Alleged Incitement: Odinkalu Demands Case Be Held in Open Court

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Chidi Odinkalu

Tobi Soniyi

A former Chairman of National Human Rights Commission, Dr Chidi Odinkalu has demanded that the case of inciting disturbance and furnishing false information filed against him by the Kaduna State Government be heard in open court.

His counsel, Gloria Mabeiam Ballason made the request after observing that proceeding in the case has been held in chambers since the case commenced.

Odinkalu is also asking the court to rule on his objection challenging the jurisdiction of the court to conduct the trial.

At the last hearing of the case last Thursday, Chief Magistrate Ibrahim Musa ruled that the state, having merely filed a counter-affidavit, had a right to respond on points of law.

Before the ruling, counsel to Odinkalu had drawn the Chief Magistrate’s attention to the fact that the case was not listed in the cause list. However, the magistrate said that wasn’t a problem because his ruling was ready.

The case was adjourned to October 16 for continuation.

The Chief Magistrate had earlier issued an order directing the police to investigate Odinkalu for allegedly inciting disturbance and furnishing false information.

He made the order even though the case had no number. A copy of the order cited by our correspondent showed that the case was yet to be given a number.

But in a letter to the police written by his counsel, Gloria Mabeiam Ballason, the human rights activist said that he was not served with any court process.

He said that the application for investigation sent to the police was strange because the purported complaint had no suit number.

He said: “There is no case with Suit Number KMD/27DC/2019. Indeed, the Direct Criminal Complaint, the motion exparte, and the purported court order do not bear any suit number except the application to the Deputy Commissioner of Police.”

He also noted that even though the complaint was said to have been made on March 18th, 2019 he was neither served with the complaint made against him nor any of the court processes.

Odinkalu said it would be improper and a travesty for the police to be inveigled into an investigation purportedly granted by a court which had no record.

Kaduna state government had initiated a criminal proceeding against Odinkalu accusing him of inciting disturbance and furnishing false information which is punishable under the state’s penal codes.

In February, Odinkalu accused Nasir el-Rufai, governor of Kaduna, of not stating the accurate figure about the number of casualties and the timing of the attacks on Kajuru local government area of the state where the governor had alleged there were 66 casualties.

The governor had described the killings as deliberate and designed to attract reprisals and destabilise the local government during the general election.

Odinkalu negated the claim saying he contacted many sources in the state including residents, traditional and religious rulers and he could confirm that casualties were about 11.
The government, in the suit filed at the chief magistrate’s court of Kaduna state, said Odinkalu committed an offence with his comments.

The government further asked that a cause of criminal summons be issued against him for “inciting disturbance, injurious falsehood, public nuisance, and furnishing false information punishable under section 77, 373, 104, and 150 respectively of the Penal Code Law of Kaduna state, 2017”.

Following another application filed by the government, the court, on March 22, gave an order for the Kaduna state command of the Nigeria Police Force to carry out an investigation on Odinkalu.

In a letter dated March 28, the Kaduna state judiciary wrote the deputy commissioner of police in charge of criminal investigation and intelligence department to effect the investigation.