Luka Binniyat, the former Kaduna State Bureau Chief of Vanguard Newspaper, is still in prison custody 13 days after he was granted bail by a Kaduna State high court.
Binniyat was taken to court by Nasir El-Rufai, Governor of Kaduna state, for publishing what turned out to be a false report of an attack by herdsmen in some area of Southern Kaduna.
Binniyat, a vocal critic of El-Rufai’s handling of the Southern Kaduna crisis, had reported that herdsmen attacked and killed five students of the College of Education Gidan Waya. According to him, the story was based on information given to him by a resident in the area, but it was later proven that no attack of such took place in the area.
El-Rufai subsequently got Binniyat arrested and charged to court for spreading false information capable of disrupting the public peace. This is in spite of apologies by the journalist for the error and his efforts to withdraw the story.
On July 12, Justice Bashir Sukola, of the Kaduna State High Court ordered that Binniyat be remanded in prison custody, and on Thursday July 20, the judge granted him bail but under very strict conditions.
For instance, Binniyat was ordered to produce two sureties who must deposit a bank bond of N10 million and express readiness to renew the bond every six months.
Justice Sukola adjourned the case to August 31, and ordered Binniyat to remain in prison custody pending the perfection of his bail conditions.
Alex Marama, his lawyer, said the bail conditions were too stringent for his client and was not in the interest of equity and justice. He said an application had been filed for the bail conditions to be reviewed.
Meanwhile, the Nigeria Union of Journalists (NUJ) has shown solidarity with Binniyat while condemning the Kaduna State government for its handling of the case
Christopher Isiguzo, NUJ Vice President, South East, expressed the association’s dissatisfaction during a solidarity visit to the Kaduna Prison.
“We want to also express displeasure over the conditions attached to his bail by a Kaduna High Court. We are talking about a journalist and not a criminal or hoodlum,” Isiguzo said.
“He is not part of those asking people to vacate any part of the country and you are attaching such stringent bail conditions to him.
“We are, therefore, calling for the immediate and unconditional release of our colleague. The CJN and the NJC should also intervene so judges don’t continue to drag the image of the judiciary in the mud.”