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Danfulani Vs. El-Rufai Govt: Another Defence Lawyer Quits in Protest For Lack Of Fair Hearing



By: Luka Binniyat


Another Defence Lawyer standing for Dr. John Danfulani, who is standing trial at a Kaduna High Court for “malicious falsehood,” quit from the case in protest over what he said was his fear that his client may not get justice from the Presiding Judge, Justice Bilkisu Mohammed of Kaduna High Court12, Ibrahim Taiwo Road, Kaduna.

On the 5th of February Barrister Yakubu I. Umaru had also said he feared that his client may not get justice from the same court based on the conduct of the Judge and removed himself from the case

It could be recalled that Dr. John Danfulani had been arrested on the 26th January 2016, arraigned before Chief Magistrate Court 1 Kaduna, Presided by Mallam Awallu Musa in Case No. KDH/KAD/102c/20016 and charged with breeching sections 417 and 418 of the Penal Code. He was accused of posting an insulting post on his facebook wall against Northerners.

After series of appearances, he was discharged on 9th August 2016.

But on the 26th October 2016, he was re-arrested, arraigned this time at the present court, and subsequently spent 13 days in Kaduna Central Prisons because Justice Bilkisu Mohammed had had to travel for a seminar for that duration and as such, could not attend to his bail application.

Dr. John Danfulani, a Human Righst activist and an acerbic critic of the polices Governor Nasir el-Rufai of Kaduna, had resigned his lecturer job from the Kaduna State University (KASU), Department of Political Studies in 2016. He said he was suspended without due procedures for writing against El-Rufai, the Visitor to KASU and decided to leave.

At the court session yesterday there were tensed arguments between Danfulani’s counsel, Kanyip and the State’s Prosecuting Lawyer, Barr. Abdullahi Isiaka.

One of the cause of contention was over the propriety of the introduction of a certificate to tender some e-documents in evidence by Mukhtar Garba Maigamo, the 2nd Principal Prosecuting Witness (PW2) against Danfulani.

While Kanyip argued that PW2 could not introduce the said document, because it had earlier been tendered by another witness, Isiaka kicked in favour of it.

The Judge then stood down the session and return to her chambers around  to study the debate of the two counsels and come up with a ruling. All parties were to wait.

In the interim, Maigamo, dressed in well starched brown brocade and a Hausa hand-sewn cap to fit, sprang out of the court room boisterously with some folks in his company. He stood with them outside the courtroom and his voice could be heard far away.

His action angered a presiding Magistrate holding court nearby. The Magistrate , (name withheld) ordered his police orderly and a plainclothes man to arrest and detain Maigamo in a cell tiny cell within the courts complex,  for disturbing the proceedings of his Court.

Maigamo and his lawyers attempted to ward off the arrest but he was subsequently put into the cell and locked up. After several pleas to the Magistrate by Journalists and Maigamo’s freinds, he was released about 30 minutes from detention.

“This is a set up,” he said after his release, “because when I was being put in the cell, some people were taking my photographs,” he said.

After about three hours, Justice Mohammed returned to the court to continue with the session. She ruled that the e-certified document could be tendered and accepted same as an Exhibit.

She then motioned on the prosecuting Lawyer to go ahead and cross examine Maigamo.

Maigamo said that he was a Northerner and felt “bad” by the Facebook post of Danfulani.

“What is the veracity of John Danfulani’s post,”  Isiaka asked him.

“What do think about the truth or not of the post,” Isiaka prodded Maigamo.

At this state, Kanyip objected, saying it would amount to seeking the personal opinion of Maigamo, not facts from him, noting that Maigamo was ‘a witness of fact’, not ‘a witness of opinion.’ He then asked that the question be overruled.

Again, there was heated debated between the two lawyers. In the end, the judge ruled in favour of the Prosecuting lawyer.

Maigamo then went on to say that the alleged facebook post of Danfulani was full of lies.

“I am a northerner. We don’t have the largest numbers of VVH patients, beggars and Almajiris in Nigeria,” he posited.

When it was time for Kanyip to cross examine Maigamo he was asked what he was doing for a living.

“I am a student”, said Maigamo.

“Are you engaged with the Kaduna State Government in any capacity,” Kanyip asked the witness.

Looking a bit nervous, he said, “yes.”

“What position are you now occupying?”

“Special Assistance to the Governor on Public Affairs,” Maigamo answered.

“You are working with Kaduna State Government -Yes or No?”

Maigamo hesitated. He then said he had some explanation to do.

Kanyip insisted that he wanted a direct answer of either “yes” or “no”. But the Judge came in support of the wish of Maigamo; and instead of ordering PW2 to answer the direct question, however, over ruled Kanyip and directed that PW2 should explain himself, having said he was a student in the beginning.

At this juncture Kanyip asked for permission to confer with the Defendant in the witness box. Shortly after, he returned and announced to the Judge: “My Lord, I cannot continue with this case, because I fear that my client cannot get fairness and justice in this court, so I cannot continue with the matter,” he said.

In response, the prosecuting lawyer said that Kanyip could not be compelled to continue the case against his wish. He said that the Defendant was free to defend himself or seek  another Counsel.

When asked if he would defend himself or seek for another lawyer by the Judge, Danfulani said he would seek the service of another Lawyer.

The case was then adjourned to 12th March, 2018.


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