Web journalist Stephen Kefas, an outspoken critic of the authorities in Kaduna State, will have spent four and a half months in a Kaduna prison by the time his bail hearing is held Sept. 26, War Desk has learned. Kefas reportedly has been charged with “injurious publication, incitement and false accusation” for social media postings.
“This doesn’t make sense because the charges are bailable,” Mr. Reuben Buhari, a Kaduna journalist and friend of Kefas tells War Desk. According to the charging documents War Desk has reviewed, Kefas said nothing that wasn’t factually true, and his opinions posted were well within his legal rights, legal experts have said.
Barrister Solomon Musa, a law instructor and spokesman for the Southern Kaduna Peoples’ Union tells War Desk that Kefas is a victim of a political vendetta. “Kefas was imprisoned only because he was a bitter critic of the government,” he says.
“It is not against the law at all to criticize a public official under our Constitution,” Musa says. “In the case of Kefas, no court ruling anywhere restrains him from making social media posts,” Musa said, adding that “the case is puzzling because the magistrate court granted him bail on May 13 and did not order restraint to use social media.” Kefas was re-arrested May 21 and remanded to a prison a few days later.
And what exactly were the grievous posts? According to the charging document by Mr. Cafra Caino, the Local Government Chairman, Kefas posted on Easter Sunday the following: “Let be on the record that while over 12k Kajuru IDPs are living in a terrible condition, their local government chairman Cafra Caino was hosting his ex school class mates to a birthday party at Kajuru Castle on Friday.” The Castle is a famous tourist hotel built in the style of a medieval German castle. Kefas’ post included photos of the classmates in the courtyard of the hotel. Kefas included the following stinging rebuke: “Now this is the kind of thing you get when peoples mandate are forcefully stolen and given to unscrupulous elements who are party mongers.” But that wasn’t all.
“The young man couldn’t even fake compassion for the IDP’s, many who are still mourning the gruesome murder of their loved ones,” Kefas wrote on FB. As has been reported, as many as 400 Kaduna farmers, chiefly women and children were shot and hacked to death in 11 pre-dawn raids since Feb. 10 by Fulani terrorists attacking by the hundreds.
But does the LGA chairman, in the words of Shakespeare, “protesteth too much”? The integrity of most any election in Nigeria is liable to be disputed, and the election of Caino in 2018 was no exception. “Cafra never won the chairman elections in 2018,” according to one Kaduna resident, a Cafra critic who spoke on background to War Desk to avoid retaliation by the government. This citizen tells War Desk, “The PDP won, and challenged the outcome in court, but the government did their usual abracadabra,” wrote the witness, adding, “the youth in Kajuru guarded the election results for three days, asking that it be counted there, because they knew Cafra couldn’t win. Police came later and dispersed the crowd and went away with the ballot boxes.”
Yet, to hear Cafra tell it in his petition, his sterling reputation was thus obliterated: “The quoted words have subjected me, both in my private and official capacities, to public ridicule, scorn , opprobrium and odium in the eye of people of Kajuru Local Government and caused me loss of political goodwill which I have worked hard to earn.”
A resident of Port Harcourt but raised in Kaduna, Kefas had criticized Gov. Nasir El Rufai in Facebook postings, and prior to his arrest in Port Harcourt on May 8, he had shared a Sahara Reporters story which listed the events leading up to the death of Kajuru Monarch, Dr. Galadima Maiwada the Agom Of Adara Chiefdom in Kaduna state.
A coalition of human rights groups has taken up the cause of Kefas and a growing list of government critics who allege that the government has wrongly jailed them or attempted intimidation. The rights groups include Citizens Against Tyranny, Justice4women, Bridge-Builders International Network, Adara Youth Congress, Southern Kaduna Indigenous Peoples Forum, Coalition Against Kajuru Killings and Concerned Nigerians, according to the news site Forefront News, which accuses the State authorities of “a deliberate ploy deployed by Governor Nasir El-Rufai to unleash terror on active voices opposed to his tyrannical disposition.”
Good Friday was a day of mourning for Christians reflecting on the crucifixion of Christ. A day of mourning for many Adara who had lost relatives a few days earlier. It was not a good day for Faye Mooney, who was murdered along with her close friend at the Castle. And it may prove to be a very bad day for Cafra Caino when the evidence of the continuing investigation of the murder is in.
Kefas invoked the protagonist of Macbeth in his FB post as cited by Caino in the charging document, “History and posterity will never be kind to Cafra because he alongside his boss, Elrufai, have murdered sleep and may not find sleep themselves.”
Time will tell.
Magnafaith Krimi is the senior editor of War Desk News, a media entrepreneur and a Nigerian diaspora leader in the Washington, D.C., area.