Halt Nigeria’s Slide To Religious Crisis, Middle Belt Forum Tasks Buhari

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By; AMOS TAUNA, Kaduna

The Middle Belt Forum (MBF), has called on President Muhammadu Buhari to rise up and stop Nigeria’s journey to a religious crisis that has the potential to disintegrate the country.  

The Middle Belt Forum’s National President, Dr. Pogu Bitrus, in a statement said, “The present administration of President Muhammadu Buhari must not equivocate on this matter that is leading to rising tension in the country and global outrage. As the umbrella organisation for all ethnic nationalities in the Middle Belt, we urge the President must rise up and stop Nigeria’s journey to a religious crisis that has the potential of disintegration.  

“Considering the activities of those who looted and wrecked violence on Sokoto in the guise of demanding for the release of suspects, it is now clear that criminals were responsible for the death of Deborah. No efforts should be spared in bringing them to justice.”  

According to the statement, “The Middle Belt Forum (MBF) is aggrieved at the gruesome killing of a female student, Deborah Samuel Yakubu, whose sad event took place on May 12, 2022, at the Shehu Shagari College of Education Sokoto. The attendant mass looting and violent protest at the weekend by youths demanding release of suspects over the killing prognosticate grimmer days ahead.

“The outrageous murder of yet another citizen is one too many, considering previous records where people were killed on account of alleged blasphemy. Deborah’s murder last week over alleged blasphemy as contained in her voice note she posted on a Whatsapp platform portrays the growing intolerance of religious issues in the North

“Before last Thursday’s gruesome murder, a secondary school teacher in Gombe State, Mrs Christian Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, on March 21, 2007 was killed by her own students over allegation that she blasphemed against Islam by desecrating the Qur’an. In a fit of religious indignation, Mrs. Oluwasesin was gruesomely murdered in broad day light.

“Over nine years later, on June 2, 2016, a Kano-based 74-year trader of kitchen utensils, Mrs Bridget Agbahime, was killed when she protested against a Muslim performing abolution in front of her shop. In yet another fit of anger, the man instantly called on his fellow Muslims to administer instant mob justice on Mrs Agbahime for blasphemy. She was murdered without finding out if what she said amounted to a blasphemy as alleged by her accusers, who also judged and condemned her to be killed. Till date, the perpetrators are yet to be brought to justice. Hope that justice may come her way someday has fizzled out as the suspects were released by the court unconditionally as requested by the Kano State Government for no reason. The husband of the late trader was later forced to relocate to his home state in the South for fear of being killed over his quest for justice on his murdered spouse.”

 According to the statement, a month later, on July 9, 2016, an early morning preacher on the streets of Kubwa in Abuja, Mrs Eunice Elisha, was killed, saying that attempts to bring her killers to book have not yielded any positive fruit, though not accused of any blasphemy, the silence of the state over killing of citizens on account of their faith may have encouraged Mrs. Elisha’s murderer(s) to snuff life out of her.

It observed that the government’s inability or refusal to bring perpetrators to justice over previous killings of citizens is thus responsible for this bloodshed by these religious mobs, stressing that as a country governed by laws, there cannot be any justification in the killing without following due process. 

It explained that even in Islamic nations, there are processes for determining what constitutes blasphemy, pointing out that when a mob simply puts to death someone they accuse of blasphemy; such an act amounts to criminality that has been encouraged by the state’s incapacity in bringing to book killers of people alleged to have committed blasphemy in the past.

The forum lamented, “To demonstrate the fact that those who are engaged in killing Nigerians on account of alleged blasphemy enjoy overwhelming support, youths at the weekend poured into the streets of Sokoto demanding the release of suspects detained by the police over the killing of Deborah. While churches came under attacks, with looting and destruction unleashed by these youths, the Sokoto incident reveals the dour reality that our ability to remain united under a secular system is being tested.”

 The forum commended Governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto State for the swift move in imposing a 24-hour curfew on the city to avert further destruction and loss of lives and called on security forces to ensure that justice comes the way of Deborah whose barbaric killing has sent waves of crippling shocks throughout the world. 

“The manner this case is handled will signal if the government is indeed serious in tackling religiously related crises in the North threatening the corporate existence of the nation,” the statement observed.

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