How Nigerian Governor and Serial Human Rights Violator Nasir El-Rufai Spends Millions Funding Oxford University
Notorious for persecuting journalists and presiding over a state with a scandalous out-of-school-children figure, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai has been donating millions to Oxford University.
Blood Money for Oxford University
While gaining notoriety for persecuting journalists, rights activists, and presiding over one of Nigeria’s states with a scandalous number of out of school children, Kaduna State Governor Nasir El-Rufai has donated hundreds of millions of naira to Oxford University in the United Kingdom over the past 4 years.
In Nigeria, many see El-Rufai as an enemy of the rule of law and due process, as he has repeatedly violated court orders, used security agents against his critics, and driven some into exile. Kaduna State which he governs, is not only plagued by protracted insecurity, which has forced school closures, but also suffering from a woeful lack of basic amenities, resulting in schoolchildren sitting on the bare floor to learn.
Instead of investing the state’s scarce resources to ramp up learning infrastructure and secure schools across the state, Mr. El-Rufai has used Kaduna State taxpayers’ money to buy himself a seat on the International Advisory Board (IAB) of the University of Oxford’s African Studies Centre (ASC).
Additionally, information exclusively sighted by GuardPost shows that the Centre guaseems to have developed a reputation for cajoling dubious-character Nigerian politicians into making sizeable investments through its special purpose vehicles.
After luring El-Rufai - who has been cited in more human rights violations than any other serving Nigerian governor since the return of democracy in 1999 - into donating large sums in exchange for a board position, ASC's Director, Professor Miles Larmer, has sought more donations from questionable Nigerian politicians.
Unlike in the UK, where soliciting funding from politically exposed people with dodgy reputations would be frowned upon, Prof. Lamer appears to specifically target Nigerian political office holders who are anything but accountable and treat public funds as personal property.
In a confidential letter to the Governor of Imo State, Hope Uzodinma, which was obtained by GuardPost, he laid out a clandestine plan to meet and discuss the possibility of getting him to fund the university.
For reference, Imo State is currently being ravaged by separatist agitators who have sacked several communities and disrupted schools and commercial activities across the state.
While it has one of the lowest rate of out of school children largely boosted by the traditional apprenticeship system, which allows people to learn vocational trades at very young ages, Imo State has a record of poor school infrastructure.
In June 2022, the Archbishop of Owerri Ecclesiastical Province of the Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion, David Onuoha, had lamented the deplorable state of public schools in Imo State, especially in Okigwe zone.
Most Rev. Onuoha deplored the decay of facilities as well as the near absence of teaching and learning in the schools, especially in the primary section and described the situation as intolerable, regrettable and unacceptable. He said:
“Some of these schools were once the pride of the various communities that have them, as well as the hope for a guaranteed future for both the pupils and the entire society. It is sad that successive administrations in Imo State have neglected these schools to rot away.”
Despite the crisis in Imo State and the administration's poor response, Prof. Larmer has apparently still found the state to be a fertile place to shop for funding.
In a letter dated March 9, 2022, the ASC director requested the assistance of a top Imo State official in arranging a meeting with his principal. The letter reads:
“As the Director of the University of Oxford’s African Studies Centre, I write to discuss what I understand to be a possible donation from the Governor of Imo State, HE Hope Uzodinma to the ASC.
“Clearly, any such donation would be of great value to the furtherance of African Studies in Oxford, and to the greater understanding of Africa on the global stage.
“I, therefore, seek your advice, … regarding the appropriate way to approach the Governor about this proposed donation,” Mr. Larmer wrote.
To Nigerian observers, Mr. Larmer's request for money from Mr. Uzodinma would be shocking, given that the governor is unable to help people who are being attacked, killed, and forced to flee their homes by hordes of unidentified gunmen in his own state.
To avoid being caught violating the University of Oxford’s policy against accepting funds from politically exposed individuals, the ASC director insisted that whatever Mr. Uzodinma gave be done as a state government.
“We would need the donation to be made by the state government, rather than the governor as an individual. This has the positive benefit of disassociating the donation from the individual who might be perceived (however unfairly) as having a personal benefit or political motivation from it.
“This is the model we used for the existing IAB-Kaduna State Scholarship, which has been successfully implemented here in recent years.
“We would want to locate the scholarship at St. Anthony’s College (as with the Kaduna State Scholarship), so that the incoming student would be based at that college, and the funds would also be held there – we aren’t in a position to manage scholarship funding directly as the ASC. I would therefore need to share any subsequent correspondence with St. Anthony’s College’s Development Office, which manages its portfolio of benefactors, once I am given the green light to do so from you/the Governor.
“It would be necessary to have a discussion with the Governor regarding the preferred usage of these funds. A donation of this scale is probably best directed to scholarships for the MSc African Studies, for students from the African continent.
“I don’t know the exact figures, but I would estimate that 50,000 pounds would probably fund one or two years of such scholarship, encompassing fees and living costs. Do you think that would be a suitable and acceptable use of the donation?
“The university would want to be in direct contact with the Governor and/or relevant state officials to confirm the veracity of the donation, so as to ensure that proper procedures are followed regarding the transfer of the funds – mainly to assure him that we are using the funds for the purpose they are donated for.
“Finally, although we would be happy to invite the Governor to speak at the Centre, we would need to separate this somewhat from his running for a second term in office in 2023; as you will appreciate, the university and the Centre cannot be seen to endorse, even unintentionally, specific political candidates.
“I trust you will understand these issues, but I am happy to address any concerns you have regarding them. I look forward to hearing from your earliest convenience and to pursuing what I very much hope will be a positive future relationship between He, the Governor, Imo State and the African Studies Centre,” Mr. Larmer concluded.
Findings have showed that Mr. El Rufai, who has not been able to effectively fund basic education in his home state of Kaduna in Nigeria’s restive North-west region, has been spending so much to support the University of Oxford.
Details about what looks like a controversial donation incentivisation policy for academic staff of the ASC will be provided in the second part of this report.
This policy appears to keenly target and prey on corrupt leaders from the Global South who would pay whatever is required on the shop list to get international recognition at the expense of providing service to their people.
No information from Kaduna and Imo
In order to obtain comments on whether the governors of Imo and Kaduna states were providing funding for programmes at the Oxford University's ASC, Guardpost reached out to their press offices.
When contacted about the ASC's request for funding from the Imo State Governor, Chief Press Secretary Oguwike Nwachukwu stated that he was unaware of the matter. In a WhatsApp message from his verified number, he stated, "I have no information on the said letter for now.”
However, the spokesperson to the Governor of Kaduna, Muyiwa Adekeye did not pick calls or respond to messages sent to his verified phone number neither did Ibrahim Musa, the special assistant on media and publicity.
Robbing Kaduna to Pay Oxford
While Governor El-Rufai shops for influence and global relevance through multimillion naira support for Britain’s oldest university, children in his home state of Kaduna sit on the floor in ramshackle, dilapidated classrooms to learn. Kaduna State also struggles with a slow economy and a woeful 43.5 percent poverty rate.
A recent report by the most influential newspaper in Northern Nigeria, Daily Trust, paints a pitiable picture of the rot in the education sector in Kaduna State.
The newspaper reported that in El Rufai's Kaduna, there are hundreds of schools without roofs where pupils sit under trees to learn, in addition to Kushamfa 'A' Local Education Authority's Primary School.
According to a 2022 report by the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), Nigeria has over 20 million out-of-school children, with a large number coming from Nigeria's North-west and North-east regions. Kaduna State, located in the country's northwest, contributes a significant number to the figure with its ubiquitous street kids, also known as almajiri.
Amidst all this, the state governor prefers to state public funds to fund personal image-laundering scholarships at the University of Oxford, rather than take children off the streets and fix dilapidated schools across the state. He has also faced questions regarding corrupt allocation of choice real estate in Nigeria’s Federal Capital Territory to his family members and business interests during his time as FCT Minister.
He is also well-known for demolishing properties and firing employees with every excuse in the book, and even boasted in his memoir, "The Accidental Public Servant," about bribing a Nigerian judge so that no ruling could be made against him.
In 2017, the governor had organised a controversial competency test where he alleged that 21, 780 out of 33,000 primary school teachers failed to get the minimum required score.
While receiving a delegation from the World Bank on October 10, 2017, El-Rufai had said:
“We tested our 33,000 primary school teachers, we gave them primary four exams and required they must get at least 75 per cent but I’m sad to announce that 66 per cent of them failed to get the requirements. The hiring of teachers in the past was politicised and we intend to change that by bringing in young and qualified primary school teachers to restore the dignity of education in the state.”
Even after hiring schoolteachers he claimed were young, qualified, and ready to improve the state's abysmal basic education system, he later fired 2,357 of them, including the National President of the Nigerian Union of Teachers (NUT), Audu Amba. Many alleged that Mr. Amba was targeted because he was at the forefront of mobilising labour unions to oppose the state's ceaseless dismissal of teachers and public service workers.
Between 2015 and 2022, Mr. El-Rufai sacked over 34, 068 workers, including public employees, traditional rulers, and civil servants, with no severance pay, pension, or gratuity.
Persecutor in-chief of journalists and activists in Nigeria
To contextualise just how much of a scandal Oxford University’s cozy relationship with El-Rufai is, it is important to examine his notorious history of human rights violation and persecution of journalists and critics, while repeatedly boasting that his Fulani tribe do not forgive those who offend them.
His victims are numerous and are drawn not only from Kaduna State where he reigns as an emperor, but from all over Nigeria, and even including foreigners. Since taking office as governor in 2015, he has led one of the most intolerant administrations, arresting and detaining dozens of journalists, civil rights activists, critics, as well as traditional and labour leaders.
Mr. El-Rufai, who made several inciting and borderline treasonous comments in his criticism of former President Goodluck Jonathan's administration, is refractory of all criticism and regularly uses state power to punish his critics.
As a result of his scandalous record of human rights violations and disobedience to court orders, the Nigerian Bar Association had in August 2020, stripped him of an earlier invitation to address its National Conference.
The decision was taken following a petition by some lawyers against his invitation to the programme. Many of his victims over the past eight years have passed away or left the country, though some are currently in court.
GuardPost has compiled a list of individuals who have had encounters with the governor. Lengthy as it is, this list is far from being exhaustive.
PERSECUTED/DEAD: Dr. Galadima Maiwada, the Agom Adara of Adara Chiefdom, Kaduna State
Galadima Maiwada, the Agom Adara is reported to have died for resisting attempts by El-Rufai, to restructure the Adara Traditional Council to become Kajuru Emirate. The monarch, who had seriously criticised the governor’s handling of the killings in Southern Kaduna was kidnapped with his wife at Maikyali village along Kaduna-Kachia Road in Kachia Local Government area of the state.
The police orderly to the monarch and three other persons in the convoy were killed during the attack. While his wife was released barely a week after the attack, the monarch was murdered on October 26, 2018, after ransom was paid. It was also reported that before the kidnap, the monarch had accompanied El-Rufai to Kasuwan Maga to commiserate with the community over violence that claimed many lives. After his death, the governor, who had in a Gazette No. 21, Vol. 52 published the order to restructure Adara into an emirate, went ahead and appointed a Fulani emir for the area without replacing the Agom for the Adara people who are indigenous to Kajuru. The Fulani are not indigenous to Adara or any part of Kajuru.
PERSECUTED/DEAD: Danleeman Isah, Chief Imam of Kawaran Rafi village in Igabi LGA
Danleeman Isah, the Chief Imam of Kwaran Rafi in Igabi Local Government Area of Kaduna State was a strident critic of banditry in Kaduna State, and vocally blamed the state and the federal governments for not taking action to stop the carnage by criminal groups. He was killed by unknown gunmen who invaded his home on January 2, 2021.
PERSECUTED/DEAD: Human rights lawyer and activist, Comrade Auta Maisamari
Auta Maisamari, a rights activist and legal counsel who mostly defended chiefs and youth in Southern Kaduna pro bono, was always a thorn in El- Rufai's flesh. Mr. Maisamari had always accused the governor of enabling the violence in the Christian-dominated Southern Kaduna.
He was a frequent visitor to the Kaduna State Police headquarters, the Department of State Services (DSS), and the courts as he worked to secure the release of community leaders and youth detained by El-Rufai for daring to defend their villages. Mr. Maisamari became ill and died on June 18, 2020, after visiting a security facility in Kaduna.
PERSECUTED/DEAD: Obadiah Mailafia, activist and former deputy governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN)
Obadiah Mailafia, a former Deputy Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), was a harsh critic of both Mr. El-Rufai and President Muhammadu Buhari. Mr. Mailafia in 2020 said on a radio show with the Nigeria Info Abuja, 95.1FM that some pardoned terrorists revealed that a serving northern governor was a Boko Haram leader.
While many thought he was making a subtle reference to his governor, Mr. Mailafia also alluded to the fact that an ethnic cleansing was going on in Southern Kaduna where Christians are being murdered almost on a daily basis without one of the killers being arrested. The DSS summoned the former CBN governor for questioning in connection with the allegations. Mr. Mailafia became ill unexpectedly, and many claimed he was poisoned and denied treatment in several hospitals before he died on September 19, 2021, in Abuja.
PERSECUTED/MISSING: Abubakar “Dadiyata” Idris, Fierce critic of Mr. El-Rufai and the Muhammadu Buhari-led federal government
Abubakar Idris, a social media personality better known as Dadiyata, has been missing since Friday, August 2, 2019. He was abducted by heavily armed men while driving into his residence at Barnawa in Kaduna State. Days after Dadiyata was taken away, El-Rufai’s son, Bashir went on his verified Twitter account mocking the activist. “The same clowns who encouraged him when he was creating false stories and capitalising on lies that could endanger lives solely for political ends are the same individuals trending hashtags asking #WhereisDadiyata. Dangerous lies in public space have consequence,” he wrote. Security agencies never invited the younger El-Rufai to explain what he knows about the whereabout of the activist. Dadiyata was a lecturer at the Federal University Dutsinma, Katsina State. He was 34 years old at the time he was taken away.
PERSECUTED/DEAD: Haruna Kuye, District Head of Gidan Zaki, Zangon Kataf Local Government, Kaduna State
Haruna Kuye, the District Head of Gidan Zaki, blamed El-Rufai for the killings in Southern Kaduna in an interview on August 1, 2020. Mr. Kuye and other traditional rulers in Southern Kaduna were arrested and questioned on the governor's orders after suspected herdsmen invaded, killed, maimed, and set fire to houses and food crops in their communities. The monarch and his family fled Gidan Zaki soon after his release. Mr. Kuye met this reporter in a hideout far from his community and told him about his fears. Mr. Kuye claimed, among other things, that he was being tracked and that he and his family might be wiped out. Mr. Kuye returned to Gidan Zaki two months later, and on November 17, 2020, unknown gunmen stormed his house and killed him and his son, leaving his wife and daughter in critical condition.
ILLEGAL ARREST/DETENTION/DEAD: HRH Dr. Ishaku Damina of Kurama Kingdom, Kaduna State
Ishaku Damina, a first-class monarch from the Kurama Kingdom in Southern Kaduna was detained for over a month on false charges in 2017 at El-Rufai's orders. After the court found no evidence against him, he was eventually given bail. On his release, El-Rufai suspended him for many years and withheld his pay in an effort to break the revered monarch's resilience while also putting him through unimaginable hardship. The monarch later died in May 2021.
ARRESTED/DETAINED: Saidu Adamu, Director of Media, Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governorship Campaign Council
Saidu Adamu, the assistant director of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) Governorship Campaign Council, and El Abbas Mohammed and Talib Mohammed, two party youth leaders, were detained on March 8 in Kaduna. The trio were arrested by the DSS on the orders of El-Rufai, who alleged they were planning to incite violence during the March 11, election which was later postponed by the Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC). After he was freed under very stringent bail conditions, Mr. Adamu said “I was just sitting in my parlor here in the morning, around 9:30 am, the security drove in with four Hilux vehicle and arrested me. When we went to DSS office, they said Governor El-Rufai ordered that I should be arrested. I said for what, that I’m preaching for violence because I’ve been talking about Muslim-Muslim ticket. I say well, of course I’ve been talking about Muslim-Muslim ticket, and I’ll never stop talking about it.”
PRESECUTED/ON THE RUN: Elias Gora, District Head, Gora, Kaduna State
Elias Gora, District Head of Gora in Zangon Kataf, Kaduna State, has been on the run not only because of incessant attacks on his area by suspected Fulani herdsmen, but also for fear of arrest by El-Rufai.
The monarch, who was arrested by the governor along with his counterpart from Gidan Zaki earlier in 2020, is only alive because he fled his home on December 18, 2020, when suspected herdsmen invaded his compound. His neighbours, however, were not so lucky.
The gunmen, who were apparently enraged because they did not find their target at home after breaking into his house, moved to a nearby compound and murdered Peter Akaho (70), Ayuba Steven Sheyin (67), Jummai Ayuba (55), Ishaya Joel (35), Yakubu Saviour (14), Ayuba Goodluck (11) and Patience Ayuba (6). Gan Gora was hit three times in 2020 and the first attack occurred on January 17, 2020, when gunmen opened fire on the local market, killing two and injuring several persons. El-Rufai was furious with the monarch because he had organised youth to defend the area.
ILLEGAL ARREST/ DETENTION: Audu Maikori, Nigerian lawyer, social activist and creative industry expert
Lawyer, activist and creative industry expert, Audu Maikori, had criticised Mr. El-Rufai for his handling of the killings in Southern Kaduna on a social media post. Mr. Maikori was first arrested in Lagos on February 17, 2017 for allegedly trying to “incite” the public and subsequently transferred to Force Headquarters in Abuja for interrogation. He was released and rearrested on March 10, 2017. The second arrest came barely a week after Governor Nasir El-Rufai pledged to ensure his thorough prosecution for allegedly circulating inflammatory materials capable of exacerbating the deadly conflict in Southern Kaduna. Mr. Maikori had challenged his arrest and detention before a Federal High. In his ruling, Justice John Tsoho had declared the arrest warrant on Mr. Maikori invalid on the premise that it was not endorsed by a court in Lagos before the arrest was effected. “The arrest was improper, illegal and unlawful and by implication, the applicant was wrongfully and unlawfully arrested and detained for 48 hours. The court awarded N40million cost against Governor Nasir El Rufai of Kaduna state and the Nigerian Police Force.
ILLEGAL DETENTION/ PROSECUTED: Dr. John Danfulani, academic and rights activist
Dr. John Danfulani, a former lecturer at Kaduna State University, was imprisoned for two weeks for criticising the El-Rufai administration. Mr. Danfulani had won in a lower court when charged by the government. Ironically, Mr. Danfulani was a diehard supporter of Mallam El-Rufai but things went south when he started criticising the governor. Before being taken to prison, Mr. Danfulani, said he was being persecuted for simply criticizing the activities of both the state and the federal government. He added that the constitution of the federal government gave him the right to freely express his opinion on issues of governance that he was not comfortable with. On his release, the academic had resigned his appointment with the government, citing harassment.
ILLEGAL ARREST/DETENTION: Joseph Midat, former Bureau Chief, Leadership Newspaper
Joseph Midat, the former Bureau Chief of Leadership Newspaper was arrested by the police for a comment he made on the messaging platform, Whatsapp while leaving the Nigerian Union of Journalists (NUJ) Press Centre in 2017. He was taken to the Metropolitan police station, also known as “metro,” where he was held overnight before being transferred to the Kaduna State police command. Following his arrest, security personnel searched his Sabon Tasha home and examined messages on his GSM phone.
While no charges were filed against him, Aliyu Usman, the then-Police Public Relations Officer, confirmed that the journalist was detained for supporting calls for a protest over killings in Southern Kaduna. Mr. Midat is from Southern Kaduna, where suspected Fulani herdsmen have killed and displaced thousands.
ILLEGAL DETENTION/PROSECUTED: Luka Biniyat, former Bureau Chief, Vanguard Newspaper, Kaduna
The former Bureau Chief of Vanguard Newspaper in Kaduna State, Luka Biniyat, has been a strong critic of Mallam El-Rufai over the killings in Southern Kaduna and has paid severely for always speaking up against the governor. He has been arrested and detained several times for months for writing stories critical of the government. Sometime in 2021 after a story he wrote about an attack on a government tertiary institution resulted in a controversy, he was arrested and taken into police custody. In a WhatsApp message, Mr. Binniyat said he had been in detention without trial for days.
In a secret WhatsApp chat to his colleagues at the time, he had written, “They brought me to Barnawa Chief Magistrate Court, Kaduna and clamped me into a tiny, dingy, crammed jail with some harden looking criminals. I was smuggled here from the police detention facility in Gabasawa police station after four days without trail and dehumanissing cell condition. I have yet to be taken before a judge. I fear that my life is in danger. I just managed to get this phone.” Mr. Biniyat lost his job and is still facing trial in two different Kaduna courts, despite the fact that he was granted bail under very strict conditions.
ILLEGAL DETENTION: Investigative journalist and human rights advocate, Stephen Kefas
Stephen Kefas, a journalist and human rights activist who has been a vocal critic of Governor El-Rufai's has since fled Nigeria. Mr. Kefas was arrested on May 8, 2019, for reposting a SaharaReporters' article about the Adara emirate feud which resulted in the death of the late Kajuru monarch Dr. Maiwada Galadima.
After his arrest, he was taken to Miniokoro Police Station, where he spent the night behind the counter before being driven to Kaduna on May 9, 2019. On May 13, 2019, he appeared before a Magistrate and was granted bail, after which he returned to Port Harcourt to resume his work.
However, he was summoned to the Kaduna police station several weeks later and arrested for allegedly violating his bail condition. He was brought before a new magistrate, who ordered him to be held in the cell for two weeks so that police could conduct a forensic investigation into his smart phone.
Even though the police found nothing incriminating in his phone, the magistrate ordered him to be held in prison custody for five months without trial. He was released on October 19, 2019, and only appeared in court once, as the police were not interested in pushing the case. Mr. Kefas fled Nigeria for fear of being killed.
ILLEGAL DETENTION: Awema Dio Maisamari, national president, Adara Development Association (ADA)
The President of Adara Development Association (ADA) got the wrong side of El-Rufai’s short temper when the police arrested in December 2018 over alleged insult.
The governor was attending a town hall meeting with religious and community leaders in Kasuwan Magani over the persistent killings of Christians in Kajuru Local Government area of the state. In the course of the meeting, Mr. Maisamari, who was not yet the leader of ADA, had raised his hand to speak but the governor would not allow him. When he insisted, Mallam El-Rufai ordered his arrest by the police.
He was taken into custody in Kaduna on the grounds that he abused the governor in a press statement he issued in December 2018. Unlike his namesake and lawyer who died in the struggle, Maisamari was later freed by his captors.
THREATS OF ARREST: Truck drivers protesting the killing of colleague along Abuja/Kaduna Highway. Credit Kanydaily.com
On August 9, 2029, a trigger-happy policeman killed a truck driver along the Abuja/Kaduna Highway for refusing to pay bribe. In anger, truck drivers blocked the highway and requested the killer police team and the killer to be produced. Instead of trying to pacify the protesting drivers, Mallam El-Rufai rather posted a tweet, calling for the arrest and prosecution of the drivers for causing a gridlock on the road. The governor on his verified Twitter handle @elrufai, wrote:
PROSECUTED: Legal luminary, activist and former Chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu
Chidi Odinkalu, a prominent human rights activist and former Chairman of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission (NHRC), is on trial on falsehood and incitement charges levelled by Mr. El-Rufai.
Trouble began in 2019 when the governor, who had previously claimed that 66 Fulani people were killed in a village in Kajuru, later claimed that 130 people were murdered and buried in a mass grave without any evidence. Mallam El-Rufai, who described those who questioned the veracity of his claim as irresponsible, said that the latest figure was contained in a report from an ongoing investigation by the police. The police had later denied giving such information while investigations by the media also showed the governor lied.
Despite the lack of evidence, Mallam El-Rufai went ahead and prosecuted Prof. Odinkalu for challenging him to prove the mass killing claims. On October 19, 2020, a total of 35 international civil rights organisations and 94 rights activists from all over the world issued a statement calling for the court to protect free speech in Nigeria. However, Justice Peter Malong of the Kaduna Division of the Federal High Court on October 24, 2020, ruled in Mallam El-Rufai’s favour and awarded costs against Mr. Odinkalu. The case has since been appealed.
DEATH THREATS: International observers ahead of 2019 general elections
Ahead of Nigeria’s general elections in 2019, Mallam El-Rufai, had warned the United States (U.S), the United Kingdom (U.K) and the European Union (EU) against undue interference in Nigeria’s political affairs following the statements they all issued after President Muhammadu Buhari suspended Walter Onnoghen as Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) on January 25, 2019.
After Mr. Onnoghen’s suspension, the United States Embassy in Nigeria , the British High Commission and the EU also expressed concerns that the action was taken a few days to the general elections while also calling on all parties to follow the rule of law. But in an unhinged reaction, Mallam El-Rufai warned foreign election observers not to meddle with domestic affairs of Nigeria. In his words:
“Those that are calling for everyone to come and intervene in Nigeria, we are waiting for the person that will come and intervene. They will go back in body bags. Because nobody will come to Nigeria and tell us how to run our country.”
ILLEGAL ARREST/DETENTION: Barack Zebedee, Ph.D. student, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria
The Police in Kaduna, on the orders of Mallam El-Rufai raided the Kaduna home of Barak Zebedee of the Department of Biology, Ahmadu Bello University Zaria, ABU, over an alleged inciting comment in a WhatsApp chat group. The government might have infiltrated the WhatsApp group which was formed to rally help for thousands of displaced persons in Southern Kaduna communities. Mr. Zebedee is a well-known critic of the governor, who has been accused by many of taking sides in the killings and displacement of aboriginal peoples in Southern Kaduna. The government never obtained a conviction against him, like many other victims of a typical El-Rufai fuss.
ILLEGAL ARREST/DETENTION: Nine Adara Chiefs
Shortly after the murder of HRM Maiwada, the Agom Adara of Adara Chiefdom, Bawa Magaji, Wazirin Adara who stepped into the late Monarch’s shoes wrote to El-Rufai seeking for dialogue over the implementation of the order turning the Kingdom, a predominant Christian area into an emirate. When the governor would not listen to their pleas after the elders sent many emissaries to him, they filed a case in court to challenge the governor’s decision. However, nine elders of the Kingdom were arrested a week to the hearing on the case. The elders included: Bawa Magaji (Wazirin Adara), Sani Magaji (Commissioner of Police (retired)/Baradan Adara), Awemi Dio Maisamari (Adara Development Association President), Joseph Abdallah (Adara Development Association National Treasurer), Tanko Maisamari (Village Head Maro), Hosea Danladi (Village head Ungwan Gamo), Joseph Ayuba (Village Head Kutura), Tank Wada (Village Head Aguba), Ulu Maitumbi (Ungwan Barde Elder). The chiefs were detained in prison for 106 days before being released by the court due to a lack of evidence.
PROSECUTED: Reporter with The Union newspaper, Gabriel Idibia
Gabriel Idibia, a journalist with The Union newspaper, who was dragged to court in Kaduna for allegedly asking El-Rufai to declare his assets and make his assets known to the public as required by the Nigerian law.
ARRESTED/ DETAINED: Jacob Dickson, reporter with Authentic News, Kaduna
A reporter with Authentic News, Kaduna, Jacob Dickson was arrested by the Kaduna State Police command on April 27, 2016, over a report that El-Rufai was pelted by angry youth while trying to settle a misunderstanding with residents of two disputing communities. They then took him to the Kaduna Magistrates Court, charged him with incitement and returned him to custody the same day. As Mr. Dickson was put under custody, the Minister of Culture and Information, Lai Mohammed, on the same day delivered an address on behalf of President Buhari to a meeting of the Federation of African Journalists hosted by the Nigeria Union of Journalists in Abuja. Mr. Mohammed had told the gathering of the importance of a free media and claimed that not a single journalist was being detained or harassed in Nigeria. Mr. Dickson was freed on May 5, 2016, after spending seven days in prison.
ARRESTED/PROSECUTED: Segun Onibiyo, a journalist with Radio Nigeria
A reporter with Federal Government-owned Radio Nigeria, Segun Onibiyo was arrested, detained and charged to court on the orders of El-Rufai on November 14, 2019. The intolerant governor was angry over Mr. Onibiyo’s social media post and caused him to be kept in prison custody for 24 days. The journalist, who is a strong critic of El-Rufai and the ruling All Progressives Congress (APC) was charged with defamation of character and making a false statement against Mr. El-Rufai. The journalist was freed after a High Court in Kaduna granted him bail in the sum of N2 million.
ARRESTED/CHARGED: Sunny Yayock, a freelance journalist,
was arrested, detained and charged to court for his comment on WhatsApp supporting a call for peaceful demonstration over the incessant killings in Southern Kaduna. Mr. Yayock, who was arrested alongside his colleague Joseph Midat, was detained by police for two days before being taken to court and granted bail.
ARRESTED/DETAINED: Adamu Abdullahi, a social media activist
Adamu Abdullahi, a social media activist was arrested by the police and interrogated in Kaduna State for allegedly retweeting a post that reported El-Rufai being pelted by angry youth. While the police did not contest the factualness of the story, they, however, succumb to the orders of the governor to detain citizen Abdullahi in violation of his rights to the freedom of expression.
THREATENED: Samuel Ogundipe, former Senior Correspondent with Premium Times now managing editor, the Peoples Gazette
Samuel Ogundipe, a former investigative reporter with Premium Times and now managing editor with the Peoples Gazette got into trouble with El-Rufai when he called out the governor’s son Bello, who vowed to gang rape the mother of a rival on the micro-blogging site, Twitter. When Mr. Ogundipe not only published the story but also called him out, the young El-Rufai, much like his father, threatened to file a lawsuit against a journalist who published his misconduct on Twitter. Although his mother initially supported him, she later apologised for backing her son’s misconduct saying she reacted before understanding what led to the dispute.
ARRESTED/DETAINED: Nasiru Jagaba, a national youth leader, Middle Belt Forum
Nasiru Jagaba, a Middle Belt Forum youth leader, was arrested alongside members of the group for protesting the killings and displacements of Southern Kaduna indigenous peoples in 2020. Mr. Jagaba, who led the protest near the NNPC Junction on Kachia Road on the outskirts of Kaduna, accused the government and security agencies of colluding.
Before the protesters could move a few metres towards the city centre, police surrounded them, arrested their leaders, and forced them to abandon their protest on the orders of El-Rufai. While the governor has not arrested and or prosecuted those perpetrating the carnage in Southern Kaduna, he has been consistent in arresting those who demand protection from his government.
THREATS/HUMAN RIGHTS VIOLATION: Gloria Ballason, activist and human rights lawyer
A young activist and legal practitioner, Gloria Ballason, has been on the wrong side of relationship with El-Rufai following the many cases of human rights violations she has fought against the governor. Sometime in 2016, then National President of the Nigerian Bar Association, A.B. Mahmoud (SAN) had visited Government House, Kaduna where El-Rufai openly threatened to abduct Ms. Ballason for criticising him in an article. Ms. Ballason sued the governor to protect her rights and in May 2017, secured a judgment of the Kaduna State High Court, which found that the governor violated her rights. The court awarded damages against El-Rufai but instead of obeying the court, the governor ordered the police to block her law office in 2019. In July 2020, the Kaduna State High Court presided over by Justice Hannatu Balogun again found El-Rufai and the Police in violation of the right of Ms. Ballason to practice her vocation as a lawyer. The High Court specifically found that they had violated the United Nations Basic Principles on the Role of Lawyers.