By Jude Atemanke
Sokoto, 15 May, 2022 / 10:28 pm (ACI Africa). Published with permission.
A 24-hour curfew has been declared in Nigeria’s Sokoto State amid Muslim youth protests characterized with destruction of property, including the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral of Sokoto Diocese.
In a statement dated Saturday, the head of the Directorate of Social Communication in the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto confirms the attack on Catholic Church premises and the 24-hour curfew aimed at stemming “the ongoing protests embarked upon by Muslim youth in the state capital today.”
“During the protest, groups of youths led by some adults in the background attacked the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral at Bello Way, destroying church glass windows, those of the Bishop Lawton Secretariat and vandalized a community bus parked within the premises,” Fr Christopher Omotosho says.
Fr. Omotosho adds in his May 14 statement, “St. Kevin’s Catholic Church Gidan Dere, Eastern By-pass, was also attacked and partly burnt; windows of the new hospital complex under construction, in the same premises were shattered.”
The protestors also “attacked the Bakhita Centre located along Aliyu Jodi Road and burnt down a bus within the premises,” the Nigerian Catholic Priest further says.
The May 14 Muslim youth protests in Sokoto followed the reported arrest of two students in connection with the stoning and murder of the Christian student, Deborah Yakubu, that took place on May 12 at the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto.
Various media accounts have indicated that Deborah, an Economics student at the Sokoto College, allegedly had an argument with fellow students in a WhatsApp group and the Muslim students among them claimed that she had made blasphemous statements about the Prophet Muhammad.
When the Muslim students reportedly saw her at College on May 12, they allegedly surrounded her and started stoning her until she fell. They reportedly made sure she died and subsequently set her body ablaze.
In his statement following her murder, Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Catholic Diocese of Sokoto called on Nigerian authorities to investigate the killing.
Bishop Kukah said, “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.”
In his May 14 statement, the Director of Social Communication in Sokoto Diocese says that those involved in the demonstrations demanding the release of suspects in the killing of Deborah were “promptly dispersed by a team of Mobile Policemen before they could do further damage.”
“In a reaction, the Catholic Bishop of Sokoto Diocese, Most Reverend Matthew Hasan Kukah commended the Governor of Sokoto State, H.E. Alhaji Aminu Tambuwal for acting promptly by declaring the 24-hour curfew to stem the protests,” Fr. Omotosho says.
Bishop Kukah “commended the security forces for promptly rising to the occasion to prevent further damage at our facilities. In all, no life was lost,” the member of the Clergy of Sokoto Diocese adds.
He goes on to clarify that “contrary to information in circulation, we wish to disclaim that there was an attack of any sort on the residence of Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah.”
“All Masses in Sokoto metropolis have been suspended until the curfew is lifted,” Fr. Omotosho says in his May 14 statement, and adds, “The Bishop appeals to Christians to remain law abiding and pray for the return of normalcy.”
On their part, officials of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) have directed all churches in the West African nation “to organize a peaceful protest in honor one of our daughters, Deborah Yakubu”.
“I have been directed by the CAN President, His Eminence. Rev. Dr. Samson Olasupo A. Ayokunle, to request all church leaders, through your various churches to organize a PEACEFUL PROTEST in honor of one of our daughters, DEBORAH YAKUBU who was gruesomely murdered on Thursday, 12 May, 2022”, CAN officials say in their May 14 statement signed by the General Secretary.
Officials of the Christian entity that includes representatives of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) add, “The protest will take place on 22 May, 2022 in the afternoon by 3pm in every secretariat of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) nationwide and not on the streets in order to avoid further loss of lives.”
“Those without CAN’s Secretariat may use any church with big premises,” they further say.
The Christian leaders continue, “We are to hold placards with some succinct message like “WE DEMAND JUSTICE FOR DEBORAH”, “NO MORE KILLING IN GOD’S NAME”, “ENOUGH IS ENOUGH”, “POLICE, STOP UNPROVOKED KILLINGS IN NIGERIA”, “CHRISTIANS ARE NOT SECOND CLASS CITIZENS”, “KILLERS OF DEBORAH MUST BE PROSECUTED”, “WE CONDEMN RELIGIOUS KILLINGS”, “WE SAY NO TO ISLAMIC EXTREMISTS”.
CAN leadership urges those who can afford it to “make use of the traditional media and the social media and others can use only the social media to give it a wide coverage in order to sensitize the whole world.”
“We also call on Nigerian Christians in the diaspora to join us using our embassies all over the world,” CAN officials say in their May 14 statement.
They add that the May 22 peaceful protests across Nigerian “can also be used to pray for Deborah’s family and friends, peace for the country, victory for the Church and godly political leaders in the coming general election.”
SOURCE ACI AFRICA. Published with permission.
PHOTO CREDIT: Holy Family Catholic Cathedral in Sokoto, northwest Nigeria. | catholicdiocese-sokoto.org