The Christian Association of Nigeria on Sunday said it would explore all avenues to get justice for Deborah Samuel, a 200 level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, who was lynched last week for allegedly blaspheming Prophet Muhammad.
In a chat with The Media on Sunday, Rev Bayo Oladeji, the Spokesman for the CAN President, said the Christian body would consider writing petitions to the United Nations and other international organisations to bring them up to speed on the plight of Christians in Nigeria.
Oladeji stated this as Deborah’s mother, Aileri Emmanuel, in an interview with The journalist, said she would never send her remaining seven children to school because of the gruesome killing of her daughter,
The cleric noted that the International Criminal Court prosecutor, Karim Khan, visited the President, Major General Muhammadu Buhari (retd.), over a week ago and failed to visit victims of religious violence despite a letter by CAN for him to do so.
He said had the warnings by CAN been taken seriously all this while, the killings of Christians in the North would have become a thing of the past.
Oladeji added, “The incident just happened, so we will be taking things a step at a time. Rest assured the peaceful protests will just be the beginning. We will take every available step to draw the attention of the world to what is happening in Nigeria.
“If it involves going to the ICC, we will do it. If it involves going to the United Nations, we will do it. We are not going to stop. This was what we said when the US removed Nigeria from the list of religious violators. CAN is the voice of the voiceless. Unfortunately, when we raise the alarm, people don’t listen until things like these happen.
“When a woman was killed in Kano, we cried out but nobody listened. When a preacher was killed in Kubwa, we cried out but no one listened. When you refuse to cry out, these killings will continue.”
My remaining seven children will never go to school again – Mother
Emmanuel Garba, Deborah’s father, in an interview with The Media on Sunday, said he paid N120,000 to transport the remains of his daughter from Sokoto State to Niger State.
Garba, who said he would not seek any legal redress, disclosed that the government had not contacted him despite the gruesome killing of her daughter.
He stated, “I have yet to get a call or message from anyone concerning the incident. Nobody called me; I decided to go on my own. I went to the state CID (Criminal Investigation Department) office and begged them to help me get the corpse so I could bury it because leaving it there might make it decompose. Then they took me to the mortuary, did some paperwork and released the remains to me.”
“I was the one who paid to transport the remains. I was charged N120,000 which I was forced to pay because that was the cheapest I got as the majority of people don’t like transporting corpses.”
Garba, a security guard with the Niger State Water and Sanitation, said his wife had fallen ill, adding that she had just finished receiving injections.
He also stated, “We are not seeking redress in any court over the killing of our daughter. We are firm believers in Christ who always leave everything in the hands of God. No vengeance, nothing. Everything is left to our creator.
“We don’t want anything (from the government) but it is just unfortunate that we used all our resources to send her to school and now she is dead. She was my eldest child and I have seven others left.”
Her mother, Alheri Emmanuel, who broke down in tears, said, “I have no demands; I don’t want anything but one thing I know is that my children will never go to school again.”
Shun inter-religious council’s activities, northern CAN tells Christian leaders
Also, the northern chapter of CAN on Sunday directed Christian leaders in the country to terminate their participation in the activities of the Nigerian Inter-Religious Council, until their counterparts of Islamic faith show commitment to tame their followers on equal terms.
“We are urging all Christian leaders to terminate their participation in NIREC, until their counterparts of Islamic faith show commitment to tame their followers on equal terms,” the Public Relations Officer of CAN (19 Northern States and Abuja), Jechonia Gilbert, gave the directive in a statement issued in Abuja on Sunday titled: ‘Deborah Samuel: No cover-up, assailants must face judgment’
Northern CAN asks Christian students to avoid Sokoto
The organisation also called on every Christian parent across the country especially in northern states to discourage sending their children to any school in Sokoto State.
CAN said the directive to parents would continue, pending when the federal and state governments would be ready and willing to secure the lives of its children both in Sokoto and other states that had been hostile to Christians and Christianity.
CAN warned the faith who kill to please their God to exercise restraint because “those who tried it in Egypt and their experiences should be enough warning.
“There is the Red Sea awaiting them, even those who are secretly encouraging them, must partake in the Red Sea experience”, the organisation said.
The statement further read, “While CAN does not and will not encourage casting aspersions on any religion or religious leader of any faith, CAN frowns on 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 mortals to fight and defend Him. On the contrary, it is He who keeps watch and defends us. CAN believes that life is sacred and must never be taken by another unless as directed by the state.”
The Christian association advised Governor Aminu Tambuwal and President Buhari not to resort to the pedestrian government rhetoric but to demonstrate political will and capacity to bring the perpetrators of this criminality to justice.
Northern govs demand probe
Meanwhile, the Northern Governors Forum has condemned the murder of Deborah. Chairman of the forum and Governor of Plateau State, Simon Lalong, in a statement in Jos on Sunday, said the governors were concerned about the development which is clearly an extrajudicial measure of addressing perceived infractions.
According to Lalong, any attempt to adopt self-help in addressing grievances, whether religious or otherwise, will 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 the northern governors want security agencies to be allowed to thoroughly investigate the matter and ensure that the law takes its full course on anyone found wanting.
Ohanaeze condemns attack on Igbo businesses
The apex Igbo Socio-cultural, Ohanaeze Ndigbo, also condemned in very strong terms the unwanted destruction of Igbo property and business outfits during the protest by the Muslim faithful in Sokoto on Saturday.
Recall that in the aftermath of the brutal murder of Deborah, two prime suspects were arrested by the Nigeria Police Force following the outcry that greeted the incident.
However, on Saturday, Sokoto state youths staged a protest demanding the release of the suspects and thereafter, Igbo businesses in the state were attacked by protesting Muslims.
In a viral video of the incident, hundreds were seen destroying and looting shops belonging to South Easterners.
Reacting to the horrible incident in a statement titled: ‘blasphemy: why again the Igbo?’ issued by Ohanaeze spokesman, Dr Alex Ogbonnia, the apex Igbo body wondered about the nexus between the Igbo traders and Deborah an indigene of Niger State who was alleged to have blasphemed against Prophet Muhammad.
The statement partly read, “Ohanaeze watched the clip with intense curiosity, the background of the killing and burning of Miss Samuel at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto and could not in any way fathom any iota of Igbo connection to the incident. An Igbo neither interfered nor was an accessory in the said blasphemy.
“The question on every lip all over the world is ‘why again the Igbo’? It is very unfortunate that at any time there is any form of misconception or crisis in the North, it often ends with a mob that goes against the Igbo commercial and residential interests.
“For instance, in February 2016, there was a cartoon about Prophet Muhammad by the Danish newspaper in faraway Denmark which generated an international uproar. The uproar took an inexplicable barbaric dimension in Maiduguri, Nigeria where over 50 people, identified as Christians were killed, mostly of Igbo ethnic group and many of their properties were either destroyed or damaged by rioting Muslims.”
Borno police, religious leaders, sign peace treaty
In a related development, the Borno State Police command, late on Saturday engaged critical stakeholders in a peacebuilding meeting at the command’s headquarters in Maiduguri.
The Commissioner of Police, Abdu Umar, who convened the meeting at the instance of the state government disclosed to The PUNCH shortly after the meeting that an intelligence report indicated that certain elements were already gearing up for a protest in the city in reaction to the Sokoto State incident but that his personnel, along with other security agencies had been deployed in the state capital to maintain peace.
“We convened the stakeholders’ meeting with all religious leaders in the state after meeting with the Deputy Governor, Umar Kadafur, at the government house. The deputy governor charged me to call on leaders of the two major religions in the state to speak with their followers on the need to maintain peace and safety in the midst of security challenges confronting Sokoto and threats of retaliation in some states like Kaduna.
“We in Borno have suffered our share of security challenges in the past 12 years and as such we don’t want to go through that experience again hence the need to proactively engage the stakeholders to beckon on their followers to sustain the peace being enjoyed at the moment,” he said.
The police boss said security officials would engage in a show of force in parts of the state to forestall any breakdown of law and order.
Also reacting to Deborah’s murder, controversial Islamic cleric, Sheikh Ahmad Gumi, said any Muslim who kills a Christian for insulting the Prophet won’t smell paradise.
“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 the soul of a non-Muslim that is under such agreement of living together, will not smell the fragrance of paradise. Such a person’s distance to paradise will be like a journey of 40 years,” he said during a sermon in Kaduna on Sunday.
He said those who killed the student had no right whatsoever to do so, adding that the right thing they ought to have done was to report the late Deborah to the school management.
“The right thing the students who killed the lady in Sokoto ought to do was 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 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,” he said. ,,
The cleric said Nigeria is not an Islamic state, adding that Nigeria Muslims had an agreement with people of other faiths to live together peacefully.
He, therefore, noted that anyone (Muslim) who killed any Christian under the guise of a religion had committed a grievous sin.
Gumi said it was unfortunate that some Muslim clerics were quoting verses that they didn’t understand and at the same time urging followers to kill whoever insulted their religion.
He argued that killing a non-Muslim under the guise that the person uttered a blasphemous statement against Prophet Muhammad was not an excuse.
This, he said, was because “Allah has told us in the Qur’an that the non-Muslims will insult Allah and His Prophet. In fact, it is now that the blasphemy will start after the killing of that lady in Sokoto, the insult will increase, not reduce.”
He added that some Nigerian Muslims defending Prophet Muhammad should be ashamed of themselves because they were corrupt, adding that the only way to defend the Prophet, was to follow his teachings.
Gumi urged Islamic clerics in the country to be alive to their responsibilities of teaching Muslims their religion in order to avoid being ignorant.
He said, “We the clerics need to wake up and teach the 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 Muhammad 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 would 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 are people who are not Muslims, to whom we are preaching Islam so that they can enter the fold of Islam and be salvaged in the hereafter.
“If we now begin to kill people, they will say it is even from the leader of our faith, Prophet Muhammad, that we have learnt it. They will say their religion is a religion of bloodletting. At a time we are trying to draw the 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 them. 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.”
The Resource Centre for Human Rights and Civic Education expressed displeasure over the student’s killing.
CHRICED in a statement issued on Sunday by its Executive Director, Dr Ibrahim Zikirullahi, said her killing over alleged blasphemy ‘constitutes an affront to the humanity of all Nigerians and further justifies the demand for a national conference to address the multi-faceted problems confronting the country.”
Kaigama insists on inter-religious harmony
Also speaking on Deborah’s murder, the Catholic Archbishop of Abuja, Ignatius Kaigama, Sunday, called on Nigerians not to give up on the struggle for inter-religious harmony in the country.
The cleric said the people who attempted to gain selfish advantages without respect for rights or ethics, and through forms of extremism must be opposed
Kaigama said this in his Homily delivered at St. Louis Church, Efab Global Estate, Abuja.
According to him, 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.”