for his reporting about the massacre of 38 Christians in Madamai in Kaduna state that took place that September. In his report for the U.S. newspaper The Epoch Times, Binniyat quoted a senator from Kaduna as criticizing the state’s security commissioner, Samuel Aruwan. After the senator claimed he had been misquoted, Binniyat was arrested again and charged with the federal crime of “cyberstalking.”
Once again, Binniyat was held in jail for three months while the venue for this new case – Federal Government of Nigeria v. Luka Binniyat – was repeatedly changed and his attorneys repeatedly turned up to hearings only to find there was no judge present. According to Binniyat, the prison conditions during his third detention were much worse than before: “My cell had 120 men inside. We slept like sardines. We queued all night to use one toilet.”
Binniyat was finally released on bail on 3 February this year. His most recent court appearance related to this second case was on Monday, 9 May. The judge was, once again, absent.
But now Binniyat has been summoned to appear in court in connection with the 2017 case, which has been dormant for over a year. Because the judge who had been assigned to the case retired in the interim, Binniyat will have to be arraigned all over again before the new judge – the fourth to handle this case. It is uncertain if the bail he has had for this case since 2017 will be maintained.
Binniyat's supporters fear that he will be imprisoned again.
“I am told that the state government is saying that I have not learnt any lesson from my detention, because I have continued my revelations of the atrocities committed against our people,” Binniyat told CSI.
Binniyat and many other local voices describe these atrocities as a campaign of ethnic cleansing and demographic replacement. Over the past decade, Fulani militia attacks on indigenous Christians in Kaduna have killed thousands, and displaced tens of thousands. According to Binniyat’s research, over the past decade, some 145 Christian communities in southern Kaduna have been occupied by Fulani militias, accounting for nearly 10% of the region’s land.
“This is a clear attempt to intimidate and persecute individuals who dare to raise the alarm about the incipient genocide in southern Kaduna,” said Franklyne Ogbunwezeh, CSI’s senior research fellow for Africa. “Rather than protecting their people, Governor Elrufai and his allies in the federal government are harassing Kaduna state’s human rights defenders, to keep them from being effective and to discourage others from speaking out.”
Since his inauguration in 2015, Kaduna’s governor, Nasir Elrufai, has waged a campaign against journalists and human rights activists covering the anti-Christian violence occurring in his state.
CSI calls on the Nigerian authorities to unconditionally dismiss all charges against Luka Binniyat, and to protect the constitutional and human rights of all journalists and whistleblowers.