A court in Nigeria’s northern state of Kano ordered the public whipping of two TikTokers after it determined the comedians had smeared the image of state Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, a judicial spokesperson said.
The individuals were also ordered to wash toilets as part of their punishment.
Baba Jibo Ibrahim, who is a spokesperson for Kano State Judiciary, told CNN that 26-year-old Mubarak Isah Muhammad and Nazifi Muhammad Bala, 23, were each whipped 20 times for allegedly tarnishing the image of the governor in comments that they made.
Ibrahim said the sentences were handed out to the accused men on Monday after they made a court appearance last Friday. Ibrahim added that the two friends spent the weekend in custody.
“They admitted the charges. They didn’t even ask or beg for a lawyer to stand for them,” Ibrahim said. “They were arraigned before the Kano State Magistrate Court for defaming the character of Governor Umar Ganduje on their TikTok social media account. When the charges were read to them, they pleaded guilty to the two counts of … defamation of character and inciting public disturbance.”
An associate who had the opportunity of seeing Muhammad and Bala in prison told the news outlet that the two men recorded and shared the TikTok four years ago, adding that it was recently re-circulated.
And besides the public whipping, the judicial spokesperson said that Muhammad and Bala were each fined 10,000 naira (around $23) and ordered to sweep “the court premises” and “wash the court’s toilets for 30 days.”
The two friends were also ordered to render a public apology to Governor Ganduje on social media, CNN reported. The director of Amnesty International Nigeria, Osai Ojigho, criticized the court’s decision and how the two men were treated.
“The decision to remand them in prison for a week without trial is a brazen violation of their fair trial rights,” Ojigho said. “Satirizing those in authority is not a crime. Nigerian authorities must immediately quash this appalling sentence.”
Inibehe Effiong, who is a human rights lawyer, also told CNN that he wants an appeal to be filed against the magistrate court’s decision. “I don’t understand why people should be flogged. Such form of punishment is inhumane and is inconsistent with the right to dignity of the human person,” he said. “It is also doubtful whether they were given a fair trial. I believe that the two men should take steps to challenge the decision at the higher court.”
Effiong added: “Citizens have the right under the constitution to freedom of expression, and that right should be respected, particularly as it relates to public office holders. The rights of citizens to criticize them is preserved under the constitution.”
In 2018, Governor Ganduje came under scrutiny after a video that was shared on local media showed him appearing to put large sums of US dollars in the pocket of a robe that he was wearing. The money in question was suspected to be a bribe that had been given to him. But Ganduje said the allegations were untrue.
As previously reported by Face2Face Africa, Kano, whose population is largely Muslim, practices Islamic law which is also known as Sharia. And following Nigeria’s return to democracy over 20 years ago, Kano and other predominantly Muslim states in the country’s north restored a harsh version of the law.