THE Police in Abuja on Monday invited for questioning Chidi Odinkalu, lawyer and human rights activist, in connection with a petition issued by the Kaduna State government over allegations of inciting public disturbance, among other charges.
The invitation was in connection with statements purportedly made by Odinkalu during an interview with a television station early in the year in which he questioned claims made by Kaduna State governor Nasir el Rufai that 66 persons were killed in the Kajuru crisis in the state.
Apparently, the Kaduna State government, through its Attorney General, Umma Hakima, had on April 4 petitioned the Inspector General of Police, IGP, transmitting the order of a Kaduna Magistrate Court to causing an investigation into some charges brought against Odinkalu by the Kaduna State government.
It was learnt that the government had applied, through an exparte application, that the Magistrate Court presided over by Hon Ibrahim Musa, order that the charges brought against the respondent be investigated by the police.
Specifically, the underlying allegation contained in the ex-parte application dated March 28, 2019, is that in a television interview on 16 February, Odinkalu stated:
“I keep coming back to this Kajuru story because we must never allow that story to get away. 66 Nigerians killed; that’s 66 too many. If anybody claims that 66 people were killed in Kajuru this week, including the Governor of Kaduna State, let us go and verify. I’m not willing to allow that story to go away. It is not true.”
According to the application by the state government, reinforced in its petition to the IGP, by making this statement Odinkalu committed the following offences:
“Furnishing false information punishable under s. 104 of the Penal Code, Laws of Kaduna State 2017;
injurious falsehood, punishable under s. 373 of the Penal Code, Laws of Kaduna State 2017;
public nuisance, punishable under s. 150 of the Penal Code, Laws of Kaduna State 2017; and
inciting disturbance, punishable under s. 77 of the Penal Code, Laws of Kaduna State 2017.
Odinkalu, who noted that he arrived at the Federal Criminal Investigation Department, FCID, Abuja around 3.30pm, said he was asked to write a statement based on the allegation and that he denied all of them.
“I was asked to make a statement on the stationery of the Police under caution. I did. My statement essentially affirmed my name, occupation and identity. I also affirmed the words stated above as mine but denied clearly that I had any intention to or was indeed capable of or had committed any of the offences alleged.
“In particular, I did say that in the circumstances of the facts, the conduct of the Governor of Kaduna State appeared to have been designed to preclude the Nigeria Police Force from doing its lawful duties of investigating or verifying his allegations.”
He said he was hearing of the case against him at the Magistrate Court for the first time during the police questioning although the Magistrate, from the document he was shown, made the order since March 22.
Odinkalu has since been let go by the Police although he had to be granted bail on self-recognition and can be invited on the matter again.