Two TikTok comedians have been publicly whipped in Nigeria for making a video that a court in the northern Kano State ruled had defamed the state Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, according to a judicial spokesperson.
Mubarak Isah Muhammad, 26, and Nazifi Muhammad Bala, 23, each received 20 lashes for making defamatory statements about the governor, a spokesperson for Kano State Judiciary, Baba Jibo Ibrahim, told News84Media on Wednesday.
The two friends, according to Ibrahim, were sentenced on Monday after being brought before a magistrate’s court on Friday. They were remanded in custody over the weekend, the judiciary spokesperson said.
“They admitted the charges. They didn’t even ask or beg for a lawyer to stand for them,” Ibrahim told News84Media.
“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,” Ibrahim said.
News84Media has made attempts to reach the two men and their lawyer for comment.
Saifullahi Ibrahim, a close associate who visited the men in prison, told News84Media the TikTok video was made four years ago and only resurfaced online recently. Ibrahim said he had known both men for over a decade.
In addition to the public lashing ordered by the court, the men were ordered to pay a fine of 10,000 naira (around $23) each and cleaning “including sweeping the court premises and washing the court’s toilets for 30 days,” Ibrahim stated.
They were also ordered to make a video on social media to publicly apologize to Governor Ganduje.
Osai Ojigho, the director of Amnesty International Nigeria, condemned the rulingsaying “satirising those in authority is not a crime.”
The human rights agency called on Nigerian authorities to “immediately quash this appalling sentence.”
Human rights lawyer Inibehe Effiong wants the ruling of the magistrate’s court challenged at a higher court.
“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,” Effiong told News84Media.
“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 that it was the right of citizens to criticize their leaders.
“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,” he said.
Governor Ganduje had previously come under public criticism after a video that surfaced on local media in 2018 appeared to have captured him pocketing huge amounts of US dollars in a flowing robe that were believed to be proceeds from a bribe.
The governor has denied all allegations.
Kano, located in northern Nigeria, operates under its own strict interpretation of Sharia law. Convictions for blasphemy are common in the largely Muslim-dominated state, where a version of the Sharia law is enforced by religious police known as the Hisbah Corps.