Detained journalist struggling to meet bail conditions
From Christiana T. Alabi, Kaduna
The detained Kaduna journalist and former staff of Vanguard Newspapers, Luka Binniyat is still struggling to meet the bail conditions granted him by a high court over his case after about 60 days.
The High Court had on July 20, 2017 granted him bail or be remanded in prison till August 31, 2017 should he failed to meet the conditions. Justice Bashir Sukola who granted the application in the sum of N10 million with two sureties in the like sum and a bank bond in same amount, with deposition of the sureties’ international passport ordered that Binniyat be remanded in prison until he was able to meet the conditions and had since then remained in prison for his inability to meet the conditions.
Although, there have been condemnations saying the conditions are too stringent. A counsel to the journalist, Alex Marama also expressed surprise over the conditions.
The high court had earlier during its sitting of July 12, 2017 ordered that Binniyat be remanded in prison until the next hearing. Binniyat who appeared in the courtroom in crutches, following an accident pleaded not guilty to the charges but the judge adjourned the matter till July 20 pending the determination of the bail application filed by his lawyer. At the continuation of hearing on July 20, he was granted bail with stringent conditions he is yet to meet.
Appearing before the high court again on August 31 still with crutches, the court ordered that Binniyat be remanded in the convict prison pending the time his bail conditions will be reviewed. The case was adjourned to October 9, 2017 as a result of an appeal for adjournment filed by the prosecuting counsel led by Kaduna State Director of Public Prosecution, Bayero Dari; meaning that he is likely to spend additional 23 days to stay in prison before the conditions would be reviewed.
Speaking outside the court room, Dari said the adjournment was not deliberate explaining that the instant adjournment was necessary because the case had been transferred to a Senior Advocate of Nigeria (SAN) who has been debriefed and needed time to go through the case file.
But the lead counsel to the accused, Barrister James Kanyip said he was disappointed that the condition review was not done at the sitting. He argued that the motion for review was filed since August 7, 2017 adding that the prosecuting team had ample time to study it. He however vowed to seek redress at the Court of Appeal if the motion was not treated satisfactorily.
It would be recalled that Binniyat was on February 6, 2017 invited for questioning by the Kaduna State Command of State Security Service, (SSS) over an allegation of falsifying a news report about the Southern Kaduna crisis. After the interrogation, he was handed over to the police who later charged him to court. He was arraigned before a magistrate court in Kaduna where he was accused of falsely claiming that five students of the College of Education, Gidan Waya were ambushed and shot dead by herders in a report that was published in the Vanguard newspaper on January 22, 2017.
The Chief Magistrate, Emmanuel Yusuf then granted him bail on a N200, 000 bond and a surety in like sum. He said the surety must reside within the jurisdiction of the court and possess landed property within the jurisdiction of the court, covered with a Certificate of Occupancy.
The state government later took the case to the state high court where fresh charges were leveled against him. He was subsequently charged for a breach of public peace and injurious falsehood, punishable under section 114 and 393 of the penal code laws of Kaduna State.
The Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has however condemned the continuous incarceration of Binniyat who was a one-time chairman of the Kaduna correspondent chapel of NUJ. The vice president, South-East of NUJ, Comrade Christopher Isiguzo in an interview after visiting Binniyat in prison described as unacceptable the incarceration of Binniyat and other journalists.
He also expressed displeasure over the conditions attached to his bail. “We are talking about a journalist and not a criminal or hoodlum. He was not part of those asking people to vacate any part of the country and you are attaching such stringent bail conditions to him,” he lamented, saying that NUJ would settle for nothing less than his release.
He therefore on the Chief Justice of Nigeria and the National Judicial Commission to intervene on the judges so that they don’t continue to drag the image of the judiciary in the mud.
However, the question Binniyat had continued to ask was why the state government chose to focus on his person rather than his organization that published the alleged story since Vanguard newspaper was his principal.
Luka Binniyat arriving court premises on July 20, 2017