by Sani Tukur,
A Nigerian blogger on Thursday spent his fourth night in detention for writing a controversial blog post.
Jamil Mabai, a blogger based in the Northwestern state of Katsina, was arrested by officers of the Nigerian Police Force on Monday in Kaduna.
The blogger is a known critic of the Katsina administration led by Aminu Masari on his blog, Cliqq Magazine.
A Magistrate Court in Katsina on Thursday declined jurisdiction to try him. The judge instead asked that he be further detained.
Mr. Mabai’s arrest is believed to have been ordered by the governor, a claim the latter’s spokesperson denied.
A family friend of Mr. Mabai told PREMIUM TIMES that the governor was not happy with his recent post condemning the recent purchase of 3000 metal coffins for distribution to Mosques in the state.
Mr. Mabai said by purchasing the coffins, Mr. Masari is simply saying “Katsina people deserve to die”.
He also questioned the rationale behind buying the coffins at N40,000 each at a time the government was unable to pay civil servants outstanding arrears of salaries.
Writing via his tweeter handle, @jaymb000 Mr. Mabai said, “What have we done to deserve this? Why will a Gov. Purchase coffins with public money?”
Our source on Thursday said Mr. Mabai was arrested on Monday in Kaduna where he had gone to celebrate the Eid el kabir Sallah celebration.
“The Police followed him from Katsina to Kaduna and arrested him there,” he said.
He also said “when they picked him up, they first took him to Unguwan Sanusi police station before they proceeded to Kankara local government and finally Katsina town”.
Friends and relatives of the blogger were apprehensive of his whereabouts, until the Police finally charged him to court on Thursday.
Mr. Mabai himself posted a tweet on his handle to say ” Finally they have taken us to court at GRA including one other Social Media activist, Bishir Dauda”.
Our source confirmed that the blogger was taken to the Magistrate Court Number 1, at the GRA.
He said “as soon as the matter was announced, the judge said he cannot entertain the matter for lack of jurisdiction”.
He said the judge ordered that the accused be taken to prison pending when he would be arraigned at a separate court.
“However, by the time the court made the pronouncement, it was too late to take them to the prison. They were, therefore, taken to the GRA Police station in Katsina, after which they would be taken to prison tomorrow,” he said.
Efforts to speak with the spokesperson of the Police in Katsina, Salisu Agaida, were unsuccessful as his phone line could not be reached.
It is not clear if the police will arraign Mr. Mabai before a proper court on Friday.
WHY WE ARRESTED
However, media reports had quoted the state Commissioner of Police, Usman Abdullahi, explaining why the blogger was arrested.
Mr. Abdullahi said Mr. Mabai was detained for posting tweets to say the government bought the coffins because it wanted people to die.
“The state government complained that Jamil wrote that it had bought 3,000 coffins and distributed to mosques and may be it wanted Katsina people to die.
“Any reasonable person will ask one or two questions. This is why we had to invite him to assist the police,” he said.
When contacted, the spokesperson to Mr. Masari, Abdu Labaran, denied that the state reported the blogger to the police.
“To the best of my knowledge, the state government did not complain about any blogger to anybody. Unless it is done without my knowledge,” he said.
Mr. Labaran also said he spent the whole day with the governor on Thursday and “no mention was made of the arrest or arraignment of anyone on the orders of the governor.”
GOING AFTER BLOGGERS
Also arraigned alongside Mr. Mabai are Bashir Dauda and Umar Faruq. They were all accused of writing about the story with the intent to cause civil disturbance and expose Mr. Masari to public ridicule.
Their arrest and arraignment is coming on the heels of the arrest and detention two weeks ago of another blogger, Emenike Iroegbu, on the orders of Governor Okezie Ikpeazu of Abia State.
Mr. Iroegbu who publishes Abia Facts Newspaper was accused of defaming Mr. Ikpeazu.
He allegedly published a story accusing the governor of burying a 9-year-old boy in the government House, Umuahia.
In the same vein, another blogger, Abubakar Usman, who publishes abusidiqu.com was recently arrested and detained by the Economic and Financial Crimes Comkission, EFCC, who accused him of “cyber stalking”.
Mr. Usman was released after much public condemnation.