In a country where socio-political priorities are intentionally misplaced and not given due attention, it is only logical and commonsensical to see anomalies increasingly becoming norms, subtly sounding the death knell of that country. This assertion holds true in the Nigerian context wherein violence, corruption, bribery, embezzlement, anarchy, chaos, fear, intolerance, perversion of the law and celebration of criminals have become norms; the order of the day. This is not far-flung as the government’s dereliction of duty is the bane of all this calamities.
On 12th May, 2022, the video coverage of the lynching of 22- year old Deborah Samuel, by her fellow students of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto State went viral. She was stoned to death and burnt, under the pretext of defending the holy name of Allah and the dignity of His Prophet Muhammad; a gruesome murder shamefully by students whom we thought to be exposed and enlightened by education. This horrible and horrid murder sparked reactions on the media and even the national dailies, with a good majority of people condemning the act and advocating for justice for late Deborah.
Sequel to this, the Sokoto State government immediately took action by shutting down the Institution and imposing a curfew (though now relaxed) to put the situation under a considerable control. While we commend this prompt action, well-meaning Nigerians on 17th May, 2022, must have been affronted by the shamelessness of 34 Senior Lawyers who were mounting defence for Deborah’s suspected killers in Court. This barefaced illegality ably led by Professor Mansur Ibrahim, a lecturer of law at the Usmanu Danfodiyo University, Sokoto, was a subsequent development following the arrest of the suspects, Bilyaminu Aliyu and Aminu Hukunci, which had generated public outrage and staging of a protest by some irrational, bigoted, fanatical, barbaric, brute, and brutal youths who opposed the prosecution of Deborah’s suspected killers.
Undoubtedly, this defence further emboldened the suspects, Aliyu and Hukunci, to plead not guilty to the crime before a Sokoto State Magistrate Court. Worse still was the deliberate and perverse diversion of the case from the offence of murder to disturbance of peace, which according to the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) does not reflect the gravity of the situation at hand. Indeed, this extra-judicial killing of Deborah and its consequent defence by supposed educated people presages a far reaching implication that describes Nigeria to be a place where the sacredness and sanctity of life is valueless; a nation where illegality is permissive in the legal system; and barbarism, mob killings and religious intolerance just to mention but a few are condoned and gradually legislated.
To get the facts clear, this is not the first time and it may probably not be the last that cases in the Law Court are manipulated, perverted, ethnicized, religionized, commercialized and politicized. All this legal oddities are not meant to be found in our legal system if we are to uphold the tenets of justice, equity and fairness. Therefore, it is noteworthy to state that the rule of law must always take precedence, for “nobody is above the law of the land, hence, criminals are criminals whether they are our brethren or not.”
As we patiently ruminate on the speculations that the President, Mr. Muhammadu Buhari would call on the NBA to apply for a fiat and take over the prosecution of the suspects, we hope that we would take our learning’s from the nuances of Deborah’s murder and ingrain in our subconscious minds that in Nigeria there are no sacred cows and the rule of law must triumph no matter whose ox is gored. With bated breath, we hope to hear that justice is administered to late Deborah and her family duly compensated for this great and irreparable loss. Requiescant in pace Deborah!
Tobechukwu Johnpaul Nwabuisi is a Catholic Major Seminarian, email@example.com