Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, DG of the Kano State Censor's Board at a Hausa writers conference in Damagaram, Niger, December 2009
In yet another bizarre twist in the Kano State Censors Board vs. Kannywood saga, the editor of Fim Magazine, Malam Aliyu Abdullahi Gora II, has been arrested following a complaint by the head of the Kano State Censorship Board, Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, that he suspected the editor and other Kannywood stakeholders of having sent him death threats by text message. According to Ali Alkali and Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz in their article “Editor Remanded Over Alleged Threat to Life” and Ibrahim Sheme in “Shekarau’s Hausa Movie Script” in Leadership newspaper, the police apparently came to Kaduna from Kano on Thursday, 1 July 2010, and bundled Gora into a taxi to Kano. When a judge claimed she was unable to come to court, Gora remained in prison over the weekend awaiting Monday, 5 July 2010, when he will hopefully be able to appeal for bail. [[[UPDATE MONDAY, 5 JULY 2010: One of my friends just called and told me Gora went to court today, and Magistrate Halima Nasiru said that he could be released on bail with the following condition: The person who posts bail for him, the assurity, must be a level 17 Civil servant from KANO, or alternatively a KANO businessman with a business registered with the KANO government. Remember that Gora is from Kaduna, where he lives and works, and that it will be much more difficult for him to find someone to post bail for him in Kano. In the meantime, he is approaching his 6th day in prison over a mere accusation.]]] Moreover, according to Alkali and Abdulaziz other Kannywood figures listed for arrest are:
Yakubu Lere, Abdullahi Sani Kano, Tahir I. Tahir, Tijjani Asase, Yusuf Baban Chinedu, Ashiru Sani Bazanga, Adam A. Zango and Rabi’u Rikadawan (a.k.a. Dila) and Abubakar Sani.
They have obtained a restraining order against arrest from Kaduna High Court.
Rabo had claimed in his petition to the police that he received text messages from two GSM lines in which his life was threatened, fingering the nine industry stakeholders as suspects.
Some of the suspects had earlier sued Rabo in a Kaduna magistrate court over defamation of character and the case is still pending in the court.
This is a story I have meant to post far before this but had not found the time to compile all of the articles together. I will try to do so here, providing a list of links to a timeline of the suits and countersuits between filmmakers and the head of the censors board. In summary, the events just narrated come on the heels of an arrest warrant against Rabo for contempt of court, when he failed twice to appear in the Kaduna court, for which he had received summons. Rabo had been sued by filmmakers for defamation of character following claims he had made on air at Kano independent television station DITV that Kaduna filmmakers were making pornographic films. He also made claims during the DITV interview that Hausa film director and producer Iyan-Tama had not registered his company Iyan-Tama Multimedia. Following the order for his arrest from the Kaduna court, Rabo had obtained a restraining order from a Kano high court, to stop Kaduna police from arresting him.
Readers may remember earlier posts in June, July, and August of last year in which I described how the filmmaker’s association MOPPAN sued Rabo in a shari’a court in Fagge, Kano, for defamation of character on Radio Kano. The September 2009 issue of Fim Magazine described how Rabo failed to show up in court on multiple occasions. (Note that I have provided a link to photos of the pages of the article in Fim describing the case: page 12, page 13, and page 14). According to Fim Magazine and sources I spoke to in MOPPAN, the state made some structural changes to the Kano State Censors Board, adding directors to provide more oversight of Rabo. Furthermore, Justice Mukhtari Ahmad, who had sent artistes Adam Zango, Iyan-Tama, Rabilu Musa (Ibro), Kaura, Aminu Ala and Bashir D’andago to prison, in quick trials with many irregularities, was moved to Wudil. However, MOPPAN was told not to continue the case against Rabo in the shari’a court.
Rabo continued to travel out of state speaking about the need for censorship and perceived abuses of filmmaker’s against the “culture of the Hausa-Fulani.” In May, there was an uproar on the Finafinan Hausa and Dandalin Siyasa yahoo groups, when Rejato, a journalist with Radio Alternative in Niamey, Niger, claimed that Rabo had sent his supporters in Kannywood, Useini Sule Koki, Mohamed Roja, and others to Niamey to ask artistes in Niamey to register with the Kano State Censorship Board. According to Rejato, Rabo offered tohelp Nigerien artists with 10 million naira if they agreed to this arrangement. The Nigeriens responded pointing out that Niger and Nigeria were two different nations and laws in Kano did not apply to them.
In the meantime a riot nearly broke out in Kaduna on 24 May 2010 when Rabo went on DITV radio accusing filmmakers in Kaduna of making pornography.
According Abdulrahmane Tonga in Leadership on 17 May, 2010,
It was only by whiskers and the quick arrival of Operation Yaki policemen that saved the Director-General of Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdukareem, from lynching by angry film makers in Kaduna.
The incident, which occurred at the premises of Desmims Independent Television (DITV) and Alheri FM Radio on Friday, created tension and apprehension when Rabo participated in a live programme where he was alleged to have made uncomplimentary remarks against Hausa film makers and called on the government and people of Kaduna State to descend on them and stop what he called “their salacious and amoral film making ventures.”
In the programme, Rabo was alleged to have even mocked the Kaduna State government when he said he bought a pornographic film at Unguwar Sarki, which the authorities allowed to continue unabated to the detriment of the people and their morals in the state.
In an interview, a member of the Kaduna State Film Makers Association, Alhaji Yakubu Lere, said Rabo’s pronouncement during the live programme was inciting, provocative and very uncomplimentary to the film makers in Kaduna State, who are doing a lot to earn a living, saying that it was what infuriated them.
“The arrival of Operation Yaki really assisted greatly, because some members of Kaduna Film Makers Association had attempted to go inside the studio and beat up Rabo due to his unguarded utterences against our members,” Lere said.
When the situation had calmed down, Rabo, who looked visibly traumatized, asked Lere and Alhaji Haruna Danjuma (Mutuwa Dole), another veteran dramatist, to escort him out of the station.
“Rabo was escorted out of DITV premises inside a pick-up van belonging to Operation Yaki and taken straight to his room at Access Hotel, Barnawa, where he checked out without further delay. In fact, he did not waste time in packing his little belongings into his car, and left with the escort of Operation Yaki full of civil defence corps up to the border with Kano State”.
When Leadership contacted him on his GSM phone, Rabo said whatever he said on the TV programme was not against the law, and if anyone has doubt, the recorded programme is still in DITV, that the person can check it out.
“It’s only an act of overzealousness of some film makers who were angry with what I said. And I have no regret whatsoever for making such remarks,” he said.
Asked whether he really bought a pornographic film in Kaduna, Rabo declined to answer, but said, “In Kano State, we have sanitized the film making industry, and it is very complementary if other states in the country, especially in the North, could take heed from what we have done, in the interest of all people.”
Al-Amin Ciroma reported the story in more detail in Leadership on 18 May 2010, including the responses of the filmmaker’s to Rabo’s accusations:
The DG, Leadership gathered, insinuated among other issues that some nude home videos, popularly known as ‘Blue-films,’ were in circulation in Kaduna metropolis, particularly in Anguwan Sarki ward by the Hausa filmmakers.
Some filmmakers expressed their dismay over what the DG said.
“We don’t know what Rabo want from us? We are Nigerians and have freedom of association and previleges. We were defaced and mutilated in Kano and subjected to all series of humiliation and as law-abiding citizens, we transfered our business back to Kaduna, with mutual understanding between us and the government of the state. Kaduna is a liberal state where sentiment is of no course. We are peacefully doing our business here and yet he is all out to fight us. For Rabo to say that we are producing nude vidoes, I think, he need to visit his psychiatric doctor,”a source within the association told LEADERSHIP.
Commenting on what they called indignity by the filmmakers, the management of the station condemned what the Kannywood practitioners did. Our correspondent authoritatively gathered that the filmmakers convaged in huge numbers into the premises of DITV, located at Sambo Close, GRA, Kaduna, at early hours of Friday, raining abuses on Malam Rabo Abdulkareem, they also threatened to burn down the station.
Salisu Umar, a.k.a Salinga, the presenter, who hosted the DG on his popular programme, “Mu Shakata” revealed that after hosting him on the programme the previous day, he felt that there was need for him to reappear again the next day to clarify some issues. According to him, Abubakar Sani, a popular playback singer, offered to appear with the DG on the programme to counter some allegations, which the presenter approved. He then made same arrangement with Rabo; a request, which the DG agreed. By that arrangement, Umar added, Rabo is to feature alongside the Kannywood singer on the programme. Suprisingly, continued Salinga, the DG called him that he had changed his mind to appear live and suggested that the programme be recorded and aired late. “Not only that, Rabo said, he prefered to record the programme in his hotel room. Without questioning him, I passed the information to Abubakar Sani and he also agreed with the arrangement. Sani, to my surprise, called me again that he has alighted Sani Musa Danja, who is the president of the newly inaugurated Nigerian Artistes In Support of Democracy (NAISOD) to come on the programme with Rabo. [See my earlier post on NAISOD-CM] I called Danja and he stated his readiness to feature alongside the DG, but on condition that the programme be hosted in the studios of DITV and not Rabo’s hotel room. Danja gave me his reasons for not wanting to go to Rabo hotel room, which I reasoned with him. As a mediator, I cajoled the DG to come to our studios, which he agreed after some hesitations. Sani Danja and some of his subjects, Isma’il Na’Abba (Afakallah), Abubakar Sani, Ubale Wanke-Wanke and others came to our office as scheduled to meet Rabo,” said Salinga.
The programme went on well with the guests, according to the presenter, “Unknown to us, some of the filmmakers kept calling their colleagues and before we knew it, our premises were surrounded by them. It took the intervention of security agents to disperse the angry artistes and whisk Malam Rabo and his entourage out of Kaduna.”
Following Rabo’s quick return to Kano, the Kaduna State Filmmakers Association took Rabo to court. Abdulrahman Tonga reported in Leadership on 1 June, 2010, that:
Members of the Kaduna State Filmmakers Association yesterday dragged the Director-General of Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, to a magistrate court in Kaduna over alleged criminal defamation of character and inciting the public to violence.
In a complaint charge filed before Chief Magistrate Nasiru Idris Lere of Magistrate Court 1, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Kaduna, six filmmakers argued that a television interview granted by Rabo to the DITV station in Kaduna a fortnight ago had ridiculed their image and lowered their reputation in the eyes of the public.
Rabo was quoted to have told the TV station in a live broadcast that Hausa moviemakers were now engaged in the production of pornographic films and that the people of Kaduna State should rise against them.
He reportedly claimed to have bought a copy of such pornographic movies in Unguwar Sarki area of Kaduna metropolis.
Describing the censorship board chief’s assertion as false, the plaintiffs said such statement was capable of inciting violence in the state.
“His statement that people should rise against us has made our members to live in constant apprehension for fear of being attacked by the public,” they said.
Rabo’s allegation was contrary to sections 392 and 114 of the penal code, they added.
The complainants consist of executive committee members of the Kaduna filmmakers association. They are: Ashiru Sani Bazanga, Rabi’u Mohammed Rikadawa, Aliyu Abdullahi Gora II, Sulaiman Sha’ani, Aminu Musa Carlos, and Jamilu Adamu.
LEADERSHIP learnt that the court summons, which was endorsed by a magistrate in Kaduna, was received by Rabo yesterday in his office situated within the Kano State-owned City Television in Hotoro, Kano.
The hearing comes up tomorrow in Kaduna.
However, the next day, Rabo did not show up in the Kaduna court claiming that he was “indisposed,” a move echoing his similar absence in Kano courts in August 2009. Samuel Aruwan reported in Leadership on 3 June 2010:
The case of defamation and inciting of public disturbance to violence, brought before Kaduna Magistrate Court by members of the Kaduna State Filmmakers Association against the Director-General of Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, was yesterday mentioned in the court. The magistrate, Nasiru Idris Lere, ordered that the counsel to the director-general, Mr. Gabriel Didam, must produce the respondent before the court in person.
When the case was mentioned, counsel to the director-general, Gabriel Didam, told the court that his client could not appear in court in person as a result of being indisposed, a plea the filmmakers’ counsel, Mr.A.S. Suleiman in his argument consented to the respondent’s prayer. The judge adjourned the case to June 10, 2010 with clear instruction that Rabo must appear in person before the court.
On 9 June (perhaps the earlier date of adjournment quoted was wrong?), Abdurahmane Tonga reported in Leadership (a copy of the article is posted on Ibrahim Sheme’s blog) that:
The Kaduna State police command has been ordered by a judge to arrest the Director-General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, for his failure to appear before it on two occasions.
The judge, Alhaji Nasiru Idris Lere of Magistrate Court 1 in Kaduna, gave the order for Rabo’s immediate arrest by the police.
When the case opened in court last week, the Kano chief censor failed to appear, citing ill-health. His counsel sought a postponement, a plea to which the filmmakers’ counsel, A.S. Suleiman, did not object.
During yesterday’s hearing, counsel to Rabo, Mr. Gabriel Didam, told the court that his client could not appear in court in person as a result of insecurity in the state, adding that his client was also sick. He, however, apologized to the court on behalf of his client.
Counsel to the plaintiffs, Malam Sadau Garba, appealed to the court to issue a bench warrant against Rabo, pointing out that this was the second sitting in which he was not in the court. According to the lawyer, information reaching him was that the accused was determined never to come to the court.
“Justice has to be done,” he said. “The accused person had complained that he was sick, but no written document had been produced. And information reaching us is that the accused is bragging that he will never be present throughout the case and that nothing will happen. We therefore apply that this honorable court issue a arrest warrant to make him appear and take any alternative measures to bring him to the court”.
When ruling on the request, the judge said, “The accused person did not follow the proper way to channel his complaint to the court, a behaviour which may leave the other party to feel they are not treated equally.
“I will not believe him that there is insecurity in Kaduna. It’s an excuse by the accused person. And he has to tell us the names of those that thinks are after him so that court will stop them from coming to its premises.
“Since the inception of the case he has been complaining frequently, but the accused never did in the formal way. Under the section 153 of the CPC, the accused has to be in court. I am left with no option than to order his arrest under section 70 / 1A / B by the Commissioner of Police, Kaduna State.”
Hearing in the suit was adjourned till June 16, 2010.
Court order for the arrest of Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim (given me by MOPPAN)
On 15 June 2010, Abdulaziz A. Abdulaziz reported in Leadership that Rabo had obtained a staying order from the Kano high court:
A Kano State High Court presided over by the Chief Judge of the state, Justice Shehu Atiku, has issued an order barring police from arresting or detaining the Director-General of the Kano State Censorship Board, Malam Abubakar Rabo Abdulkareem, following an order to that effect by a Kaduna magistrate court.
The applicant had filed an ex-parte motion asking the court to stop the police from carrying out an order issued to them by Chief Magistrate Nasiru Idris Lere of Chief Magistrate Court, Ibrahim Taiwo Road , Kaduna, to arrest and produce him before the court.
The motion, number K/M328/2010, dated June 11, 2010, joined the Kano and Kaduna police commissioners as first and second respondents. Others include Magistrate Lere, the Inspector-General of Police and the Assistant Inspectors-General of Police in charge of Zone 1 (Kano) and Zone 7 ( Abuja ).
A copy of the court order obtained by LEADERSHIP in Kano shows that the court hinged its decision to issue the order after considering the motion ex-parte and the accompanying affidavit sworn to by the applicant.
Part of the document reads: “The Respondent particularly the 1st and 5th Respondents (i.e. the Commissioner of police Kano State, and the AIG, Zone 1, Kano) are hereby directed to stay all actions (in particular, from arresting and detaining the Applicant) pending the hearing and determination of the substantive application.”
A Kano-based lawyer, Barrister Nuraini Jimoh, and one Mr Morgan stand as counsel to the chief censor in the case. It has been adjourned to June 25, 2010 for hearing of the substantive motion on notice.
Arrest Warrent for Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, 10 June 2010
On 16 June 2010, Al-Amin Ciroma reported further drama when Rabo’s attorneys claimed their ignorance of the restriction on arrest of their client :
The case, which is presided over by Chief Magistrate Nasiru Idris Lere, has yesterday end with a dramatic session as the counsel of the accuse, Barrister Gideon Didam, honourable withdrew with his team of lawyers from the case on grounds of protecting their professional integrity. “We are completely ignorant of the court order restricting the arrest of our client. We are in this vain, going to allow the judicial court to take its position, may be that is why the accused is absent today.” Said the defence counsel.
Similarly, the counsel to the complainants, Barrister Sadau Garba, represented by Barrister Mohammad Sunusi, argued that the said order from the Kano high court seems not authentic as the document was a photocopy instead of original. Sighting technical inferiorities, Barrister Sunusi disputed the order under section 158/D&E of CPC. He urged the court to continue the proceeding.
The Chief Magistrate, in his ruling said the court will ignore the matter to avoid judicial rascality. Adding that the registrar of the court will forward the said order to the Kaduna State Anthony general for verification and further directives. Meanwhile, June 28, 2010 was fixed for further hearing on the case.
The latest reports return to where I started this post. I have not yet found information regarding the 28 June court date. The news is taken over by Rabo’s accusations of receiving death threats from the very people who sued him to court, the arrest warrents from Kano courts, the continued imprisonment without bail or trial of Fim magazine editor Aliyu Abdullahi Gora II.
On 2 July 2010, an opinion piece was published in the Kano state government newspaper Triumph by an Asabe Murtala mysteriously titled “Is Rabo a Melting Pot.” In the piece, Asabe Murtala vociferously defends Rabo in a tone and language that sounds very much Rabo’s own, as can be read on the “Censorship Board in the News” section of the Kano State Censor’s Board website. Asabe Murtala waxes lyrical over the DG of KSCB:
To many people, Rabo’s name alone sounds musical to ears. While the same name sends shivers and is persistently jittery that shocks the very foundation of the ill-conceived and perturbed thinking of some handful few in the Hausa film making industry. You can call it Kannywood, Shaidanwood or any other wood you want to attach it to.
With regard to the programme aired on DSTV that is inspiring so many lawsuits, she says:
In the programme Mallam Rabo was so stressed for the need that there was a need for the people of Kaduna State, both muslims and non-muslims, to stand up against any film making that is in collusion with our societal norms, value and culture. And he was so disturbed that while we are in the 21st century, some film makers are still behaving as if we are in the uncivilized world.
There were five callers during the second live programme. They are Abdullahi, Ladidi, Hudu, Mamman and Maman Fadhlu. They all praised the presentation as apt, focused and enlightened. Most of the callers confessed that they didn’t like Rabo’s style of operation before. But with the discussion that was taking place, they came to understand what Rabo stands for. This is a deadly blow on the faces of the film makers. Instead of them to calculate and strategize well, they challenged Rabo to be a co-host with one other person from their part. Which he happily responded in the affirmative. It never occurred to them that an encounter with Rabo could not be a Pancake-race. The encounter turned out to be a Pandora’s box! Because they were panic-striken, Mallam Rabo had to be escorted out of theDITV premises with the help of security operatives, that were armed-to-teeth.
What followed then was, as I heard from some reliable sources, Rabo received many text messages threatening his life. As a law abiding citizen, he officially wrote a letter to the Commissioner of Police, Kano Command, titled ‘Threat to My Llife.’The letter was sent on the May18, 2010. In the letter Mallam Rabo cited some text messages as samples, together with the phone numbers. To tell you that Rabo is security conscious, by sending the texts with the phone numbers. He knew the vital role those numbers could play during investigation. Though, the numbers could be purchased for that hatchet job alone.
Threatening his life was not enough to them, for the fact that they realized that he was waxing stronger in Kaduna State and other neighboring states. They resorted to court action and media campaign against this gentleman.
Least I forgot, during the third programme, DITV Radio Alheri hosted Mallam Rabo, Sani Danja and Isma’ila Na-Abba. Rabo as usual dressed them down. So the film people floated over an ocean immediately after the Titanic ship rocked. It was terribly embarrassing!
Mallam Rabo was summoned by the Chief Magistrate Nasiru Idris Lere, of the Kaduna Magistrate Court. Mallam Abubakar Rabo could not go to the court on health ground. And could not also attend the second sitting because he got no assurance from the court of his security. He was receiving text messages threatening his life, so it was mentioned to the court through his lawyers.
The article continues on for some time in this vein. Readers may remember that this very same Asabe Murtala or Asabe Muktar (the same article was published in Triumph and Daily Trust under these two different names) was accused by Ibrahim Sheme on the Finafinan Hausa listserve of being none other than a pseudonym for Rabo himself. While this may be a baseless accusation, it does seem curious that, though she claims to be a Kannywood stakeholder no one seems to have ever met her (I once received an email from her forwarding one of her article, but when I wrote back asking if we could meet, I never heard back from her) and that she (with variations on her name) only seems to surface as a writing persona, publishing articles in defence of Rabo and the Kano State Censorship Board.
Meanwhile Bashir Yahuza Malumfashi reported in the Hausa weekly, Aminiya, on 2 July, and Ruqayya Yusuf Aliyu reported in Sunday Trust on 4 July, that filmmaker Alhaji Hamisu Lamid’o Iyan-Tama has filed another seperate lawsuit against the DG of the Kano Censor’s Board Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim for 10 million naira claiming defamation during Rabo’s 24 May 2010 interview at DITV. Ruqayya Yusuf Aliyu writes:
According to the statement of claims signed by the counsel to the plaintiff, Barrister Mohammed Sani Katu, the plaintiff is also demanding a public apology and retraction of the alleged defamatory statement made.
The statement of claims also stated that during the said interview, the defendant specifically mentioned that the plaintiff did not register his company, Iyantama Multimedia, which has been in operation for over 15 years with the Corporate Affairs Commission.
The plaintiff further alleges that the defamatory statement has caused him embarrassment before his associates and the public saying he has received a number of calls whereby the callers expressed their disappointment over the said non registration of his company.
The statement of claims also said since the programme was aired, the revenue he generates from the company has significantly reduced among other things.
Readers may recall, that Iyan-Tama spent three months in prison last year after a trial in the court of Magistrate Judge Mukhtari Ahmed, which the Kano attorney general eventually called (as reported by Ibrahim Sheme) ““improper,” “incomplete,” “a mistake,” [...] insisting that a “more competent magistrate” should be given the case to try again.” As noted earlier, Mukhtari Ahmed was relocated in August from the Kano airport court, where he had tried and sentenced so many film stakeholders, to Wudil.
Here is a list of links to newspaper articles describing the progression of events:
My three blog posts in June, July, and August 2009 describing the events leading to the shari’a court case of slander against Rabo, as well as two newspaper articles on the case and a piece from Fim Magazine. I’ve also provided a link to an interview I did with Rabo in February 2009:
Timeline of the most recent lawsuits and counterlawsuits from May to July 2010: