Alleged blasphemy: Buhari, others condemn killing, Christian leaders demand justice

Almost 24 hours after a second-year female student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, Deborah Yakubu, was killed and her corpse burnt by her colleagues for allegedly making a WhatsApp post that blasphemed Prophet Muhammad (SAW), the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), condemned the killing on Friday.

In a statement on Friday by his Senior Special Assistant on Media and Publicity, Garba Shehu, the President “demanded an impartial extensive probe into all that happened before and during the incident.” He expressed concern that the mob took laws into their own hands instead of allowing the law to take its course on the matter.

Shehu quoted the President as saying, “The President noted that Muslims all over the world demand respect for the Holy prophets, including Isah (Alaihissalaam, Jesus Christ) and Muhammad (SAW), but where transgressions occur, as alleged to be the case in this instance, the law does not allow anyone to take matters into their hands.”

While calling for calm over the incident, the President directed the ministries of Information and Culture, Police Affairs, and Communications and Digital Economy to work with GSM providers and tech companies to help contain the spread of false and inflammatory information through social media.

Meanwhile, the British High Commissioner to Nigeria, Catriona Laing, also condemned the killing. “I condemn the murder of Deborah Yakubu in Sokoto and urge the police and relevant authorities to ensure the perpetrators of this horrific act are made to face justice in line with the law,” Laing tweeted on Friday.

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), on Friday, condemned the killing of Deborah, saying, “Enough is enough.”

The Northern Christian Elders’ Forum and the Benue State chapter of CAN also condemned the incident.

A statement by the General Secretary of CAN, Joseph Daramola, said, “The unlawful and dastardly action of the perpetrators must not only be condemned by all right-thinking people, but security operatives must fish them out and prosecute them as it is expected of them.

“It is the failure of the security agencies and the government to rise up to such criminalities in the past that gave birth to terrorists and bandits. As long as the state fails to bring these beasts and criminals amidst us to justice, society will continue to be their killing field.”

While acknowledging the swift reaction of the Sultan of Sokoto, Sa’ad Abubakar, who condemned the incident and asked security agencies to bring the perpetrators to justice, CAN said it would expect Governor Aminu Tambuwal to ensure that the matter was not swept under the carpet like previous ones.

“Killing for any God in the name of blasphemy is ungodly, satanic, foolish, reprehensible and totally unacceptable. This is not the Stone Age and Nigeria is not a banana republic. Nigeria remains a non-religious state, where no religion is supreme over the other.”

In a similar vein, the National Chairman of the Youth Wing of CAN, Belusochukwu Enwere, called for an in-depth investigation into the circumstances surrounding the killing of its member (Deborah) in the most degrading and inhumane manner in order to ensure justice for the deceased.

Also, the Chairman of the Benue State chapter of CAN, Rev Akpen Leva, condemned the “cruelty,” saying nobody had been able to produce any video or proof that the victim insulted the prophet.

In Kaduna State, the Chairman of the Northern Christian Elders’ Forum, Rev Ejoga Inalegwu, said the case could not be swept under the carpet even after the outcry had died down.

The Catholic Archbishop of Lagos, Most Rev Alfred Adewale Martins, also condemned the killing and called on law enforcement agents to bring the culprits to justice.

The Director of Social Communications, Catholic Archdiocese of Lagos, Rev Fr Anthony Godonu, quoted Martins as saying, “I feel very saddened by the callous manner Deborah Yakubu’s life was cut short in her prime by a bloodthirsty jungle justice mob. It shows how little the value some people place on human life. No one has a right to arbitrarily shed human blood. It is not in our constitution; it is not in our customs or tradition. Such an act is archaic and reprehensible, and should be expunged totally from our DNA.”

Deborah was stoned to death and burnt by her colleagues on the school premises. A viral video on social media showed a young man brandishing a matchbox and claiming it was used to set her ablaze.

The spokesman for the Sokoto State Police Command, Sanusi Abubakar, said the police had arrested two students, adding that the school had been shut and security personnel deployed to the premises.

The Chairman of the Nigerian Bar Association Section on Public Interest Litigation, Mr Monday Ubani, said the leadership of the NBA would decide whether or not the SPIDEL conference scheduled to hold in Sokoto from May 22 to 26 would be cancelled.

Ubani’s statement followed call by human rights activist and Senior Advocate of Nigeria, Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa for justice and cancellation of the conference in the light of the “barbaric” murder of Deborah.

Speaking with one of our correspondents, Ubani said, “No, we can’t cancel it that way; there is authority. We have the NBA President. If there is any reason to cancel it, the situation will be reviewed and a proper statement will be made. Individuals cannot; nobody has cancelled any conference.”

On Adegboruwa’s position, Ubani said it would be preposterous for some members to suggest the cancellation because of the acts of lawbreakers in the state, noting that the state government was not complicit in the killing, saying, “Let us all be circumspect over the sad Sokoto incident. The barbaric killing is condemnable as no individual has any right under our present jurisprudence to take life and extrajudicial killing is not allowed by our laws.”

The NBA chairman expounded on his statement saying, “It is absolutely wrong for our colleagues, who have not consulted or called Mr President of the Bar, to be calling for the boycott of the conference when the state government that is hosting is not complicit in this heinous crime unless there is evidence to the contrary.

Tambuwal; Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Tanko Muhammad; NBA President, Mr Olumide Akpata; the Sultan of Sokoto; Chief Judge of Sokoto State, Justice Muhammad Sa’idu Sifawa; and others are expected to attend the conference.

Meanwhile, a human rights activist and former Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission, Prof Chidi Odinkalu; and a former Minister of Education, Mrs Oby Ezekwesili, have pulled out of the conference in protest against Deborah’s killing.

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