The weekend Sokoto riot and the resultant imposition of curfew is a classic case or situation of double jeopardy and killing the victim twice, reminiscent of an atavistic culture long gone and forgotten, as well a state of social anomie.
Hundreds of people in Nigeria’s north-western city of Sokoto demonstrated on Saturday over the arrest of two students after the murder of a Christian student, Miss Deborah Samuel, accused of blasphemy.
Deborah Samuel, a student at Shehu Shagari college of education, was stoned to death on Thursday and her body burned by a mob of Muslim students of the college after she made a post on social media they deemed insulted the prophet Muhammad.
Police said they made two arrests after the incident and had begun a manhunt for other suspects who appeared in footage of the murder shared on social media. Early on Saturday, Muslim youths took to the streets of the city, lighting bonfires and demanding the release of the two suspects, despite the earlier deployment of police to maintain order.
Some of the protesters besieged the palace of Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, the sultan of Sokoto and the highest spiritual figure among Muslims in Nigeria, after he condemned the killing and demanded those involved face justice.
“It was more of a riot by a mob of young men and women who were demanding the release of the two people arrested over the killing of the Christian student,” said a Sokoto resident, Ibrahim Arkilla.
The crowd which made bonfires on the streets were also demanding the police stop the manhunt for those identified to have taken part in the killing,” said Arkilla, who witnessed the protests.
A large number of protesters gathered at the palace chanting “Allahu Akbar”, said Bube Ando, who lives nearby. “Some among the security men deployed to protect the palace tried to ask the protesters to leave but they became unruly.
“Policemen and soldiers who stood outside the palace hurled teargas canisters and fired into the air and succeeded in dispersing the crowd,” he said, without giving details about whether anyone was hurt.
The building of Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) in the area was also reportedly set on fire by the irate youths.
“The Catholic church was attacked and scattered while the First ECWA church beside it has been burnt. Some Christians were injured. These youths also attacked some Igbo traders, destroyed their cars.
“They were burning shops and stealing goods currently in city centres as well. Sadly, no intervention from the armed forces,” a Sokoto resident told an online newspaper.
As the outrage and global indignation continues to trail the religious execution of Miss Deborah Samuel, a second year student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, last week, a Christian Youth group has alleged attempt by the police to cover up investigation of the perpetrators and ensuring justice is appropriately served.
They insisted that the body language of police has shown certain disposition that shakes public confidence in their impartiality by bringing all those involved in the dastardly act to book. They were appalled by the police statement that only two persons have been arrested when over 100 people could be easily identified from the viral video footages on display.
“How can the police claim to have arrested only two persons when there were over hundred people involved, who can be clearly identified. This is suspicious and we want all those who participated in the murder arrested so they can face the full weight of the law”, they declared.
However, only vice president Yemi Osinbajo, of all those aspiring to lead the country as president in 2023, has condemned the action, four days after the event took place, which is concerning to most Nigerians, as reactions from across the world continue to pour in.
Even former vice president and main opposition, the Peoples’ Democratic Party, PDP,’s presidential hopeful, Atiku Abubakar, undoubtedly a statesman, may have given Nigerians a foretaste of his personal commitment to all Nigerians irrespective of ethnicity or religion, with the mob lynching.
Atiku Abubakar, as expected of a nationalist, and a potential president of the country by 2023, had responded appropriately to the gruesome murder of Miss Samuel by fanatics by condemning the dastardly act and called for immediate investigation and prosecution of the perpetrators. He made his position known in a tweet on his verified tweeter handle.
However, shortly afterwards, the tweet was pulled down following angry reactions from Moslems in the state, who threatened to deal with him at the polls during the forth coming congress and general election in 2023. Many Nigerians who noticed this inordinately ambitious and cowardly behaviour by the prospective presidential candidate of a major party have expressed disappointment and a sense of betrayal by the Turaki and Sadauna Adamawa.
“There cannot be a justification for such gruesome murder. Deborah Yakubu was murdered and all those behind her death must be brought to justice. My condolences to her family and friends,” he had tweeted.
Commenting on the matter, Professor Adeagbo Moritiwon, a political scientist said “it is unfortunate that politics has trounced morality and the crave for power and ambition more important than the sanctity of human life and justice.
“No other presidential aspirants have condemned the killing, this has shown that our politicians are soulless and wicked”, a civil servant, Ahmadu Kazaure told BusinessHallmark.
Later the former Vice President in a message on his verified Hausa page distanced himself from the message. He also stated that any message on social media that did not come with the initials “A. A.” were not his.
“This evening I received information that a post was made that doesn’t agree with my orders. I use this to announce that any post without A. A. is not from me. May God protect us,” he wrote in Hausa language.
Meanwhile, the decision of the former Vice-President to delete the tweet has caused an uproar on social media as he is now trending at number one on Twitter. Many Nigerians have vowed not to vote for him.
Jimoh Quadri, a road transport worker said “Atiku’s ambition is dead on arrival. These politicians are wicked. Human life means nothing to them.”
Also a popular Nigerian skit maker, Debo Adedayo, popularly known as Mr Macaroni, has slammed a presidential aspirant, Atiku Abubakar, for deleting tweet condemning the lynching of Deborah Samuel.
Condemning the act, Mr. Macaroni said, “Atiku deleting the tweet condemning the gruesome murder of Deborah shows what we have been preaching this whole election season.
“Politicians don’t care for the people. They only play to the gallery when seeking for our votes. The people must see beyond these gimmicks.”
“It is quite sad and unfortunate for a man like to out his political interest above the collective interest and right of a Nigerian to life”, said Mr. Azu Oshimiri, a radio host. “There is nothing in the world that justify such conduct in a secular country, such as ours, and it is a real shame for Alhaji Abubakar to succumb to any threat against the life of a Nigerian “.
One of the individuals happy at the killing is a certain Sokoto government official by name Ana’s Mohammed Sani said to be an aide to finance commissioner in Sokoto State. Sani has allegedly threatened that more Christians in Nigeria will be murdered if they say things considered disrespectful to revered Prophet Muhammad.
Sani had asserted that Ms Samuel was brutally murdered because she was reckless with her tongue. A pro-President Muhammadu Buhari regime’s social media contractor, Zara Oyinye, had taken to her Facebook page to comment on the action of the Sokoto mob who killed the Christian student.
Reacting to Ms Oyinye’s post, Mr. Sani, popularly known as Uncle Anas Dakura on Facebook, insisted Muslim mob justifiably murdered Ms Samuel. He warned, “Muslims don’t take insults against beloved prophet صلى الله عليه وسلم in whatever form.”
Justifying the gruesome murder of the female Christian student, Mr. Sani said, “The earlier our Christian brothers and sisters understand this, the better for all of us. May the recklessness of our tongues never drive us to (an) early grave.”
The so-called Sokoto government’s aide doubled down on Friday morning, censuring those outraged by the murder of the Christian student.
“We have just a life to live and enjoy. We can make noise on Twitter and condemn the mob action using the Queen’s English. However, that cannot bring back Deborah back to life. More so, if anyone will repeat it tomorrow, the probability of being served same meal is 99.9%,” Mr. Sani declared.
Ms Samuel, a 200 level Home-Economics student accused of blasphemy, had complained bitterly over the influx of religious broadcast messages shared to her department’s WhatsApp page. In a WhatsApp voice note, the deceased reminded her course mates that the group was created solely for academic purpose, such as sharing important information regarding tests, assignments, deadlines, examinations and the likes.
“Holy ghost fire, nothing would happen to me. Is it by force you guys keep sending these religious messages in our group? Our group wasn’t created for that, but rather as a notice for when there’s a test, assignment, examinations, etc. Not these nonsense religious posts,” voiced Ms Samuel on her department’s WhatsApp group and heard by Peoples Gazette.
The voice message elicited the fury of her fanatic course mates and schoolmates who found her comment unflattering to their Islamic beliefs. Ms Deborah was mobbed at the school’s security post by angry students who hit her repeatedly with sticks and stones till she died, and set ablaze.
According to a student who witnessed the execution, her dying body was roasted alongside the building where she sought safety. Nigerians are using Twitter to protest the killing, calling on the government to ensure that justice was served.
“Murderers of Christian woman in Sokoto must be arrested & punished!” Farooq Kperogi, a journalism professor at Kennesaw State University, said in a tweet.
“Sadly, this sort of consequence-free murder of people in the name of avenging “blasphemy” has been going on for far too long in the North. This must stop! The monsters in that video are easily identifiable.
The Sokoto State government must immediately apprehend them and make an example of them. If that doesn’t happen, this kind of murderous barbarism will continue,” he added.
Popular human rights activist Aisha Yesufu, herself a Muslim, also condemned the act saying “no one has the right in anyway whatsoever to kill another.”
Cases of mob attacks against alleged blasphemy happen intermittently in Nigeria, as “many Shariah laws in northern Nigeria continue to criminalise blasphemy and result in harsh punishments for blasphemers,” according to the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom.
The development has continued to trigger angry reactions from Nigerians, who lamented how some human beings easily lose their conscience in the name of religion. On Friday, President Buhari condemned the action and directed security agencies to act promptly. He condole with the family, he said in statement. Also, Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, described it as unacceptable.
Reacting, the Sultanate Council in a statement issued by its secretary, Sa’idu Mohammadu Maccido, called on security agencies to ensure that the perpetrators are brought to book. The council called on members of the public to remain calm and live peacefully with one another.
The statement reads, “The Sultanate Council has learnt with dismay the unfortunate happening at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, SSCOE Sokoto that led to the loss of life of a female student of the institution.
“The Sultanate Council condemns the incident in its totality and has urged the security agencies to bring the perpetrators of the unjustifiable incident to justice.
“The Sultanate Council has urged all to remain calm and ensure peaceful co-existence among all people of the state and nation.”
The Muslim Media Practitioners of Nigeria (MMPN) also condemned in strong terms the jungle justice meted out to a girl (Deborah) in Sokoto state on the excuse of committing a blasphemy against the Prophet of Islam, Muhammad (SAW) on Thursday, describing such action as anti- Islam, barbaric and sad.
In a statement by the National President of MMPN, Abdur-Rahman Balogun in Abuja, described the case of mob killing of the girl in Sokoto as a criminal offence in Islamic law.
“Allah says in Qur’an 5 verse 32 thus: … We ordained for the Children of Israel that if any one slew a person – unless it be for murder or for spreading mischief in the land – it would be as if he slew the whole people: and if any one saved a life, it would be as if he saved the life of the whole people…”
“So the punishment for any offence in Islamic law is decided by a judge. No other member of the public has that jurisdiction. In essence, it is a criminal offence in the Shari’ah of Islam for anyone or any group to take the law into their hands.
“Even if it is a crime committed against the state, it is when the specific punishment is prescribed in the Qur’an or Hadith, only a competent judge of a Shari’ah court is allowed to approve of the witnesses and evidence, and to give the sentence for the execution of the appropriate punishment.
“In essence, anyone who takes the law into their hands is a criminal that should be punished for their crime.
It is in this light that we commend the immediate action of the Sultanate Council and His Eminence Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar for condemning the criminal act and call for calm pending the outcome of the investigation panel set up by the Sokoto state government.
“As a body of Muslim Media Practitioners, we join all others to condemn this barbaric act and call for immediate justice on any individual or group of people found guilty of perpetrating this dastard act.
“This is so because if any individual or group is permitted to judge and execute punishments on their own without recourse to the constituted authority, there will be nothing but jungle justice and anarchy on the land.
“Again, what happened in Sokoto is a manifestation of ignorance on what the religion of Islam preaches, hence the need for Islamic scholars to renew their commitments to preaching peace, love, tolerance and understanding as taught by the Prophet Muhammad himself.”
Also the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto, Mathew Hassan Kukah has joined thousands of Nigerians to condemn the killing. The country’s Criminal Code prohibits any act that publicly insults any religion and stipulates a prison sentence of up to two years, while there are Islamic laws against blasphemy by sharia courts in 12 northern states.
The latter are “exclusively concerned with actions considered insulting to Muslims, the punishment for which can be as severe as execution”, according to the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University.
“Most blasphemy accusations are made by Muslims against Christians and frequently trigger mob violence before any official actions like police arrests and judicial trials can be taken. Blasphemy is thus primarily a driver of sectarian violence rather than legal proceedings in the Nigerian context,” the Berkley Center said.
In April, a court sentenced an atheist to 24 years in prison for making social media posts considered blasphemous against Islam. Mubarak Bala, a former Muslim, was sentenced after pleading guilty following a lengthy trial during which he spent nearly two years in prison.
In 2020, a sharia court sentenced Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a 22-year-old Muslim gospel musician, to death for committing blasphemy in a series of private WhatsApp messages.