In furtherance of what has become a long standing pattern of censorship in Nigeria, two Kano-based standup comedians, Mubarak Muhammad and Nazifi Bala, were found guilty of defaming Kano state governor Abdullahi Ganduje in a comedy video they shot and uploaded on TikTok and Facebook. The Kano State Magistrate Judge ordered the two to receive 20 lashes, clean the toilets on the magistrate’s court premises in Kano’s No-man’s-land territory for 30 days, publicly apologise to the state governor on social media, and pay a fine of ₦10,000 (£20) each.
The Nigerian chapter of the Pan-African Network for Artistic Freedom (PANAF) has condemned the rising trend of attacks on artists and entertainers by government officials over their creative art.PANAF’s communication Officer Emmanuel Onwuka said: “The alarming pat- tern of artistic freedom violations in Nigeria endangers the vibrancy of the country’s entertainment industry and democracy.
“It is shocking that the present administration which came to power ostensibly to rid the country of corruption, is condoning such abuse of state power and resources to victimise artists and entertainers who are performing their constitutional duty.”
He added: “It is particularly astounding that the Magistrate court has chosen to abuse their powers by using strong tactics against artists and entertainers with no exculpatory evidence or explanation in rebuttal of the allegations made against the duo.”
“As it is, allowing government officials to use state power and resources as shields, amounts to undermining the government’s credibility and supposed anti-corruption war.”
The Nigerian chapter of PANAF has called on the federal government to take measures to end the attacks on artists and protect them from corrupt government officials. It further warned the government that clamping down on artists poses a serious risk to Nigeria’s fledgling democracy.
PANAF strongly condemns this judgement and strongly urges the Nigerian government to allow Nigerian creatives to exercise their rights to freedom of expression, both online and offline. PANAF stands in solidarity with the many others who have spoken out to condemn this heinous crime, as the country sees more artists and creative professionals play an important part in social justice and political movements.