Ibrahim Garba Wala sentenced to 12 years in jail
On 15 April 2019, human rights defender Ibrahim Garba Wala was convicted by the High Court of Federal Capital Territory in Abuja, Nigeria on the charges of “management of or membership in an unlawful society”, “public incitement”, and “criminal defamation”, and sentenced to 12 years in prison. His lawyers plan to launch an appeal of the sentence highlighting irregularities in the proceedings.
Ibrahim Garba Wala (popularly known as IG Wala) is the National Coordinator for Citizens Action to Take Back Nigeria – CATBAN which is a human rights, anti-corruption and pro-democracy platform. CATBAN has led various campaigns and peaceful movements to promote human rights and the rule of law while documenting human rights violations resulting from practices of impunity and corruption by state actors. Ibrahim Garba Wala has submitted a number of petitions to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), detailing corruption in several organisations, specifically highlighting extortion by members of the National Hajj Commission, which is a public body tasked with licensing, regulating, performing over-sight, and undertaking supervisory functions over agencies and other bodies.
According to the human rights defender’s lawyers, during the course of the court hearing, the prosecution produced no evidence to demonstrate that CATBAN was an illegal or unlawful organisation. Furthermore, they maintain that there was no evidence produced to support the charges of defamation and public incitement brought against Ibrahim Garba Wala. The charges of defamation and public incitement were based on statements that the human rights defender made on his personal Facebook page.
According to the Administration of Criminal Justice Act 2015, a judge is required to refrain from imposing a maximum penalty on a first offender; however, in this case, the human rights defender, who is a first offender, was sentenced to the maximum penalty for each of the three charges for which he was convicted.
Front Line Defenders condemns the sentencing of Ibrahim Garba Wala and expresses concern over irregularities reported during the course of his hearing. Front Line Defenders believes that he has been targeted for his legitimate work in defending human rights and exposing corrupt practices in Nigeria, and urges the government of Nigeria to quash his conviction.