Nigeria: Kano court to rule on whether to overturn ban on 'Hafsah'

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A high court in Kano last week set aside Friday, June 13, 2008 for a verdict on a case standing trial between the state government on one hand and the Lenscope Media Services Limited and two others. The court, presided over by Justice Abdullahi Bayero of High Court 1, Audu Bako Sectretariat, adjorned its sitting after counsel to the two parties explained their cases.

Lenscope Media, a film production company based in Jos, Plateau State in Nigeria has earlier sued the Kano State government over ban of the sale of the film produced, titled 'Hafsah.' They are challenging the arrest and subsequent trial and fine of two of the plantiffs, Jonathan Andrew and Surajo Idris, who are film distributors in Kano.

The plantiffs, led by the managing director of Lenscope Media, Alhaji Sani Mu'azu, have complained over what they called threat to their lives by the second respondent and breach of their personal liberties to life.

The petitioners were particulary referring to pronouncements by the second respondant who "is constantly making comments (referring to the 'Hafsah' film as an anti-sharia film) on the film Hafsah and its producers as well as the actors in the film with a view to create bad image against the film, its producers and the actors in it" the affidavit reads in part. They also expressed concern over a publication distributed in Juma'at mosques in Kano which described the film as "one aimed at destroying the religion of Islam".

Counsel to the applicants, Barrister Ahmad S. Garba, told the court that his clients suffer a great financial hitch as a result of the Censorship Board's actions. He said after the arrest of two of the plantiffs, Jonathan Andrew and Surajo Idris, "they were arrainged before a mobile Court and fined to the tune of N110, 000.00 and N35, 000.00 respectively".

In his counter arguement, the defence counsel, Senior State Counsel Ibrahim Muktar, debunked the claims of the plantiffs. He said the applicants are only concerned with the financial aspect of the case which is of their own interest while his side of the case is concerned with the public interset.

He said the movie, 'Hafsah,' did not conform with the rules and regulations of the Kano State Censorship Board, having been released into the market without been censored. He said the film contains obscence materials capable of corrupting morality, especially in children, adding that the accusation of threat of life filed by the plaintiffs has no basis. He, therefore, prayed the court to disregard the application of the plantiffs.

Leadership (Abuja) 16 May 2008