PHOTO CREDIT: Parents (LEFT) of late Deborah Yakubu. Credit: Courtesy Photo
By Magdalene Kahiu, ACI AFRICA. Published with permission.
The leadership of Christian Solidarity Worldwide (CSW), a UK-based human rights foundation, has described as “inexcusable” the arraigning of only two suspects on charges of “criminal conspiracy and disturbing the peace” in connection with the May 12 stoning to death of Deborah Yakubu.
In a Tuesday, May 17 report, CSW officials say the current charges are “bailable”. They call on authorities in Nigeria’s Sokoto State to review the charges “as a matter of urgency” and to identify and arraign more perpetrators from the “copious video clips” showing how Deborah, also known as Deborah Emmanuel, was pursued and murdered by torture.
“It is inexcusable that despite copious video clips depicting every stage of the pursuit, torture, and murder of Ms. Emmanuel which clearly identify her assailants, only two perpetrators have been arraigned so far,” CSW Chief Executive Officer, Scot Bower, says.
Mr. Bower who doubles as a board member of CSW Nigeria says the fact that none of the suspects is facing a murder charge, and that both could soon be out on bail “is unacceptable and reprehensible raising the probability that once again those who have taken a life in a cruel and brutal manner will evade justice on ostensibly religious grounds, when no one should be above the law.”
The CSW official has called on Sokoto State authorities to uphold the rule of law and challenge impunity “by reviewing these charges as a matter of urgency, and sparing no effort in identifying and arraigning perpetrators identified on video in a manner commensurate with their role in this heinous murder.”
Deborah was allegedly murdered for testifying that Jesus Christ helped her to perform well in her examination.
A Facebook user who claims to have been Deborah’s course mate at the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, said some students found the mention of Jesus’ name offensive and demanded that she retracts her statement.
Various media accounts have indicated that Muslims among the students that Deborah had the argument with on WhatsApp claimed that she had made blasphemous statements about the Prophet Muhammad.
The argument on WhatsApp reportedly took place during the Muslim month of Ramadan when the College was on break. When they saw Deborah at College on May 12, all available Muslim male students surrounded her and started stoning her until she fell. They reportedly made sure she died and subsequently set her body ablaze.
Two students, Bilyaminu Aliyu and Aminu Hukunci, were arrested and charged following the incident. On May 14, after the arrest of the suspects, irate youths took to the streets of Sokoto.
The youths destroyed property in various Catholic Church premises, including the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral of Sokoto Diocese, St. Kevin’s Catholic Church Gidan Dere, Bishop Lawton Secretariat, and St. Bakhita Centre located along Aliyu Jodi Road where they burnt down a bus.
A 24-hour curfew that was imposed in Sokoto State on the day of the protests was revised to a dusk to dawn curfew on May 16.
The Church premises were attacked days after Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of Sokoto Diocese condemned Deborah’s murder and called on the authorities to investigate the tragedy and ensure that all the culprits are brought to book.
CSW officials have reported that the Chief Imam of Bayer University allegedly incited Muslims to find and attack Bishop Kukah’s home. The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA) has called for the arrest of Sheikh Abubakar Jibril.
Deborah’s death has caused uproar in Nigeria with many calling for justice.
In a May 16 reflection, Bishop Emmanuel Adetoyese Badejo of Nigeria’s Catholic Diocese of Oyo said he was deeply angered by the stoning to death and burning of the student of Economics.
“I am outraged,” Bishop Badejo said, and added, “I am just as incensed as any sane Nigerian over the dastardly killing in Sokoto of Deborah Yakubu, a Zuru lady from Ribah in Kebbi State, because she allegedly expressed an opinion which some youths found offensive.”
The Nigerian Catholic Bishop described the murder of Deborah as “a barbaric crime against human life and decency” and offered prayers for the repose of her soul.
The leadership of the Order of the Knights of St. Mulumba (KSM) in Nigeria has also condemned the murder of the Christian student and attacks on Catholic Church facilities in Nigeria’s Sokoto Diocese..
In the May 17 report, CSW officials criticize the mute to non-existent response from political leaders in Nigeria, including President Muhammadu Buhari who they say took 36 hours to issue a statement condemning “the resort to self-help by the mob in Sokoto, resulting in violence, destruction and killing”, but made no call for prosecution.
CSW CEO has welcomed statements that condemn the stoning and murder of Deborah.
Mr. Bower has also called on Sokoto State authorities to ensure that the Christian community “is compensated for losses incurred during the riot on 14 May and is afforded sufficient protection amid the continuing religious tensions.”
Magdalene Kahiu, ACI AFRICA. Published with permission.