I apologize to everyone concerned for this blog post which is coming about a month late; however, hopefully it is still relevant.
On July 21, I posted about the most recent lawsuit in the continuing feud between Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, director general of the Kano State Censorship Board, and the Kaduna Filmmaker’s Association. Twelve filmmakers, under the auspices of the Kaduna Filmmaker’s association, sued 1. Commissioner of Police, Kano State; 2. Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Kano State, 3. Chief Magistrate Court 25 Kano, Kano State; 4. Abubakar Rabo for violations of human rights in the arrest of Fim Magazine editor Aliyu Gora II and the ordered arrest of eleven film practitioners for supposedly sending death threats by text message. According to the August Issue of Fim Magazine, the judge ruled that the commissioner of justice, the court, and Rabo were without fault, but he did fine the Kano State Police, N100,000 for violating the 35th section of the 1999 Nigerian constitution, which states that the “personal liberties” of a person may not be violated. In this case, the police detained Gora for five days, more time than was reasonable.
The applicants plan to take the case to the Kaduna Court of Appeal to protest the judge’s decision not to charge the three other respondents with wrongdoing. In addition to details of the trial, Fim Magazine (which is on sale in most video shops and other super markets in the North) contains a detailed description of its editor’s arrest in Kaduna, travel to Kano, and five day detention in Goron Dutse Prison, where filmmakers Adam Zango, Hamisu Lamido Iyan-Tama, and Rabilu Musa (dan Ibro) and Lawal Kaura have also been imprisoned for months at a time beginning in 2007. [See this link for a background to these arrests written in January 2009.] Apparently, Gora was kept in detention, and transported to Kano even after the police had checked his phone and had found no record of the numbers from which the threats had come.
On July 22 following the July 20th court case, I was still in Kaduna, so I also attended the latest session in the lawsuit Filmmaker Hamisu Lamido Iyan Tama is filing against Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim. Readers may remember that during a television broadcast on 24 May 2010, Rabo accused Iyan Tama of having operated his company for fifteen years “without registration.” However, when speaking to Iyan Tama’s lawyer, Barrister Sani Muhammad, he pointed out that Iyan Tama had been duly registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission since 1997, as well as having registered with the Kano censor’s board, and other entities and had been paying his taxes. A brief foray into the “Free Iyan Tama” blog, which was created during Iyan Tama’s first arrests, shows multiple certificates of registration with the National Film and Video Censor’s Board, the Corporate Affairs Commission, the Kano State Censorship Board, and the Kano State Ministry of Commerce, Industry, and Cooperatives. Barrister Sani Muhammad also pointed out that Rabo’s on air accusation had affected Iyan Tama’s “clientele outreach, because people before now see him as a responsible person who knows what is expected of him. But soon after this interview, he started losing some of his clientele, business-wise, so he has suffered some damages.” Iyan Tama, who had moved away from Kano so as to avoid problems with the censorship board, had initially not intended to take the case to court; instead his lawyer delivered a letter to Rabo requesting a letter of retraction, asking him to withdraw his statement within ten days. Rabo did not comply with the request within the specified time.
In court on 22 July 2010, Iyan Tama’s lawyer, Barrister Sani Muhammad, protested the fact that legal counsel from the Kano State government were representing Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, saying that Iyan Tama was suing Rabo in his private capacity not in his position as director of the censors’s board and that Rabo should not be making use of Kano state resources in a private matter. After the court was adjourned until September 23rd, I spoke to Barrister Rabi Suleiman Waya, the legal counsel for the Kano State government, and she told me,
“I am a state counsel, so apparently whenever a government official is sued, it is the state counsel who will come over and defend him, so he is sued as the director general of Kano State Censor’s Board, and as such it is the state counsel who will come and defend him.”
However, Iyan Tama’s lawyer, Barrister Sani Muhammad, countered that although the censor’s board had been on the initial summons, that was merely the address of service and was not referring to him in his official capacity:
“We are suing him in his private capacity, but he erroneously felt that because he is director of censor’s board, he now felt the best he could do was to use the government machinery […] so that government would now intervene, you understand? So that is why he now had to bring in a government lawyer. But the question of the law is very clear. If you are sued in your private capacity, that is private[…] So you have to engage a private legal practitioner.”
He pointed out that suing him in his private capacity places the plaintiff and the defendant on a more level playing ground, where Rabo does not have access to relatively unlimited government resources.
[UPDATE: 29 September 2010. Today’s Leadership reports that Rabo appeared in court yesterday, where his lawyer conceded that Iyan Tama had been registered with the proper government bodies.]
Readers may remember that Iyan Tama, who had, previous to the current Kano State censorship board administration, won awards from the Board for his positive portrayal of Hausa culture, has been arrested and jailed three times on accusations from the Board. His first arrest was on 8 May 2008, immediately on his return to Kano from the 2008 Zuma film festival after his film Tsintsiya won an award for Best Social Issue film. As can be read in more detail in Mansur Sani Malam’s Leadership article, Iyan Tama was charged with not having passed his film Tsintsiya through the Kano State Censor’s Board and operating his company without proper registration. According to his brother Dr. Ahmad Sarari and Iyan Tama himself, Iyan Tama had publically stated on the radio that his film was not for sale in Kano, and although the censor’s board claimed that he did not have a certificate to prove the renewal of his registration, Iyan Tama did have a receipt for the renewal. Apparently the censorship board had not issued anyone a certificate until after Iyan Tama’s initial arrest. Released on bail, Iyan Tama was again imprisoned when the court location for his trial was changed without informing him and he came late to court. His final arrest came in December, when he was sentenced by the mobile court attached to the censorship board to three months in prison. He served almost the entire sentence in the Goron Dutse prison, before being released in March by a judge who called for a retrial. According to Ibrahim Sheme,
“He was let out of prison this week, following a prayer to the High Court by the Kano State Attorney-General and Commissioner of Justice that the court should grant him bail and order for a retrial of the case. According to the Attorney-General, Barrister Aliyu Umar, the first trial was besmirched by irregularities. Due process was not followed in the trial that led to the conviction, he said. He used very uncomplimentary terms to describe the trial conducted by a senior magistrate, Alhaji Mukhtari Ahmed, such as “improper,” “incomplete,” “a mistake,” summing up by insisting that a “more competent magistrate” should be given the case to try again. Umar told the court presided over by Justice Tani Umar: “I am not in support of the conviction in this trial. It is obvious that the trial was not completed before judgement was delivered but there and then the presiding magistrate went ahead and delivered a judgement.”
Iyan Tama, who moved out of Kano following his release from prison hoping not to have any more run-ins with the censorshop board, was unpleasantly surprised when the director general came to Kaduna to repeat the same faulty accusations against him. Iyan Tama is now currently engaged in three different court cases: 1) the initial case brought against him by the censor’s board, which is currently under review; 2) a case in the Kaduna State Court of Appeal, where Iyan Tama is protesting the ongoing review of the case, as he had already served the sentence of three months in prison; and 3) this lawsuit against Rabo for defamation of character.
I have followed Iyan Tama’s various court cases and the activities of the censorship board fairly closely over the course of this blog. Here is a list of past posts on the Iyan-Tama case and related matters that may be of interest:
On the Current Censorship Crisis in Kano, posted13 January 2009
Kano State High Court Chief Justice Postpones Iyan-Tama’s Appeal posted 22 January 2009
2:15am Raid on Iyan-Tama’s Family posted 23 January 2009
Iyan-Tama’s Case Not Listed posted 26 January 2009
Triumph/Trust Editorial Convergences posted 29 January 2009
Interviews with Alhaji Abubakar Rabo Abdulkarim, Director General of the Kano State Censorship Board, and Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of the Motion Pictures Practitioners Assocation of Nigeria posted 30 January 2009
The Mysterious Asabe Murtala/Muktar Writes Again posted 10 February 2009
A Surprising Move by MOPPAN, and my friend Sulaiman Abubakar (MPEG) arrested on Tuesday posted 15 February 2009
Interview with Dr. Ahmad Sarari, Vice President of MOPPAN and brother of Iyan-Tama posted 16 February 2009
More Arrests along Zoo Road yesterday, and my article on Iyan Tama makes IPS front Page posted 17 February 2009
Update on the Iyan-Tama Case: Bail Hearing set for 5 March posted 19 February 2009
Updates on the Iyan-Tama case and other articles on the crisis in Kannywood posted 14 March 2009
Iyan-Tama granted bail, The Judge calls for a new Trial posted 17 March 2009
Mobile Court bans listening to 11 Hausa songs posted 8 June 2009
Breaking News: Singer Ala denied bail posted 7 July 2009
Aminu Ala given bail on condition that he does not speak with media posted 10 July 2009
DG of Kano Censor’s Board taken before shari’a court posted 5 August 2009
Kano State Censorship Board shuts down Kano Music Festival hosted at Alliance Francaise, Kano posted 28 February 2010
Interview with Hiphop artist Ziriums in this week’s Aminiya posted 18 April 2010