'Blasphemy' killings bring Nigeria to its knees as govt, elites, police's inaction fuel audacity

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The killing of yet another innocent Nigerian in Abuja over an alleged blasphemy exposes the ineptitude and biases of the Nigerian government, including the police.

Over the years, the dominantly Muslim north has on trivialities, killed southern Christians while the government officials, dominantly Muslims, offer condolences as the perpetrators are defended unpunished.

In May, a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, Deborah, was burnt to death by an irate mob.

Blasphemy: Deborah and her killers on Camera
Blasphemy: Deborah and her killers on Camera

Deborah's crime was that she allegedly disagreed with a Muslim student in the hostel and challenged Muslim students on a WhatsApp group who had turned the study group into a religious group.

When she refused to rescind her statement, she was assaulted, and her remains were burnt for "saying unacceptable things about Prophet Muhammed."

Before Deborah was killed, she was whisked to the school security outpost in the college for protection. However, the mob overpowered the officials and security, dragged out the lady, and stoned her before setting her ablaze.

In a video that surfaced online in May, one of her attackers admitted in the Hausa language that he lit the fire that burned the student to death. The authority claimed the attacker was a foreigner, the government's usual tactics to let fanatics off the hook.

Deborah isn't the first and the latest victim of the mindless and needless killing in northern Nigeria.

On Saturday, 4 June 2022, a month after Deborah's death, Ahmad Usman, a 30-year-old vigilante, was killed in Lugbe area of Abuja for blasphemy.

Just like Deborah, Usman was alleged to have insulted Prophet Muhammad during a disagreement with a petty trader and Islamic scholar, Mallam Lawan, who had broken the law.

Usman, a member of the vigilante, was said to have been on a raid of the market to enforce the closure of shops and stalls around 12am on Saturday.

Blasphemy: where northern Muslims burnt Usman to death
Where Usman was burnt to death

According to TheCable, the group guards the Timber market at the Federal Housing Estate in Lugbe.

The vigilante was said to have instructed Usman to lock up his shop, leading to the duo arguing as Usman threatened to arrest the shop owner if he didn't lock up.

During the argument, the enforcer said he would arrest Lawan even if "the prophet comes down to beg him," the report quotes a source who was present during the argument.

"They had resolved the matter around 1 am this morning, and everyone had gone to sleep," the witness said.

According to Abbah Bakko, as reported by thecable, "around 1 pm on Saturday, a group led by Lawan came to the vigilante office to accuse the deceased of blasphemy.

"We were all shocked that the issue that happened last night was turned into a case of blasphemy, and they brought tyres," Bakko said.

"The crowd kept gathering until the mob dragged him out, beat him and burned him down.

"You can see our boss is not around. He has gone with other people to bury him (Usman)."

The continuous killing of Nigerians in the name of Prophet Muhammed continued because the security agents are apologists and never stop the killing by ensuring the killers face justice.

In December 1994, an angry mob invaded a jail in Kano where a young Igbo trader, Gideon Akaluka, was being held by the police and killed him for alleged blasphemy.

Christiana Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin and her husband Michael
Christiana Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin and her husband Michael

The mobs happily paraded his decapitated head around the city while the police remained unhelpful.

Akaluka's crime was that his wife allegedly used a page from the Quran as toilet paper for her baby.

In 2022, a journalist for This Day newspaper, Isioma Daniel, joked that Prophet Muhammed would have chosen a wife from one of the contestants in that year's Miss World competition scheduled to hold in Abuja.

Isioma Daniel
Isioma Daniel, Journalist for This Day Newspaper

Angry Islamists took to the street to protest, killing Isioma and more than 200 others. This Day office in Kaduna was burnt down while the government of Zamfara issued a fatwa which urged "all Muslims wherever they are to consider the killing of the writer as a religious duty."

In March 2007, a Christian school female teacher in Gandu in Gombe State, Christiana Oluwatoyi Oluwasesin, was beaten and stabbed to death over a false accusation.

Her alleged crime was that she tore a copy of the Quran. According to Council on Foreign Relations, all sixteen suspects arrested for the killing were later released without charge.

In a similar occurrence to the Igbo trader, Talle Mai Ruwa, a popular water vendor, was in March 2021 dragged from a police post in the village of Sade in Bauchi, where he was being held and beaten to death for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammed.

According to the Centre for Democracy and Development (CDD), 13,241 Nigerians were killed extrajudicially between 2011 and 2021.

The report added that "these unlawful killings go largely unpunished."

In a country where the government back killers and tags them "doing God's work," it will take a revolution from the dominantly South that has remained less concerned to stop it.

With killers going scot-free, the audacity to kill more will grow, as in the case of Ms Yakubu, whose killers gleefully posted videos of their atrocities on social media.

Police hardly arrest religious killers in Nigeria, and the few arrested are swept under the carpet as the protest dies down.

After Deborah was killed, police alleged that some of the culprits were arrested and charged. The police also claimed the main suspect who confessed on video that he lit the fire was a foreigner who had absconded.

Those arrested in connection with Deborah's death are never heard of, and the female Muslim who allegedly invited the killers and was seen on the video has completely been forgotten.

These killers are entirely backed up by the Islamic leaders from Northern Nigeria. Those who aren't killed on the street are dragged to an Islamic court in Kano, where they are eventually sentenced to death.

An Islamic court in Kano sentenced nine people - eight men and a woman, to death after finding them guilty of blasphemy in June 2015.

Their crime was that they said, "Niasse was bigger than Prophet Muhammed."

A Kano Islamic court sent a gospel singer, Yahya Sharif-Aminu, to die by hanging in August 2020 for blasphemy which purportedly "violates section 382 (B) of the Kano State Sharia's Penal Code."

In April 2022, a thirty-seven-year-old president of the Nigeria Humanist Association, Mubarak Bala, was sentenced to death for blasphemy.

The political elites and government officials in Nigeria are numbed when it comes to Muslim Religion.

After Deborah's death, Nigerian foremost presidential aspirant Atiku Abubakar tweeted to condemn the act expected from a political leader; however, a few minutes later, the tweet was deleted after northern religious bigots flooded his tweet with threats.

"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," Atiku had tweeted.

A few minutes after the backlash, the Presidential aspirant on the platform of the Peoples Democratic Party (PDP) ordered the deletion, claiming that he did not authorize the post. However, he failed to condemn the killing in the long run.

After Ahmad Usman's death, the Nigerian police, through its Public Relations Officer, Josephine Adeh, confirmed the incident without mentioning the arrest of the culprits.

Instead, Josephine said "Normalcy has since been restored to the situation, while monitoring and surveillance of the area continues.

"Residents are therefore urged to go about their lawful duties without fear or apprehension of any kind from any quarters as the discreet investigation continues to unravel facts surrounding the ugly incident and effect the arrest of the perpetrators therein."

This is the pattern after religious jungle justice in Nigeria. The deletion of Atiku Abubakar's tweets shows that political elites are biased, scared and unready to face the problem.

Similarly, the police statement and position are an indication that the killing is only going to get worse as no culprit is arrested to face justice.

The victims' families are left to mourn their dead while the murderers continue their lives as if nothing happened. A country without justice is a time bomb.

In theory, Nigeria is a secular nation which means religion should not be part of the affairs of the state or part of public education. However, this secular is only practised in the South.

It is a massive mistake for the Nigerian leaders if they think that the problem will magically disappear by looking the other way.

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Source Council on Foreign Relations TheCable
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