President Muhammadu Buhari has called on Nigerians to exercise their freedom of speech responsibly in his address reacting to the outrage that engulfed the country after students at Sokoto College of Education lynched their Christian classmate for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad.
Nigeria, a country that has already been unsettled by insecurity from groups like Boko Haram and kidnapping gangs, was caught in a religious crisis on Thursday when Deborah Samuel, a second-year student at the Sokoto College of Education, was killed on the college campus by fellow students who alleged that she had insulted the father of Islam Prophet Muhammad.
Multiple sources told Timescape Magazine that the killers of Deborah, a Christian student, premised their evil act on an audio clip that she posted on a school WhatsApp group. In the voice note, she was condemning unsolicited religious posts on a platform created for academic purposes.
The late Deborah was said to have posted that “Holy ghost fire, nothing would happen to me, is it by force you guys would always be sending this religious stuff in the group, the group wasn’t created for that, but rather as a notice for when there’s a test, assignment, exams etc not these nonsense Religious posts.”
This, however, did not go down well with fellow students who are mostly Muslim fanatics. A police report released after the incident revealed that the students forcibly removed Deborah from the security room where she had been hidden by the school authorities. The students then killed her and threw her into a building that they set on fire with her body inside.
Videos on social media show men stoning and flogging a motionless body draped in red attire. Some footage also captured a raging fire as a man faced the camera, claiming that he killed and burnt her.
While the police said that two people have been arrested, the reactions trailing the gruesome murder of the innocent girl show that Nigeria, especially the northern region, is yet to purge itself from the religious intolerance and fanaticism it is noted for.
While reacting to the incident, Mr. Buhari, a Muslim of Fulani descent, said that “no person has the right to take the law into his or her own hands in this country. Violence has, and never will solve any problem.”
The President condemned what he called the resort to self-help by the mob in Sokoto, resulting in violence, destruction, and the killing of Deborah. Mr. Buhari also directed the ministries of Information and Culture, Police Affairs and, of 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.
The President extended the nation’s condolences to the family of the deceased student and wished all those injured a quick recovery. He commended the immediate response to the incident by the government and urged religious and community leaders to call citizens’ attention to the need to exercise the right to freedom of speech responsibly.
On behalf of the Sokoto State government, the Commissioner for Information, Isah Bajini Galadanchi revealed that the state government has ordered an indefinite closure of the school, while security agencies should investigate the incident.
“Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal has directed the Ministry of Higher Education, and relevant security agencies in the state to commence investigations into the incident and report back to the government,” Galadanchi said.
Amnesty International described the killing as “horrific” while calling on the authorities to bring the perpetrators to justice, as well as take measures to end the impunity that led to an increase in mob violence in the name of religion.
The Sokoto Sultanate Council through 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.
Reactions of many Nigerians monitored by Timescape Magazine show the anger and condemnation of the people on some religious extremists who could easily lose their conscience in the name of religion.
Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto was saddened by the unfortunate incident, saying that the perpetrators of the criminal attack must be punished according to the law of the country
“I have received with deep shock the incident that occurred in the Shehu Shagari College of Education Sokoto State leading to the gruesome murder of Miss Deborah Samuel, a 200 level home economics student.
“We condemn this incident in the strongest terms and call on the authorities to investigate this tragedy and ensure that all the culprits are brought to book.
“The only obligation that is owed her immediate family, her fellow students and the school authority is the assurance that those who are guilty of this inhuman act, no matter their motivation, are punished according to the law of the land.
“Christians have lived peacefully with their Muslim neighbours in Sokoto over the years. This matter must be treated as a criminal act and the law must take its course,” the outspoken Clergyman who is known for criticizing President Buhari said.
An Islamic scholar, who is also an activist, Abdulrazaq Hamzat noted that “of great concern is the subject of whether Islam prescribes any punishment for blasphemy. Every true Muslim loves and regards the holy prophet more than any human being. A Muslim may tolerate insults against his parents, relatives, or friends, but he cannot endure anyone mocking the prophet.
“But how exactly does Islam teach a Muslim to respond to insult against the prophet or for that matter, insult directed at God or anything sacred in Islam?
“Unfortunately, some Muslims assert that death or other harsh measures are the only possible punishment for those who commit blasphemy.
“However, this belief is mistaken and incorrect according to both the Quran and the sunnah of prophet Muhammed. Islam enjoins fair treatment of all, including one’s enemies.
“Islam doesn’t only condemn the blasphemy of God, it also protects the feelings of polytheists, by forbidding Muslims from attacking their idols. What I know is that Islam teaches Muslims to be sensitive to the sensibilities of others-no matter how strongly they disagree with them,” Hamzat stated.