Kano Authorities, Respect Artistic Freedom!
CORA/Arterial Network Nigeria notes with concern, the reported arrest, detention and imprisonment of a Kano-based musician, Mohammed Yusuf, also known as AGY. According to BBC Pidgin, a court in Kano State has sentenced AGY to two years jail term for allegedly insulting Kano State Governor Abdullahi Ganduje. AGY was reportedly convicted on three-count charges of releasing a song and shooting a video without Kano Censors Board’s permission as well as insulting the governor with the lyrics.
The first two counts, according to BBC Pidgin, attracts one year jail term with an option of N100,000. However, the alleged insult on the governor was said to be punishable with one year imprisonment without an option of fine.
The artist was reportedly arrested by the police on Tuesday 18 June 2019 and sentenced on Wednesday 19 June 2019. This followed a previous arrest of another artist Sanusi Abdullahi, popularly known as SK in what turned out to be a mistaken identity. The defense counsel to SK, Barrister Tajudeen Abdullahi, told BBC Pidgin that the manner with which the prosecution of AGY was carried out was concerning.
CORA/Arterial Network Nigeria is:
- deeply worried about the hasty prosecution of AGY
- convinced that no proper investigation has been carried out on this matter to establish the substance of these charges
- concerned that artists could be randomly arrested based on mere speculation
- disturbed that a judge can determine the criminality of the lyrics of a song and pronounce verdict within hours of arraignment of the alleged offender
- worried that the laws applied in prosecuting AGY are neither reported nor implied, making the entire judicial process lack transparency
- concerned that these actions are capable of creating fears in the minds of other artists to freely express their opinions, a situation that imposes undue self-censorship on artists and threatens creativity
To this end, we the undersigned hereby condemn these actions by Kano State authorities and call on all artists, cultural activists, the Nigerian and international human right community to sign this petition demanding:
- The reversal of the sentence and unconditional release of artist Mohammed Yusuf, also known as AGY
- Compensation for the unlawful arrest and detention of artist Sanusi Abdullahi, popularly known as SK
- Transparency in the investigation carried out on the case and the laws applied in the prosecution of AGY
- Suspension of any censorship laws, regulations and policies governing artistic expressions in Kano and elsewhere which are inconsistent with the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and all international conventions ratified by the country
- An enabling environment for artists to exercise their fundamental human right of using their creativity to express their opinions on political, social and economic matters as guaranteed by Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) to which Nigeria is a signatory
- Anthony Afolabi Martins - Chairperson, Arterial Network Nigeria
- Ayodele Ganiu - National Coordinator, Arterial Network Nigeria - Artwatch Africa Coordinator
- Jahman Anikulapo - Programme Chair, Committee for Relevant Art (CORA)
- Ade Bantu – Musician/Artwatch Africa Ambassador
- Toyin Akinosho - Secretary General, Committee for Relevant Art (CORA)