The Honourable Abdullahi Umar Ganduje OFR
Governor of Kano State
Government House, Kano
28 April 2022
Dear Governor Ganduje,
RE: Imprisonment of Mubarak Bala, President of the Nigerian Humanist Association
We, the undersigned individuals, write to you today to express our deep concern regarding the recent conviction and sentencing of Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, to 24 years in prison. We urge you to quash his conviction, and immediately and unconditionally release Mr Bala.
Mubarak Bala, born in Kano state, northern Nigeria, in 1984 is a well known and respected member of the Humanist movement. A chemical engineer by training, he is president of the Humanist Association of Nigeria and has led human rights education campaigns to promote freedom of religion or belief and raise awareness about religious extremism via the internet or social media platforms.
Mr Bala’s arrest on 28 April 2020 followed a petition filed with the Police Commissioner of Kano Command on 27 April by a local law firm that alleged that Mr Bala’s posts would incite the Muslim community and lead to public disturbance, a violation of Section 210 of the Penal Code of Kano State. The petitioners also alleged that Mr Bala had insulted the Prophet Muhammad in his Facebook posts in violation of Section 26(1)(c) of the Cybercrimes Act.
As you will no doubt be aware, Mr Bala’s case has been riddled with procedural irregularities from the moment of his arrest. Arrested in Kaduna State, he was subsequently transferred into the custody of Kano State, where he was denied access to his legal representatives for five months. Meanwhile, officials have failed to comply with successive orders to release Mr Bala on bail. It is worth noting that, on 21 December 2020, the Honorable Justice I. E. Ekwo of the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled Mr Bala’s continuous incarceration to be illegal and ordered his immediate release on bail. And yet, he remained detained until he appeared on trial on 5 April 2022.
Humanists International has reason to believe that Mr Bala plead guilty to the charges - against legal advice - under duress, and with the promise of a more lenient sentence. To our dismay, Mr Bala was sentenced to 24 years in prison. Humanists International together with the undersigned believe that Mr Bala is the victim of a grave miscarriage of justice, and that his fundamental rights enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution have been systematically violated.
In light of the above, we urge you to:
1. Quash Mubarak Bala’s conviction, and release him immediately and unconditionally;
2. Grant Bala free and unimpeded access to his legal representatives
3. Guarantee Bala’s well-being and safety while he remains in prison and upon his release, including by granting him access to all appropriate medical care.
The undersigned organizations fear that Mr Bala is being targeted solely for his exercise of his rights of freedom of belief and freedom of expression, as enshrined in the Nigerian Constitution and international and regional instruments to which Nigeria is a signatory.
We urge you to uphold your duty to respect fundamental freedoms and to release Mubarak Bala immediately without conditions.
Please do not hesitate to contact me should you have any questions