Northern States Governors Forum (NSGF) and Kaduna-based Islamic scholar, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, yesterday, joined the growing number of groups and individuals that have condemned last Thursday’s mob killing of Deborah Samuel, a student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, for alleged blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed.
Chairman of the forum and governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, in a statement signed by his media aid, Macham Makut, said the governors were concerned about the development, which they described as clearly an extra-judicial measure of addressing perceived infraction.
The statement came as Catholic Archbishop of Abuja Archdiocese, Most Rev. Ignatius Kaigama, said Nigerians should not succumb to the machinations of the evil ones by halting the pursuit of brotherhood and peaceful coexistence.
In its own reaction, the umbrella organisation of all Christians in Northern Nigeria at the weekend condemned what it described as gruesome and barbaric murder of Deborah. In a statement signed by the Public Relations Officer, Chaplain Jechonia Gilbert, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 northern states urged “all Christian leaders to terminate their participation in Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC)” until Islamic leaders demonstrate genuine commitment to controlling and disciplining their unruly followers.
However, over 72 hours after the cold-blooded murder in Sokoto, frontline aspirants in the 2023 presidential race were yet to comment on the incident. All Progressives Congress (APC) national leader and former governor of Lagos State, Bola Tinubu; immediate past Minister of Transportation, Chibuike Amaechi; former Anambra State governor, Peter Obi; former Senate President, Bukola Saraki; Kogi State Governor Yahaya Bello; Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike; and Pastor Tunde Bakare had yet to comment at the time of filing this report.
The Sokoto incident, which has created religious tension, has effectively dashed any hope of a Muslim-Muslim ticket in the current political climate, as some would have wanted. analysts have pointed
But Nigeria’s domestic carrier, Azman Air, disowned a pilot, Capt Jamil Abubakar, who expressed support for the killing of the late Deborah. Abubakar came under fire for a statement he made via his Twitter handle, defending the killing of Deborah.
In a tweet from its verified Twitter handle, #LetsFlyAzmanAir, Azman Air stated, “Capt Jamil Abubakar is no longer a pilot @AzmanAir: his last flight with us was 22nd Dec 2019. We refuse to take responsibility for a comment or view of a former staff. The general public should kindly take note.”
In a move to avert a major religious crisis over the killing of the 200-level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, the state governor, Aminu Tambuwal, had at the weekend declared a 24-hour curfew in Sokoto metropolis.
The curfew came as the Bishop of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto, Matthew Hassan-Kukah, suspended all masses in Sokoto metropolis, but clarified that his residence was not attacked.
The remains of Deborah were at the weekend laid to rest in her home town, Tunga Magajiya, in Rijau Local Government Area of Niger State.
Following the protests in Sokoto, Governor Nasir-el-Rufai of Kaduna State had also banned any form of religious protest across the state.
CAN had at the weekend called on all its members to embark on peaceful protests nationwide on May 22, 2022.
The declaration of the curfew in Sokoto followed protests by some Islamic faithful that greeted the condemnation of the killing by the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III.
The northern governors, in the statement, stressed that any attempt to adopt self-help in addressing grievances, whether religious or otherwise, would only lead to further chaos that could threaten law and order as well as the general peace and security of the society. While commiserating with the family of the victim, Lalong said in the statement that the northern governors wanted the security agencies to be allowed to thoroughly investigate the matter and ensure that the law took its full course on anyone found wanting.
The northern governors also appealed for calm following reports about the hijack of a peaceful protest, which later turned violent and led to the imposition of a curfew in Sokoto metropolis.
Lalong also extended the support and commiserations of the forum to Tambuwal over the incident and commended his proactive efforts to restore normalcy. The forum assured the Sokoto State governor of its solidarity and prayers in dealing with the matter as well as ensuring that all necessary measures were taken to forestall future occurrence in any part of the region and country at large.
NSGF also reminded citizens of the region and Nigerians of the need to continue to show love, tolerance and respect for one another, irrespective of faith, ethnicity or other affiliations.
On his part, Gumi, speaking during his daily preaching at the Sultan Bello Mosque, Kaduna, in a video clip shared on his Facebook page, declared that any Muslim who killed a Christian in Nigeria because the prophet was insulted would not smell paradise. He maintained that Nigeria was not an Islamic state, adding that Muslims in the country have agreement with people of other faiths to live together peacefully. He stressed that anyone who killed on religious guise had committed a grievous sin.
Gumi said it was unfortunate that some Muslim clerics were quoting verses they did not understand and telling people to kill whoever insulted their religion.
Quoting several verses from the Qur’an and Islamic jurisprudence, Gumi said killing a non-Muslim under the guise that the person uttered a blasphemous statement against Prophet Muhammad was not an excuse, “because Allah has told us in the Qur’an the non-Muslims will insult Allah and His Prophet.
“In fact, it is now the blasphemy will start after the killing of that lady in Sokoto, the insult will increase, not reduce.”
He added, “Some Muslims in Nigeria that want to defend Prophet Mohammed should be ashamed of themselves because they are corrupt…
“The best way to go, if we want to defend the Prophet, is to follow his teachings. We, the clerics, need to wake up and teach Muslims their religion. We must leave this state of ignorance; we have turned like animals. We, the Muslims, are not the only ones in this country.
“It is not only that we are not the only ones in this country, we must know that there was nothing the unbelievers did not do to Prophet Mohammed, but he was patient, because he was conscious that if he killed them, the unbelievers he was trying to bring to the fold of Islam will tag him a killer.
“There are people who are neither Muslims nor Christians in Nigeria, and everyone is trying to win their souls. Also, there people who are not Muslims, whom we are preaching Islam to, so that they can enter the fold of Islam and be salvage in the hereafter.
“If we now begin to kill people, they will say it is even from the leader of our faith, Prophet Mohammed, that we have learnt it.
“They will say their religion is a religion of bloodletting. At a time we are trying to draw attention of people to see the beauty of Islam, we are now scaring them away.
“It is unfortunate that we even see some clerics who are telling people that whoever insults your religion, just kill then. They are quoting verses they don’t understand.
“There is no one who has the will to kill anyone except through the Islamic justice system. And in doing this, the conditions of such justice must be completed before anyone can be killed.”
Gumi further stated, “Our religion is a civilised religion. The white people learnt rule of law from Islam. But today, we are the ones in this level of lack of civilisation, to the extent that an Islamic cleric is quoting Qur’an and Hadith spreading and encouraging barbarism.
“People that have not been able to perfect their own act of worship the way they are supposed to. People who don’t know how to pray properly are now the ones that say they want to dispense justice to people who commit blasphemy.
“What people don’t know is that, in the Islamic perspective, the world is divided into two – the Islamic world and the non-Islamic world. That is countries that are governed by the Islamic law and those that are governed by other laws.
“Those who are not Muslims are divided into two – there are non-Muslims that you engage in war, and there non-Muslims that you have agreement with. Those you have agreement with are also divided into two – those who are living under the Islamic laws and those that are not bound by the Islamic laws.
“Nigeria’s non-Muslims are not living under the Islamic laws, we all have an agreement under the Nigerian constitution to live together. So, Prophet Muhammad said whoever kills a soul of non-Muslim that is under such agreement of living together will not smell the fragrance of paradise, such person’s distance to paradise will be like a journey of 40 years.
“Killing a non-Muslim under the guise that the person uttered a blasphemous statement against Prophet Mohammed is not an excuse, because Allah has told us in the Qur’an the non-Muslims will insult Allah and His Prophet. In fact, it is now the blasphemy will start after the killing of that lady in Sokoto, the insult will increase, not reduce.
“What Allah asked us to do in the face of blasphemy in a society, like ours, is to be patient and preach to the people and make them understand our religion. In our kind of society, we don’t have the right to kill for blasphemy, otherwise, even many people who call themselves Islamic clerics who have equally been killed because they have fallen into blasphemy by calling Allah human being or saying they know tomorrow or those who have indirectly turned to Babalawo.
“The Prophet told us that a time will come towards the end time, when people will feel like taking other people’s life. So, he said, instead of doing that, it is better for you to look for a rock and be boxing it, so that you don’t (have) the urge of killing anytime.
“So, who do we leave just justice for in the face of blasphemy? It is the authority. We don’t have the right to take up arms and kill anyone, except in self-defence, like when some comes for your life or an armed robber invades your house. You are not the one to defend Islam, in fact, you are making the work of those calling people into Islam difficult.
“The right thing the students who killed the lady in Sokoto ought to do is to report her to the school management, then the management reports to the governor or Sultan for them to know how to stop her. Just by hearing her commit blasphemy, you just went and carried out jungle justice on her, who taught you that? What do you want our country to turn into? We must leave these acts of barbarism.
“Is it even we, the Muslims of Nigeria, that want to defend Prophet Muhammad? We that are corrupt? We that cannot even be differentiated from unbelievers in corrupts acts. The best way to go if we want to defend the Prophet, is to follow his examples by being upright in all fronts.”
Kaigama Says Efforts at Inter-religious Harmony Must Not Stop
Speaking during his homily at St. Louis Church, Efab Global Estate, Abuja, against the backdrop of last week’s murder of Deborah Samuel, Kaigama said Nigerians should not give up on the pursuit of brotherhood and peaceful coexistence, but “must continue to speak up in a common voice and act in solidarity with one another against the evils of our time.”
In a related development, the Christian Association of Nigeria, YOWICAN (Youth Wing), asked security agencies to stop the molestation of Christians to avoid a religious war.
In a statement issued yesterday by Chairman of YOWICAN, Belusochukwu Enwere, the association said, “Today is the 4th day Miss Deborah Samuel was killed by Muslim extremist students who chose to take laws in their hands and yet most of our Nigerian political class who are gunning to lead us as a country failed to condemn or to commiserate with the bereaved family.
“Even after killing Deborah the miscreants continued to destroy people’s properties, burning of church facilities, and going from house to house intimidating peaceful Christians. The security agencies should do the needful before this becomes a religious war.
“We call on all Christian youths to continue to be peaceful and do not take laws in their hands. God must surely fight to avenge the killing of Deborah. Her death will unearth evil agenda of the wicked ones in Nigeria.”
Northern States Chapter of CAN Urges Boycott of Inter-religious Council
The umbrella organisation of all Christians in Northern Nigeria at the weekend condemned the barbaric murder of Deborah. A statement by the public relations officer, Chaplain Jechonia Gilbert, CAN insisted that the assailants must be brought to justice.
CAN in the 19 northern states called on every Christian parent across the country, especially the northern states, to discourage sending their children to schools in Sokoto State until the federal and Sokoto State governments were ready and willing to secure the lives of their children both in Sokoto and other states “that are hostile to Christians and Christianity.”
CAN said in the statement, “We are urging all Christian leaders to terminate their participation in Nigerian Inter-Religious Council (NIREC), until their counterparts of Islamic faith show commitment to tame their followers on equal terms. Northern CAN prays for the immediate family and, indeed, the church of late Deborah Samuel not to lose hope in God’s ability to avenge the killers of their daughter.
“We appeal and counsel those who feel and think that killing and oppressing Christians is a demonstration of their service to their God to learn from history. Those that tried it in Egypt and their experiences should be enough warning. There is a Red Sea awaiting them, even those who are secretly encouraging them, must partake in the Red Sea experience.”
The association added, “While the CAN does not and will not encourage casting aspersions on any religion or religious leader of any faith, CAN frowns at hiding under the gab of any religious extremism to perpetrate any form of criminality against her members, especially in Northern Nigeria.
“God Almighty is not and can never be a weak God for mere mortal to fight and defend Him. On the contrary, it is He who keeps, watches and defends us. CAN believes that life is sacred and must never be taken by another unless as directed by the state.
“The CAN (19 Northern States and Abuja) is calling on the federal government under the leadership of President Muhammadu Buhari and the Sokoto State government under Governor Aminu Tambuwal not to resort to the government’s usual rhetoric but must demonstrate political will and capacity to bring the perpetrators of this criminality to justice; otherwise, others may take queue from this and turn our father land to a country of lawlessness at every slightest provocation.”
TEKAN/ECWA Youths Condemn Killing of Deborah
The national body of Tarayar Ekklisiyoyin Kristi A Nigeria (Hausa, Fulani and Kanuri Christians) and the Evangelical Church Winning All (TEKAN/ECWA) youth block, at the weekend, condemned the killing of Deborah Samuel.
Addressing a press conference in Gombe, National Youth Leader of the block, Jim James Amos, described the killing as an unwarranted jungle justice meted out to Deborah by Islamic extremists.
TEKAN/ECWA also called for calm, saying, “As law abiding citizens, we call on all Christian youths to remain calm, law abiding and desist from taking laws into their hands, let us leave everything in the hands of God Almighty who is the final judge.”
The youth group commended all organisations and individuals (both Christians and Muslims) that came out to condemn the gruesome murder. It also called on the federal and Sokoto State governments to rise up to the occasion by doing the needful, saying the world is watching.
It said, “We are aware that many organisations have called for the arrest and prosecution of the culprits, we make bold to say that the national and state assemblies must, as a matter of urgency, enact a law that handles such issues.
“At this moment of grief, when our sister is being buried as we speak, we wish to commensurate with the church in Nigeria, TEKAN/ECWA block, CAN in Sokoto and Kebbi states, the Zuru people, and the immediate family and extended family of Late Deborah Samuel Yakubu.”
NHRC Condemns Deborah’s Killing, Calls for Immediate Prosecution of Culprits
The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) condemned the killing of Deborah Samuel, a second-year student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, for alleged blasphemy.
The Governing Council of the commission, while reacting to the killing on Sunday, in a statement, said that there was no law, either secular or religious in a democratic society, anywhere in the world that justified the killing of any person without due process of the law.
It urged all persons to exercise tolerance over religious matters, while tasking the relevant authorities, particularly the police, to thoroughly investigate and prosecute the culprits, who had been, reportedly, arrested as well as put necessary mechanisms in place to effect the arrest of every other person involved in the gruesome murder, with a view to bringing all perpetrators to book and preventing future occurrence.
It stated that the consequence of inaction now by the law enforcement agencies could be a recurrence In the near future.
According to the statement, “The commission used the opportunity to condemn all acts of religious extremism in the country and appeals to all parties in this matter as well as the concerned public to remain calm even in the face of this provocative and dastardly act, while awaiting the report of the police investigation into the incident, adding that two wrongs cannot make a right.”
The council also expressed its heartfelt condolences to the family of the late victim, Deborah, and other families who had lost their loved ones under similar conditions, assuring them that the commission will work with relevant bodies to ensure that justice is served in such cases.