The gruesome murder of Deborah Samuel and the wanton destruction, looting and burning the properties of Igbo people in Sokoto and in some parts of Northern Nigeria is causing serious concern in some Igbo circles.
Igbo National Council (INC) rose from a meeting in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital that lasted to the early hours of Saturday, strongly condemning the callous murder of the student, saying ‘’enough is enough’’.
President of the Igbo group, Chilos Godsent, an engineer, told our correspondent on telephone that their Port Harcourt meeting is of the view that Northern elites should immediately caution and call the rampaging ‘’blood thirsty hoodlums that have continued to take laws into their hands under the pretence of defending the Islamic faith to order’’.
According to him, INC through their channels have charged Ndigbo living in Sokoto and other states of Northern Nigeria to rise up in solidarity to defend themselves, adding, ‘’Nigeria belong to the Igbo, and as such Ndigbo cannot allow themselves to be intimidated or threatened to leave any part of Nigeria.
‘’The Igbo race is not known to be cowards and cannot live the lives of cowards. We are brave people, and must continue to exhibit bravery anytime and anywhere no matter what the circumstances are.’’
Continuing, Godsent said, ‘’we are calling on the Federal Government and the security agencies to immediately fish out and prosecute the perpetrators of the wanton destruction and looting of properties of Ndigbo living and doing business in Sokoto and other states of the North.
‘’The Nigerian Police and the military must demonstrate the will to be neutral and capable of defending Nigerians in times of distress not minding the ethnic or religious belongings of the vulnerable persons or victims.
‘’We therefore wish to state that any further attack on Ndigbo or destruction of the properties of Nigerians of Igbo extraction or killing of any Igbo person in any part of Nigeria henceforth will attract equal amount of retaliation.
‘’We therefore urge Ndigbo to strongly and boldly defend themselves wherever they find themselves in any part of Nigeria.’’
In a related development, Policy and Legal Advocacy Centre (PLAC), a civic group has frowned at the murder of the Shehu Shagari College of Education student on Thursday, May 12, 2022, by her fellow students who accused her of ‘blasphemy’.
Deborah had in response to some postings on her class WhatsApp page, burst out asking her classmates to desist from posting religious messages on the platform, noting that the platform was created for studying and educational purposes.
Her classmates, some of whom were muslims did not take kindly to what they considered to be an insult on the Holy Prophet Mohammed (SAW). In an unclear sequence of events, Deborah was accosted by her classmates, beaten and set ablaze. In video footages that went viral on the internet, some students of the College boasted that she had been taught a lesson.
Some of the students even came out claiming responsibility for her killing. There was apprehension throughout Sokoto, with protests reported.
According to PLAC, ‘’the killing of Deborah has been condemned throughout the country, with civil liberties advocates calling for the arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of the act. In apparent response, two suspects were arrested – Bilyaminu Aliyu and Aminu Hukunchi, and arraigned before a Sokoto Chief Magistrate Court on May 16, 2022.
‘’They were reported to have been charged with the offences of criminal conspiracy and inciting public disturbance. The charges against the suspects have however been criticised. The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) and other civil groups have criticised the charges, describing them as flimsy.
‘’According to the NBA, the charges fail to recognise the gravity of the offence of murder that was committed. Part of its statement read thus:
“We are, however, worried by yet-to-be confirmed reports reaching us that the suspects have been charged with mere breach of public peace in an episode that cut short Deborah’s life in her prime.”
The NBA and civil groups have also called on the Sokoto State government to review its prosecution strategy and arraign additional suspects for the offence, especially those caught on video.
The action of the suspects who led a mob to stone and burn Deborah to death is despicable, reprehensible, primitive and perpetrated by ignorant, religious fundamentalists and should not be condoned in any country.
Observers expect that the Sokoto State government will spread a wider security drag net to apprehend and diligently prosecute all other persons involved in the lynching and stoning to death of Deborah Yakubu.
While Nigerians ought to exercise greater sensitivity and respect for the various religions in the country, there is an important need for those who feel offended by the actions of others to respond only in line with the provisions of the law and follow due legal process for perceived infringement of their rights.