Two TikTok comedians have been publicly flogged in Nigeria for filming a video that a court in the northern state of Kano ruled defamed the state’s governor, Abdullahi Omar Ganduji, according to a judicial spokesperson.
Mubarak Essa Mohamed, 26, and Nazifi Mohamed Bala, 23, each received 20 lashes for making defamatory statements about the governor, Baba Jibu Ibrahim, the judiciary spokesperson in Kano state, told CNN on Wednesday.
The two friends were sentenced, according to Ibrahim, on Monday after they appeared before the Magistrates Court on Friday. The judiciary spokesman said they were returned to pretrial detention at the weekend.
They admitted the charges against them. “They did not ask or beg a lawyer to stand on their behalf,” Ibrahim told CNN.
“They were brought to trial before the Kano State Magistrates’ Court on charges of defaming the character of Governor Omar Ganduji 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 unrest,” Ibrahim said.
CNN has reached out to the two men and their attorneys for comment.
Saifullah Ibrahim, a close colleague who visited the men in prison, told CNN the TikTok video was made four years ago and only recently appeared online. Ibrahim said he had known the two men for more than a decade.
In addition to the court-ordered public flogging, the men were ordered to pay a fine of 10,000 naira (about $23) each and to clean “including sweeping the court premises and flushing the court toilets for 30 days,” Ibrahim said.
They were also ordered to make a video on social media to publicly apologize to Governor Ganduji.
Osai Ojigo, Director of Amnesty International Nigeria, condemned the verdictBy saying, “Satire for those in power is not a crime.”
The Human Rights Agency called on the Nigerian authorities to “immediately overturn this appalling ruling”.
Human rights lawyer Enyepe Effiong wants to challenge the Magistrates Court’s ruling to a higher court.
I don’t understand why people have to be flogged. Effiong told CNN that such a form of punishment is inhumane and goes against the right to human dignity.
It is also questionable whether they received a fair trial. I think both men should take steps to challenge the decision in the Supreme Court.”
Effiong added that citizens have the right to criticize their leaders.
Citizens under the Constitution have the right to freedom of expression, and this right must be respected, particularly with regard to holders of public office. He said that citizens’ rights to criticize them are protected by the constitution.
Governor Gandog had previously come under public criticism after a video surfaced on local media in 2018 that appeared to have captured him taking huge sums of dollars in a flowing robe believed to be proceeds from a bribe.
The governor denied all allegations.
Kano, located in northern Nigeria, operates under its strict interpretation of Sharia law. Convictions for blasphemy are common in the largely Muslim-dominated country, where a version of Sharia law is enforced by the religious police known as the Hisba Corps.