On Sunday June 26, a mob of suspected Islamic fanatics in Sokoto murdered Usman Buda over allegations of blasphemy. He was brutally stoned to death. Multiple sources have since confirmed that the late Usman Buda, a well-known Quran memorizer and butcher at Sokoto Fish and Vegetable market(Kasuwan Dankure) was only preaching to a beggar to stop using the name of the Prophet to solicit for alms when his message was misconstrued as blasphemy by some of his fellow butchers. His killers, seemingly unappreciative of Usman Buba’s antecedents as a lover of Islam, were brazen enough to have their faces unconcealed in the viral video that recorded this heinous crime.
About seventy-two hours later, in Old Ntim, Akamkpa Local Government Area of Cross River State, another mob killed a woman identified as Madam Maritina Okey Itagbor. They set her ablaze after she was accused of witchcraft. Just like the case of Usman Buda, the Nigeria Police, the Sokoto and Cross Rivers State governments failed in their constitutional duty to protect these innocent Nigerians.
In both instances, Usman Buda and Maritima Okey Itagbor were not given an opportunity to defend themselves by their traducers. The cruel mob was simultaneously,accuser, judge and executioner, perversely upending two principles of natural justice – Nemo Judex in causa sua (No man shall be a judge in his own cause) and Audi Alteram partem (fair hearing).
The National Association of Seadogs, Pyrates Confraternity, NAS/PC condemns in its entirety the callous murders of Usman Buda and Maritima Okey Itagbor. They are barbaric and senseless . These unpardonable lynch mob actions are unjustifiable either in Islamic jurisprudence, our cultural norms or the laws of Nigeria. Of particular note, the Holy Qu’ran which is the foundation of authority for Islamic jurisprudence makes provision for fair hearing and due process, and warns against mob action to take a life. Specifically the Qur’an, 6.151 states: “Do not kill a soul which Allah has made sacred except through the due process of law,” The perpetrators of these murders must not go unpunished. They must be apprehended, vigorously prosecuted and face exemplary punishment that underlies our collective condemnation as a people. This will constitute a strong deterrence to those inclined to such criminality.
Sadly, mindless launched mob killings such as recently reported in Sokoto and Cross River have, unfortunately, continued to worsen as a norm in Nigeria. This impunity of murder further degenerates with no adverse consequences for the killers. In May 2022, Deborah Samuel, a second year student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto was lynched by some of her classmates and others over allegations of blasphemy over comments posted on her class WhatsApp forum. In August, 2002, two widows, Mrs Martina Osom and Mrs Rose Akom were lynched over allegations of witchcraft in Ebbaken community, Boje, Boki Local Government Area of Cross River State.
To date, none of the suspects arrested in connection with these murders have faced the full wrath of the law. In Sokoto, the Police declared that the main suspect had fled to Niger Republic while two suspects, Bilyaminu Aliyu and Amuni Hukunchi that were arrested and arraigned have been released over want of diligent prosecution by the Police. The same situation applies in Cross River where misguided youths behind the killing of several women accused of witchcraft are walking free.
Disappointingly, the inability to secure justice for Deborah by former governor Aminu Tambuwal of Sokoto state through a combination of blackmail questioning his faith and political exigences has been carried over to the administration of his successor, Governor Ahmad Aliyu. In a statement issued by his spokesman, Abubakar Bawa, Aliyu was quoted to have merely cautioned the people of Sokoto State to “avoid taking laws into their own hands” warning that the state government “will not take the issue of blasphemy lightly”. In the said statement, Aliyu had no word to condemn the murder of Buda. He equally did not have words to direct law enforcement to apprehend the killers of Buda and get justice for the deceased.
Unlike Aliyu, Bassey Otu, Governor of Cross River State has been swift in condemning the killing in his state. As the Chief Security Officer, Otu in a statement by his Chief Press Secretary, Emmanuel Ogbeche aside directing the Commissioner of Police to ensure “perpetrators of this heinous act are brought to justice” further declared that his administration “will be intolerant to acts capable of breaching the peace, endangering citizens and businesses and portraying the state in a bad light.”
NAS/PC implores Governor Otu to follow up on his directives. The Cross River Police Command should not be allowed to sweep the matter under the carpet. All those identified to have partaken in the gruesome murder should be swiftly apprehended and made to face the full wrath of the law. We expect Mr Aliyu, Governor of Sokoto to summon the political will as the Chief Security Officer to descend on Islamic fundamentalists hiding under the guise of religion to carry out murder and other atrocious activities in Sokoto State. Needless to say, he must see the action of the mob for what it is: murder! No more no less. Islamic clerics and the political class in northern Nigeria should do more to condemn self-appointed defenders of the faith and end this cycle of mob justice. This is the only way to prevent a repetition of this barbarity.
We believe these two cases present a litmus test for the acting Inspector-General of Police, Mr Kayode Egebtokun to set the tone of his tenure as the number one law enforcement officer in the country. Mr Egbetokun who was quoted to have expressed great optimism “to chase away all criminals in Nigeria” now has a perfect opportunity to match his words with firm and decisive actions. The Acting Inspector General should demonstrate his ability to police Nigeria by apprehending the killers of Usman Buda and Maritima Itagbor and ensure their swift prosecution.
Under the immediate past administration of former President Muhammadu Buhari, Nigerians endured a litany of impunity which eroded the right to life of Nigerians. We expect the Federal Government under President Bola Tinubu to make the protection of lives a priority. Mr Egbetokun should roll his sleeves to protect Nigerians. He should start by arresting the killers of Usman Buda and Maritima Itagbor. Nigerians deserve protection from lynch mobs, anything less is unacceptable.