On the 09/05/2019, a Thursday, Stephen Kefas Solomon (commonly known as Stephen Kefason) was arrested in Port Harcourt, Rivers State by operatives of the State Investigation Bureau of the Kaduna State Command of the Nigeria Police Force. He was brought to Kaduna thereafter on 10/05/2019, a Friday.
His arrest was pursuant to many petitions written against him ranging from insulting persons and institutions, injurious falsehood, inciting disturbance, defamation, and cyberstalking. Among the lots of these petitions, two (2) stood out: the first was from Kaduna State Government; and the second was from the Executive Chairman of Kajuru Local Government Council.
Kefason was first arraigned before a Chief Magistrate’s Court on 13/05/2019, the Monday following, based on a First Information Report (FIR) from the petition of the Kaduna State Government for the offences of inciting disturbance and injurious falsehoods contrary to sections 78 and 373 of the Kaduna State Penal Code Law, 2017.
I am being specific here on the chronology of the dates of events so as to make the point that Kefason was not detained beyond the constitutionally stiputled period. Thus, none of his fundamental rights have been breached by the police or any other authority or person from the time of his arrest to the time of his arraignment in the Magistrate’s Court.
After his plea was taken by the Court, the Chief Magistrate granted him bail on the condition, among others, that the two (2) sureties must be his Village Head and District Head. Inspite of this express condition, persons not his Village Head and District Head presented themselves as his sureties to the Court. The Chief Magistrate failed to screen them accordingly; and, instead, accepted them as sureties and then admitted and released him on bail.
As a result of the failure or neglect of the Chief Magistrate to observe due deligence in the fulfilment of the bail condition, a petition against him was written to the Chief Judge of Kaduna State by the State Government. Based on the petition, the Chief Judge reprimanded the Chief Magistrate; and recalled the case file for re-assignment.
Kefason was again arrested in respect of the petition written by the Executive Chairman of Kajuru Local Government Council. He was immediately arraigned before another Chief Magistrate’s Court based on a another FIR for the offences of inciting disturbance and injurious falsehoods contrary to sections 78 and 373 of the Kaduna State Penal Code Law, 2017; and cyberstalking contrary to section 24 of the Cyber Crimes (Prohibition, Prevention, etc) Act, 2015. His application for bail was refused by the Chief Magistrate.
The FIR was later withdrawn by the Prosecution on 13/06/2019 and was accordingly struck out. On the same day, a fresh 3-count charge was filed against him at the High Court of Justice of Kaduna State for the offences of defamation, inciting disturbance and injurious falsehood contrary to sections 372, 78(1) and 373 of the Kaduna State Penal Code Law, 2017.
When the case first came up for mention in the High Court on 20/06/2019, Kefason’s counsel informed the Court that they had not filed a formal application for his bail and therefore sought for a short adjournment. The case was then adjourned to 27/06/2019 for further mention and arraignment. Order was made by the Court for Kefason to be remanded in prison custody till the adjourned date.
On 27/06/2019, Kefason was arraigned and his plea was taken. Expectedly, he pleaded not guilty to all the three (3) counts contained in the charge. The application for his bail was heard on merit; and the case was adjourned to 04/07/2019 for ruling. Again, the Court ordered that he should be remanded in prison custody till the adjourned date.
On 04/07/2019, the Court did not sit because the Hon. Judge had travelled on other official engagements. It was therefore adjourned to 19/07/2019 for ruling. Again, Kefason was remanded in prison custody.
At the resumed sitting of the Court on 19/07/2019, the ruling was delivered; and Kefason’s application for bail was refused.
Now, it is important to know why the Court refused his bail application.
In paragraph 4 of the counter-affidavit filed by the prosecution in opposition to the affidavit in support of his bail application, it was deposed that while Kefason was on bail earlier granted him by the Chief Magistrate’s Court, he made further social media posts insulting the person of the Executive Governor of Kaduna State and the person of the Executive Chairman of Kajuru Local Government Council of Kaduna State; and that his antecedence showed that he would not only jump bail if same was granted him, but would also commit many more offences if admitted to bail.
The above depositions were never controverted or denied by way of further affidavit by his counsel. In fact, his counsel failed to file any further affidavit to challenge these new facts. Therefore, the Court was left with no any other option but to accept the facts contained in the said paragraph 4 of the counter-affidavit as the truth. Consequently, his application for bail was refused based on the strength of these facts.
Meanwhile, instead of filing an appeal at the Court of Appeal against the ruling of the Court, his counsel, in blatant abuse of judicial process did three (3) unwitty things that must be narrated here.
First, they filed another application for bail before another Judge of the same High Court of Kaduna State on 19/08/2019. When the prosecution challenged the competency of this second application and the jurisdiction of the Judge to hear and determine it in view of the earlier ruling delivered on 19/07/2019 by the Court, his counsel applied to withdraw it. The Judge struck it out accordingly.
Second, on 09/10/2019 when the case came up for hearing, his counsel filed and served yet another application for bail before the same Court which is still pending. Again, as usual, the prosecution shall file a counter-affidavit objecting to the grant of the application.
Third, on 14/10/2019, his counsel filed another application before the Kaduna Division of the Federal High Court purporting to enforce his fundamental rights and praying for 25 composite reliefs consisting of bogus declarations and orders, all bordering on securing his bail like the previous applications that had already been determined and refused.
The approach of recycling spent applications and forum shopping within courts of coordinate jurisdiction adopted by his counsel is strange. It will not help Kefason’s case before the Court, and the quest to secure his bail. It will only make his stay in detention longer each day.
His case before the High Court comes up on 29/10/2019 for hearing; and that before the Federal High Court comes up on 25/10/2019. His counsel will certainly be unable to sort out the jurisdictional issues they will confront in the Federal High Court which, in my view, they have very slim chance of surmounting.
When an accused person is facing trial, the avenue for bail application is the trial court. When that fails, his counsel should do the simple task of filing an appeal at the requisite appellate court against the ruling denying him bail. If Kefason’s counsel had filed an appeal at the Court of Appeal immediately after the bail application was refused at the High Court, the Court of Appeal would have most likely granted him bail; and he would have probably been on bail by now.
A lot of uninformed and mischievous write-ups have propped up recently concerning Kefason. Some say that he is a journalist with an ear to the ground for sourcing classified information and breaking news; that he is a “freedom fighter” and “activist”; that he is being persecuted for always speaking the truth; and that he is passing through travails at the instance of the State Government and the Executive Chairman of Kajuru Local Government Council.
Those sympathetic to him strive to build a twisted narrative around these fallacies so as to gain public sympathy and appeal for him.
Kefason is not a journalist. It is insulting to the profession to ascribe him as one. At best, he is a mere attention-seeking wannabe. Journalists have their code of conduct and rules of professional ethics. To the best of my knowledge and with all that I have read in his social media posts and updates, he has woefully fallen short of the minimum standard set for journalists.
Kefason is not a freedom fighter, activist or any similar nomenclature however couched. A freedom fighter and activist always owns up to his responsibilities and what he believes in; and does not chicken out.
In his statement to the police, he denied that he ever wrote those posts and updates containing the alleged offences leveled against him. He even claimed that his account was hacked. As it is now, none of his social media handles is functioning. An activist worthy of that name always strives to bring social and political change in a polity. One cannot bring such change when one chickens out and denies his actions and deeds!
Why would Kefason be persecuted for speaking the truth? His issue brings to the fore the sharp contrast between objectivity and subjectivity; constructive criticisms and insults; truth and lies.
If he knew that all he had written in his social media handles for which he is now being charged to courts are true, then he has no cause to worry; the truth shall set him free. All he needs to do at the trial is to put up a strong defence of justification to prove his innocence. Justification is the best defence for all the offences leveled against him in the courts.
And, if he is self-convinced that what he wrote in respect of the allegations leveled against him are the truth, this is the right time and opportunity open to him to prove to the whole world that all he has written against the State Government, the Governor and the Executive Chairman of Kajuru Local Government Council are true. Simple!
Laws are made to be obeyed by all and sundry. Kefason is not an exception and therefore not exempted. Nobody is persecuting him; he is being prosecuted in accordance with rule of law. He is not passing through any travails; he is passing through judicial trials.
Kefason is a youth that should ordinarily be advised, encouraged and supported to achieve and attain greater heights in life. He is supposed to be a pride to his parents and a shining example to his siblings, peers and others.
Rather, he indulged in insulting personalities. He felt he had the exclusive right to insult everyone and anyone; and this right started and ended with him. Such was the arrogant self-posture he assumed and arrogated upon himself, until his arrest and prosecution.
The social media campaigns and propaganda employed by his sympathizers to gain public and political sympathy for him are only exacerbating his issue. The courts cannot be cowed down with such sensationalism and sentimentalism.
In one of the recent write-ups on Kefason that I read, the author said, and I agree with him, as follows:
“The sensation about Kefason’s cases is caused by minority mischief makers who are struggling and bent on making it look more political than judicial. Kefason is not being detained extra-judiciallly or politically. He is being detained pursuant to an order of a competent court after his applications for bail were refused. Nobody is persecuting him; he is being prosecuted in accordance with the rule of law. So, his remedy is judicial and not political.
“Kefason is not a political prisoner. He is not even a prisoner of conscience…”
The fate of Kefason lies in his hands. In my view, he can take one of two options: he can either seek a settlement with those he offended so that the cases will be withdrawn, or he can face his trials and prove his innocence. The choice is his.
I wish him well.
James A. KANYIP
Deputy Chief of Staff to the Governor of Kaduna State
(Deputy Governor’s Office)
THE OPINION EXPRESSED IN THIS ARTICLE ARE THOSE OF THE AUTHORS AND NOT NECESSARILY THOSE OF PROCYON NEWS AND ITS EDITORS OR PUBLISHERS