By Ishaya Ibrahim
Acting News Editor
A study conducted by Spaces for Change, a non-government organisation (NGO), has revealed that Kaduna government leads the pack among states intolerant of media criticisms.
The finding was disclosed on May 29 in a press briefing in Lagos. Victoria Ohaeri, Executive Director of Spaces for Change, the outfit that conducted the research, said the aim was to determine whether spaces for civic engagement in Nigeria were expanding or shrinking.
The researchers said they used field interviews to gather data in the six geopolitical zones except North East because of the threat posed by Boko Haram.
Kaduna State came top with the highest incidence of repression where state authorities trail, arrest, illegally detain or invite for questioning of perceived critics.
“The case of Gabriel Idibia of the Union Newspaper is a classic example. For 13 days he was held in prison custody for publishing a story about Kaduna State Governor, Nasir El-Rufai’s alleged ownership of assets running into billions of naira,” the report said.
The report also disclosed that the Kaduna State government slammed charges against John Dan-Fulani for lamenting on his Facebook page the perennial fuel scarcity in Nigeria, the huge foreign exchange differentials between the Naira and other currencies and the high number of out-of-school children in the north.
In August 2016, a magistrate court ruled in his favour and dismissed the case for lack of merit.
Another incidence of repression, according to the report, involved a human rights activist and anchor of a radio programme in Kaduna State, Gloria Ballason. Her programme was taken away from her because of her hard stance against the authorities of the Nigerian Defence Academy (NDA).
Ballason had aired the programme revealing how a cadet, Elshadai Kwasu died during a swimming training at Kainji Dam in the State. The NDA trainers had no rescue equipment and left Kwasu at the mercy of fishermen when he was drowning.
“After we aired the programme, we invited the NDA to the show to tell their side of the story. The NDA wouldn’t come. The next thing we saw was a query from the National Broadcasting Commission claiming that the NDA accused us of bias,” she told the researchers.
Ballason also alleged that El-Rufai publicly threatened her. She said a court gave her judgment against the governor, restraining him and his agents from arresting, prosecuting and jailing her.