Audu Maikori, a Nigerian lawyer and CEO of Chocolate City Entertainment, has been arrested by the police. The arrest is linked to his tweets about a fatal attack on his relatives in Southern Kaduna that turned out to be false, his lawyer said Friday.
Mark Jacobs toldPREMIUM TIMES that Mr. Maikori, 41, was arrested in Lagos around noon Friday by a team of police officers attached to inspector-general monitoring and intelligence team and was immediately transferred to the Force Headquarters in Abuja.
“I arrived at the Force Headquarters and learnt that a detention order has already been signed for him,” Mr. Jacobs said of his client. “I am not sure he will be released tonight.”
Mr. Jacobs said he was told by the police that a magistrate issued warrant for Mr. Maikori’s arrest and are planning to charged him with attempt to “incite” the public.
Police spokesman, Jimoh Moshood, did not immediately respond to PREMIUM TIMES’ requests for comments Friday night.
The arrest of Mr. Maikori, a vocal advocate for the plight of residents of the restive area, came nearly four weeks after he narrated an attack that purportedly took place in Southern Kaduna.
In a series of tweets on January 23, Mr. Maikori said his driver, later identified as Simon Joseph, told him that he lost his brother in a Fulani herdsmen ambush in Southern Kaduna and will be travelling for burial.
“My driver’syounger brother and five others students of college of education Gidan Waya were ambushed and killed by herdsmen yesterday #SouthernKaduna.
“They were in a commercial car going back to school when the driver stopped suddenly under the pretext of checking his engine #SouthernKaduna.
“As soon as the car stopped the attackers shot all 6 students but let the driver who is Fulani go. He gave us these details#SouthernKaduna.
“When we speak we are viewed as trouble makers by the Govt. Well I have seen the pictures and it’s a painful sight#SouthernKaduna,” Mr. Social media users became livid after Mr. Maikori’s vivid naration of the purported attack.
The tweets were later picked up by some Nigerian newspaperswithout further checks.
Two days later, Kaduna State College of Education in Gidan Waya, where Mr. Maikori said the students were schooling, issued a statement denying any loss of students to an attack as described by Mr. Maikori.
The Kaduna State Government condemned the misinformation and the reporter responsible for the story in Vanguard Newspaper was arrested and charged.
On February 4, following intense criticism on social media, Mr. Maikori retracted and apologised for posting the tweets in a lenghty article that also offered detailed explanation of how he was misled by Mr. Joseph.
“I hereby tender an unreserved and sincere apology to the Management of the College of Education, Gidan Waya, His Excellency the Governor of Kaduna State and the Kaduna State Government, and also to the people of Southern Kaduna and the Fulani community and also VANGUARD newspapers whose source was my driver for the false statement by my driver which I also publicized believing same to be true,” Mr. Maikori wrote.
Mr. Jacob said Mr. Maikori’s driver was arrested a few days ago in Lagos, and had remained in detention ever since.
Mr. Maikori’s arrest caused social media buzz late Friday, with a prominent human rights activist and legal expert, Chidi Odinkalu, calling for his immediate release.
Mr. Odinkalu, a former Chairman of National Human Rights Commission, was among the first to raise alarm about Mr. Audu’s arrest Friday night.
“They should immediately release him because he had apologised for the tweets and I don’t think the matter is a criminal offence that warrants him being locked up for so many days,” Mr. Odinkalu told PREMIUM TIMES by telephone.
Over 200 have been killed and thousands more displaced in the latest violence between Fulani herdsmen and southern Kaduna residents.
A curfew Governor Nasir el-Rufai imposed in Zangon Kataf was relaxed last week.
Mr. El-Rufai said the attackers were herdsmen from neighbouring countries who had returned to avenge attacks on their relatives and livestock back in 2011.
The governor came under fire after admitting he had sent payments to the attackers to compensate for their losses, as part of efforts by his government to end the bloodshed.
A foundation laid by the Nigerian Army for the construction of a military base in the area was destroyed last week.