Excuse me if I do not use the correct legal terminology in this post. I’m new to the court scene and slowly learning…
Yesterday, the Federal High Court struck down the objections filed by the defence in MOPPAN’s lawsuit against the Kano State Censorship Board, the Executive Director/Director General of the KSCB Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, and the Kano State House of Assembly, (I’m not sure if the National Film and Video Censors Board is still being included in the lawsuit, since there were attourneys representing only three of the bodies) meaning that the lawsuit will continue. The court will meet again regarding this on May 20.
This is the first court proceedings I have attended for this particular lawsuit, so I’m not as familiar with the case as I was the Iyan-Tama case. However, according to my January 27, 2009 interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari , Vice President of MOPPAN, the motivation for the lawsuit was as follows:
What principally we needed was an injunction restraining Kano State Censors Board from attacking, harassing, humiliating and imprisoning our members. We dragged four bodies to the court. One is National Film and Video Censor’s Board for issuing a license to our members which gives them the right to exhibit, to sell, and show their films throughout Nigeria, yet a particular state attacks or arrests them for doing that, and they have not come out and said anything. Is the registration they issue our members fake or does it not have jurisdiction in Kano? So here I’m saying there’s a clash between the national and the state jurisdiction of two boards. What we understand in accordance with discussion with our lawyers is that when there is a clash between state and federal law, the federal law takes precedence, so does the interpretation of that in the court. We dragged the Kano State Censors Board to court for its action. We dragged the DG of the Kano State Censor’s Board for the guidelines he issued out which we believe are quite unconstitutional. They contradict some fundamental human rights because the guidelines are too stringent and are quite unbearable. And we dragged the speaker, Kano State House of Assembly for allowing the section of the law establishing the board which contradicts national law. We need them to review the law. We have to look at the laws establishing the board because most of them contradict national laws. That’s why we dragged the four of them to the court.
The case was going fine in the court. We brought our evidence. They said we had to exclude the DG of the censor’s board out of the case. Our lawyer vehemently defended that he had to be in. They said we had to include the Kano State government. We said we sued Censor’s Board and the state house of assembly, because the state assembly are the lawmakers, so Kano State Government is automatically included in the case. He slated 26 of October for the final ruling of the case, and unfortunately [Sarari laughs]… there was this strike [of court workers]. They just resumed this month. So we are just urging our lawyer to find which date are they going to give, and we are very much hoping that the ruling is going to go in our favour.
Yesterday, 26 March 2009,I arrived in the court a bit later than noon, but there was another case in process: a series of rather pitiful looking men in frayed clothing accused of being “Indian hemp” dealers, including a very, very old man with a white beard and blind in one eye who was the only one among them who seemed to speak English. (There was a translator for the rest.) “I am guilty, your worship,” he said, after the charges were read. The judge spoke up, “This is an appeal case,” the judge says. “You can plead not guilty.” “I’m guilty” he maintained several times, until the judge told him he could sit down. I probably looked quite sympathetic to them, so during a break in the proceedings, the old man who I was sitting quite close to asked me if I were from the BBC and asked me for money. I felt bad, but said sorry, and moved over to the side of the room where the Kannywood folk were seated.
The MOPPAN case started around 1:30pm. The judge read a summary of the previous accusations and appeals (sorry, I know I don’t have the legal terminology down). Apparently, the defense had objected to the individual inclusion of the director general/executive director of the Kano State censorship board in the lawsuit. Since I was at the back of the courtroom and there was no mic, I couldn’t quite follow everything the judge was saying, but it seems that there was some confusion over the terminology used for Rabo in the lawsuit/defense. Apparently, the censorship law makes provision for an “executive director,” while Rabo calls himself the “director general.” The judge said that regardless of which terminology was used, it was clear that MOPPAN was intending to sue the author of the “guidelines.”
Another objection was apparently that MOPPAN had not obtained leave to sue one of the bodies. The judge said he cannot strike it out just because they did not obtain leave.
Another objection was that they should include the Kano State government in the lawsuit. The judge said that no one can be forced to sue a body they do not wish to sue.
My description is quite sketchy since this is my first time attending one of the proceedings; however, the basic gist is that the judge struck down the objections of the defendants and said that the lawsuit would continue. The mood after dismissal was bouyant. Among the surprisingly large number Kannywood stakeholders who had come to court in support of MOPPAN, there were grins, handshakes, and congratulations all around.