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Police: Bring To Justice Killers Of Mgboebuba Nwankwo In Enugu

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Dr Leo Igwe
By Leo Igwe

On January 26, an advocate sent a message to the Advocacy for Alleged Witches (AfAW) urging it to investigate a case of an alleged witch murder in Awgu in Enugu in Southern Nigeria. The message states: “Please investigate the allegation that a woman was killed as a suspected witch because her husband who lives abroad accused her of being the reason why he dares(sic) not return home anymore, suspected that she killed their son, and her daughter, suspected that she was the reason she could not attract a spouse. The proof of witchcraft was that she had a list of people who died in the village, a fact that is found in every home because people always kept a list of those they gave gifts to during funerals. The town is Awgu in Awgu Local Government of Enugu State, Nigeria. Your investigation may help to reeducate the villagers against witch-hunting”.

  AfAW is not a police agency but liaises with the police and other institutions to bring justice to the accused. Through its network, AfAW found out that this middle-aged woman, Agatha Mgboebuba Nwankwo, was accused of witchcraft and subsequently killed by a local mob. On January 5, one Silas Okolie made a  Facebook post on the incident: “Sad: Villagers disgrace woman caught with ‘voodoo’ item. The worst happened in Awgu in early 2022 as woman alleged to be perpetrating evil in the community was caught after an alarm was raised due to her ill actions. Stories have it that a paper was picked in her room that contained names of people she has allegedly dealt with and those she will still do including her daughters and new husband’s name. Lots of incriminating Items was(sic) found in her abode during a thorough search by the villagers. She was beaten mercilessly and sent to her creator. Parading someone (evil doer) in the market or roadside is the worst disgrace anybody will ever receive in Awgu, Enugu State. The evil man does must surely live with them”. 

   Unfortunately, some of the people who commented on the post supported the murder of this innocent woman. One said: “Thank you Lord for exposing her”; while another noted: “They said it was even her daughter that saw the snake inside a bowl of water with some juju under her bed, and some names she wrote in a sheet of paper including her daughter name and her new husband to be, that she is going to kill them next week, whenever she killed them she will mark it, there was a man from Awgu that was found dead on a palm tree last month, they said his name was also among the list…that was how she was exposed to the world by her daughter, but thank God she has been killed and thrown away to the bush. May God always protect his children.

  When contacted, Okolie confirmed that he made the post the same day that Agatha was murdered. But one of those who commented stated: “yes they killed her the day before yesterday”. Thus Agatha might have been murdered on January 3. Whether on January 3 or 5, this innocent woman is no more. The state police command and office of the National Human Rights Commission in Enugu have been contacted to look into the matter. Nobody has come forward to report the case. According to an informant the following persons need to be interrogated: Mr. Remijus Nwankwo – the husband in London can be interviewed by the investigators. His daughter, Chikwado Nwankwo was said to have found the alleged list. She was said to have been to a church that allegedly told her that her mother was responsible for her misfortunes and that she and the father of her four children were the ones who helped the villagers to discover that the mother and grandmother were the witches causing problems. Mark Chukwuino was alleged by the husband to be his uncle who sent him similar lists. Emmanuel Nwankwo Mba is the uncle of the woman alleged to have suspected that she also killed his wife with witchcraft and must have seen her attackers because she was allegedly killed near his home.

  As an informant explained: “I have just spoken to a relative who told me that he suspected his uncle, Mr. Mark Chukwuino, as the instigator because he had been threatening his wife. According to him, the uncle recently sent him a list of dead enemies allegedly compiled by his wife but it was typewritten and so no way to prove that his wife compiled such a list. The uncle then sent another handwritten list but it was not in his wife’s handwriting. He asked the wife to leave the family home and go and stay in a hotel for a while but she told him that no one runs away from his father’s compound. The uncle then phoned and threatened to send ‘ndu ogba ozi’ or messengers to force her out if she did not leave. He said that someone later sent him a video of how some people broke into his house and dragged his wife out and beat her to death. He promised to forward the video to me and I will forward it to you as soon as I receive it. I asked him if he has reported the murder to the police and he said that I must know how the police work in Naija. I do not know what he means by that but I know that it is believed to be an abomination for a family member to invite the police in matters that involve other family members. He said that he had been ill since he returned from a visit home last year but that he is better now and is working to save for his airfare back home to see what he can do”. 

   Both the police and the NHRC offices in Enugu have asked anyone who knew about the case to come forward and lodge a complaint. Almost three months after this horrific murder, nobody has come to report the case. If nothing is done to investigate the case, this grievous crime will fizzle out. Nobody will be punished. But all advocates should not allow this to happen. According to an informant, no one has come forward to lodge a complaint because most people in the community thought the woman was a witch and the punishment was in order. Others are afraid of their  lives and safety. A member of the community who was contacted regarding the case said: “Mgboebuba lili amosu laegbuishi ndu ibe ayi. Ive ogbulu egbu kalikwalu. Shite la eka ada e nwayi (‘Chikwado’ la di e) o kelu igbuko ka eshilu chofuta ive o la eme. Ndu Awgu lo daide juwe ive oji egbushi ndu eka va du ucha, ya shi lo ndu ino e ive ya legbu. Eva ndu o kalaeke igbukwe kaligbukwelu. O gbuagakwalu madu, kalegbukwe tufu adaide. Eva mpam la mmam, okeke kele la nwae nwoke, onyebuchi adae nwayi la nwae dukota la ekwukwo ndu o gbugolu egbu. Oo ndu Awgu jikolu eka kpufute la orie Awgu, megbuo akaje, kpuluihia bia la uhumbele ezi nnae lo tigbuo ye, palu ozue ga gbavuo la ejo ovia du la nduegu ululor. (“Mgboebuba ate witchcraft and was killing our people. The number she killed was a lot. Through the efforts of her daughter (‘Chikwado’ and her husband) whom she was preparing to kill too, that was how it was discovered what she was doing. Awgu people caught her and questioned why she was killing innocent people who have clean hands, she said that her enemies were the ones that she killed. The names of the people she was preparing to kill were numerous. She had killed too many people and was going to kill more before she was caught. My father and mother, Okeke Kele and his son, Onyebuchi, his daughter, and his grandchild were among the names found in the book of the people she had killed. The people of Awgu joined hands to drag her to Orie Awgu marketplace, mocked her, dragged her to her father’s compound in Obugo village, and beat her to death, then they carried her corpse and threw it away in the evil forest at the farm settlement of her husband’s village, Ululor”).

  The informant said that the deceased refused to reveal the names of others who were suspected to be in her ‘witch’ group. Hence they killed her. The state police command in Enugu should rise to the occasion and take all necessary measures to investigate the murder of Agatha Mgboebuba Nwankwo from Awgu and bring to justice all those who carried out this horrific crime.
 
 

 

 

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Opinion

The Treacherous Notion Of Insulting Religious Sensibilities

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The Treacherous Notion Of Insulting Religious Sensibilities

By Leo Igwe
I have been campaigning vigorously for the release of Mubarak Bala, who has been jailed for insulting the religious sensibilities of Muslims, some Muslims in Kano. In the past two years, I have engaged the notion of contempt for religion as a crime or an offence that warrants any sanction or penalty. I am of the view that criticizing religions and highlighting their misconceptions, shortcomings and absurdities is a moral and intellectual duty. I have encountered many religious apologists and fence-seaters who have tried to defend the notion that insulting religion is a transgression that should be punished. In this piece, I want to reiterate the implausibility and unintelligibility of the treacherous notion of insulting religion.

As expected the brutal murder of Deborah Samuel for making supposedly blasphemous statements has reawakened the debate on insulting people’s faiths. I have seen some educated Nigerians tacitly justify this obscenity implying that the alleged remark by Deborah Samuel constituted a punishable transgression. Sometimes they put it expressly stating that they do not support making disparaging remarks about others’ religious beliefs. Look, those who try to justify the notion of insulting religion either do not understand the nature of religion or are not good students of history especially the history religions in Nigeria and Africa. Do not get me wrong, I understand that people feel hurt when their well-cherished religious or philosophical views or icons are challenged, criticized, questioned, or ridiculed. But that is what is, and what it means to live in a free and open society.

READ ALSO: Bakare Condemns Killing Of Sokoto Student, Urges Unity

And this open-society feature is not peculiar to any people or culture. In a pluralistic society like Nigeria, people hold diverse views and opinions. These views may be offensive, hurting, or insulting to others’ beliefs and sensibilities, positions, and propositions. Some people’s religious sense is others’ religious nonsense. A person’s religious food is another’s religious poison. Clear and simple. People are bound to find other people’s religious or philosophical views and opinions objectionable and disagreeable. That is normal and should be expected. Nobody should expect to live in a society where there are no opposing or contradictory views and ideas. So instead of urging against insulting other people’s religious beliefs and sensibilities, which is a pretext for oppression, repression, and suppression of other religious and irreligious ideas, a case should be made for tolerance -tolerance of other religious and non-religious ideas and notions. A case should be made for respect for the rights of others to freedom of religion or belief, and freedom of expression, not respect for others’ religious notions. Ideas should not be respected. Human beings should be respected.

It is disingenuous to accuse people of disrespecting a belief or a religion, or to expect everyone to respect a particular religious icon. That is tyranny. That is a totalitarian tendency. Religious doctrines are to be believed or disbelieved, debated, confessed, and professed. Religions are made to be entertained, embraced or abandoned, renounced, examined and analyzed, accepted or rejected. In matters of faith, respect or disrespect is a factor of belief or disbelief. Christians who treat the Bible with respect do so because they believe that it is the word of God. Muslims respect Muhammad because they believe or are made to believe that he is the messenger from Allah or the greatest prophet of all times. Now, non-Christians and non-Muslims do not share these beliefs.

How does one expect an individual to respect a belief or doctrine that he or she rejects? What does it mean to insult a belief, that one thinks is mistaken, false, or untrue? Unfortunately, religion is replete with myths and misconceptions about the universe, nature, and how nature works. Many religious teachings are outdated and incompatible with many scientific and philosophical views. To be specific, how does one expect non-Muslims to treat the prophet of Islam with respect when they do not believe in his prophethood? How does one think that a non-Christian who is of the notion that Jesus never existed would treat Jesus with respect? The mistake many believers make is to expect non-believers to treat and respect their beliefs, objects, and personalities as they do. And as Germans would say: Das gehts lieder nicht(Unfortunately, that is not possible). That is not applicable. That is not healthy for society. Yes, that is not how religions operate.

READ ALSO: The Killing Of Citizen Deborah, Our Own Malala

Now think about it, the religions which demand respect are Christianity and Islam. Meanwhile, these are not the only religions and philosophies that exist in society. Why is it that believers, Muslims in this case, feel entitled to not be offended? Meanwhile, they espouse views and notions that going by their standards insult religious and irreligious beliefs and icons of others. For instance, Muslims claim that making disparaging remarks about the prophet of Islam is a red line. Understood. They claim that nobody should cross the redline without serious consequences. Fine. But in their everyday preaching and profession of faith, they cross the redlines of others; they make disparaging remarks about prophets and propositions of other religions and philosophies. In their profession of faith, Muslims dismiss other gods as non-existent; they downgrade other prophets. Don’t Muslims know that the recitation of Shahada is offensive, insulting, and provocative to many out there?

Muslims tell us that they love their prophets more than their parents, in fact, more than any human being. They tend to forget that people of other faiths and beliefs have a strong emotional attachment to their religious and philosophical icons too. And if people were to respond violently as Muslims often do to those who scorn their faiths and beliefs then there would be no peace in the world. There would be no Muslims or Christians, no believer or non-believer to respect or disrespect religions and philosophies.

It should also be noted that Christianity and Islam are faiths that missionaries, jihadists, and scholars from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia introduced to the region. These two religions owe their spread and dominance to the activities of those who ‘insulted’ and still ‘insult’ African traditional religious gods, prophets, and beliefs. So how does one make sense of the fact that the religions whose members ask that their icons be respected are out there relentlessly lampooning other religions and beliefs as a matter of divine mission and mandate? For centuries missionaries and proselytizers have in some cases, through physical and structural violence, and impertinent insolence toward African traditional world views and identities been furthering the cause of Christian and Islamic faiths.

READ ALSO: The Killing Of Nigerian Christian Student Has Everything To Do With Religion

The idea of insulting other gods, religions, and beliefs is embedded in the religious enterprise. Insulting religious beliefs is not alien to religions. Every religion blasphemes against other religions. Each religion claims to embody absolute truth and divinity as opposed to other religions that are fake or inferior, or custodians of minor/marginal gods. Interesting no religion is monolithic. Every faith is characterized by a plurality of views and doctrines; by competing and opposing sects, denominations, and traditions. These traditions have doctrines, and they make propositions that other faith traditions consider insulting or disrespectful. So insulting religious beliefs is part and parcel of the religious business. It is what religions do as a matter of fact. Instead of urging against insulting religious sensibilities, which is often a demand from members of a particular religion wherever they are in the majority, tolerant pluralism should be encouraged and fostered. Believers and non-believers should be urged to condone other religious and irreligious views. If anyone finds a view offensive or insulting, the person should challenge it, criticize it, scrutinize it, denounce it, examine it, and yes debate or debunk it. People of all faiths and beliefs should learn to accommodate and civilly engage positions and propositions that insult or disparage their faiths or beliefs whether they are in the majority or in the minority.

 

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Opinion

The Killing Of Citizen Deborah, Our Own Malala

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The Killing Of Citizen Deborah, Our Own Malala

By Hope O’Rukevbe Eghagha

Last week the video of a body set ablaze by a mob went viral on social media. It was preceded by the still picture of a lady dressed in red lying on the ground in a grotesque manner. Life was no longer in her. She had succumbed to savagery and jungle justice by overzealous morons who accused her, found her guilty and executed her in a most barbarous manner reminiscent of the Stone Age. She died a most horrendous death at the hands of her class or school mates. She was stoned to death by students at a College of Education. The barbarous act was carried out by some teachers of tomorrow. What kind of educators would these teachers be in future? Do they recognize Nigeria? Do they realise that Nigeria is not an Islamic Republic, that is, supposing an Islamic Republic will tolerate such a murder? How are the killers better than bandits or terrorists currently plaguing the northern part of Nigeria? We have allowed a monster out of religion, fighting wars for God who obviously did not ask us to fight for Him!

It turned out that it was the body of Citizen Deborah Yakubu, a student at Shehu Shagari College of Education Wamako Sokoto, who had been murdered because, according to her traducers, she blasphemed the name of Prophet Mohammed. In a class WhatsApp platform, she had complained that the platform had been inundated with religious posts and that the platform should be used for what it was created for. Her traducers claimed she made some uncomplimentary remarks about Prophet Mohammed. Later a sweaty nincompoop, with the dark looks of a savage, released a video in which he claimed gleefully that he was the one that killed the lady in question. This in 21st century Nigeria? This is unacceptable. It is indicative of the deep division between world view of extremists in the north and the rest of the country.

READ ALSO: Obi For President, Zulum For Vice President

The ugly news has not been carried by cable network stations. If it happened in Afghanistan or the Middle East, her death would be on the airwaves. Fortunately, and appropriately, the Sultan of Sokoto, leader of Muslims in the country, has spoken against the murder. But he should not stop there. We expect him to personally get involved and ensure that the killer is paraded before the press as a common criminal. Except he does this, we would see the condemnation as mere lip service. The irrepressible Father Matthew Kukah has also condemned the murder and called on the government to fish out the perpetrators for the right punishment, stating that ‘’the only obligation that is owed her immediate family, her fellow students and the school authorities is the assurance that those who are guilty of this inhuman act, no matter the provocation, are punished according to the laws of the land’. Writer Gimba Kakanda wrote on a Facebook post: ‘the barbarism that transpired in Sokoto today has no basis in Islam, and it indicts us all. This culture prevails because past self-appointed punishers of blasphemers got away with their crimes. Whether in Islamic jurisprudence or our secular law, there’s no place for jungle justice, no matter how any offended mob feels’.

But the misguided zealots don’t feel any remorse. Some posts which followed the gleeful announcement on social media are instructive. The killer whose photograph is prominently displayed on social media boasted: ‘I killed her. I burnt her. You can see the matchbox I used in setting her ablaze’. One Muhammed Mode Gagi wrote, just as Bilyaminu Ladan, Sirajo Isiya and Balkisu Umar Ibrahim that: ‘You have done well, may God increase the status of Prophet Muhammed (s.a.w). Sufiyenu Yabo then concluded it: ‘Praise be to God. May Allah reward you with paradise! Which God? My question is if the head of Muslims has called it murder, from which book did the young Muslim boys and girls learn that to inflict jungle justice on a woman who supposedly blasphemed is carrying out a divine injunction?

I must state from the outset that no one has the right to insult another religion, either directly or indirectly. Christianity and Islam are the two major religions in Nigeria. Adherents must know their boundaries. To insult Prophet Mohammed is unacceptable. But it is also unacceptable for an individual to take the life of another citizen in the name of religion. This is how religious wars start. Pause for a minute and imagine what it would be if Christians in Sokoto decide to take the life of a Muslim youth in vengeance. Or if in the Christian-dominated south a Christian family carries out a reprisal attack. An endless cycle will start, the end of which no one can predict. Therefore, the Sokoto State government must rise to the occasion and bring the culprit to book.

READ ALSO: The Killing Of Nigerian Christian Student Has Everything To Do With Religion

There had been other killings in the name of religion in the past. In 1995, one Gideon Akaluka was decapacitated by Muslim fanatics for blasphemy. Nothing came of it in the form of punishment on her killers. In June 2016 Mrs. Bridget Agbaheme was brutally murdered by suspected Islamic extremists in Kofar Wambai market Kano state, over allegations that she blasphemed the name of the Holy Prophet. Except the government takes a decisive action against such criminals, more of such acts will occur in future.

The killing is most incendiary. It is provocative. It could trigger off sectarian war. As we know, religious wars are difficult to contain. The Christian Association of Nigeria should get actively involved to ensure that Deborah does not die in vain. Justice must be pursued to serve as a deterrent. The NBA and allied associations must rise to the occasion. Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) has urged NBA-SPIDEL not to hold any conference in the state where a Nigerian citizen has ‘been brutally murdered and burnt to death…we should make a statement to the government by cancelling the conference and hold it in a neighbouring State in the North’.

What has given Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai an international stature? It is the attack on her person by religious extremists because of her stance on education. Deborah is our own Malala, and she should be accorded that status. Her death at the hands of ignorant and defiant zealots diminishes all of us. I expect the president, the state governor and high-ranking state officials from the North to condemn the killing and order the arrest of the killer. The college management should suspend the suspect pending full a investigation. There will be no love lost between the killer squad leader and other Christian members of the class and indeed all other Christian students in the college. Some acts, small as they are, help to define a nation. Except the government punishes the killer, the government would inadvertently be promoting the emerging narrative that there is no ‘One Nigeria!

POSTSCRIPT: After submitting the essay, further developments made me return to my submissions. The culprits were appropriately arrested, leading to mass protests. There have been riots in Sokoto, with houses and property belonging to non-Muslims being targeted. Alhaji Atiku has withdrawn his condemnation of the killing of Citizen Deborah. He has lost votes, thereby. The state government has imposed a 24-hour curfew. But soldiers ought to be drafted to quell the riots that have led to the destruction of lives and property. This is no way to grow a federal republic! Government must stand firm! Mr. President must condemn the arsonists.

Professor Eghagha writes from the Department of English, University of Lagos.

 

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Opinion

The Killing Of Nigerian Christian Student Has Everything To Do With Religion

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The Treacherous Notion Of Insulting Religious Sensibilities

By Leo Igwe

Humanists are outraged by the gruesome murder of a female college student in Sokoto in Northern Nigeria. Such a horrific act is a sordid reminder of the threat of Islamic extremism in Nigeria. Muslim students at Shehu Shagari College of Education accused a Hausa Christian, Deborah Yakubu, of blasphemy; they beat their colleague to death and burnt the corpse. Ms. Yakubu reportedly protested against posting religious messages on the student Whatsapp platform. Her protest angered some Muslim students who mobilized and subsequently killed her.

The brutal killing of Ms. Yakubu is not an isolated incident. Many Muslims and non-Muslims adjudged to have insulted Islam or its prophet have suffered a similar fate in the region. In 2007, some Muslim students in Gombe lynched their female Christian teacher for desecrating the Quran. There have been other violent attacks and murders of alleged blasphemers in Muslim-dominated areas in Kano, Niger, and other parts of Islamic Northern Nigeria. Persons accused of blasphemy have been sentenced to death by sharia courts in Kano. Others like Nigerian Humanist, Mubarak Bala, have been given long prison sentences. Muslim clerics and state officials have openly and publicly endorsed the execution of blasphemers.

Police Arrest Two Over Killing Of Female Student For Blasphemy

The late Deborah Yakubu

For instance, in 2015, Islamic theocrat, Bashir Ahmad tweeted this comment after a sharia court sentenced nine persons for blasphemy: “I cannot pretend or keep silent. I support the death penalty for blasphemy. That is my belief and I will never support #SaveKanoNine”. So it is patently untrue and misleading for anyone to say that the brutal murder of Ms. Yakubu and other blasphemy-related attacks, sanctions, and bloodletting in Northern Nigeria have nothing to do with religion. No, they do. As the case of this Christian woman has shown, these bloodletters are usually motivated by their religious belief in the prophet of Islam; Islamic teachings and orientations, and by their quest to placate Allah and inherit the paradise in the hereafter.

READ ALSO: Police Arrest Two Over Killing Of Female Student For Blasphemy

So if Nigeria wants to end these horrific attacks and killings, it should take a critical look at how Islam is professed and practised in Northern Nigeria. Nigeria needs to determine if Islam is a religion or a death cult; if muslims operate within the law or above the law and if Islamic privilege is a state policy. Look, Islam has a history of violence and bloodletting that persists. The government must admit that jihadist Islam is entrenched and pervasive. Boko Haram militants are not only in the Sambisa forest. Islamic extremists exist and operate in several mosques, courts, police, and army stations. Boko Haram jihadists and their sympathizers are not a small minority as some people claim. They populate government houses, schools, colleges, and universities.

So it is high time Nigeria confronted this big elephant in the room, that is Islamic extremism. Muslim leaders should stop living in denial; they should stop pretending that jihadist Islam is not a huge problem. Muslim leaders should stop deceiving the world and saying that blasphemy killings and attacks have nothing to do with religion, in this case, Islam. No, these killings have everything to do with Islam as practised in Northern Nigeria. And the way Islam is preached and practised in Northern Nigeria must change. The government must address this toxic tendency and habit that makes muslims value their religious and prophetic icons more than human lives. Nigeria must tackle this savage and dreadful inclination of muslims to kill, attack or maim others at the slightest provocation. Nigerian authorities should monitor the activities of Muslim clerics because these religious actors use their preaching and Quranic indoctrination programmes to radicalize young Muslims and turn them into merchants of hate, violence, death, and destruction. The government should protect the rights of those who criticize the teachings and traditions of Islam and its prophet because it is through a critical examination of Islamic doctrines and practices that these extremist ideas and tendencies could be exposed and expunged.

READ ALSO: Female Student Burnt Alive Over Blasphemy

Nigeria should take measures to end impunity and ensure that those who indulge in blasphemy-related attacks or killings are brought to book. Those who carry out these barbaric acts should not go scot-free. They are murderers and criminals and should be arrested, prosecuted, and jailed to serve as a deterrent to others. Usually, when muslims attack or kill for blasphemy, no arrest is made, in cases where arrests are made, nobody is prosecuted; and in situations where some are charged to court, they are later acquitted. This culture of impunity must end if Nigeria must make progress in this 21st century. There should be serious consequences for blasphemy-related attacks. The Nigerian government should repeal blasphemy laws because as long as there are provisions that criminalize insults on religion, freedom of religion or belief and freedom of expression will not be guaranteed and these savage attacks in the name of Allah or Prophet Muhammad will continue.

 

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