Within a space of one week, five Nigerians were gruesomely murdered by mobs protesting what they called “blasphemy” offences.
The first report came from Pandogari in Rafi Local Government Area of Niger State, where a 24 year-old man, Modestus Emmaneul, was lynched by angry Muslim youths on 31st May, 2016 for allegedly blaspheming Prophet Mohammed in an online comment. Three others also lost their lives and lots of property were destroyed.
Before the dust could settle, another mob in a Kano market descended on Mrs Bridget Agbahime, a pastor’s wife. She was said to have complained over ablutions (preparations for Muslim prayers) being performed in front of her shop whereupon a false alarm reportedly raised a lynch mob on Thursday , June 2, 2016.
These two incidents have stoked great tension between the Christian and Muslim faithful across the country, thus worsening a subsisting atmosphere occasioned by the forcible abductions of Christian girls and the attacks by armed Fulani herdsmen in various locations in central and southern Nigeria.
We note the swift manner in which the governors of Niger, Kano, as well as Imo State (State where Mrs Agbahime hailed from) rose to the occasion and brought the leaders of both faiths together to douse tensions. President Muhammadu Buhari has also added his voice to the pledge by the Inspector General of Police, Solomon Arase, to leave no stone unturned in ensuring that the culprits are brought to book.
We are, however, not swept off our feet by these fire brigade reactions which came after the harm had been done and precious lives lost. This is not the first time that cases of alleged blasphemy resulted in mob actions that claimed lives.
The case of Gideon Akaluka, who was beheaded by Muslim mobs in Kano in December, 1994 for allegedly desecrating the Qur’an, remains fresh in the mind. That this evil continues to rear its ugly head simply means that the root causes have not been addressed. And there is nothing to show that it will not happen again.
We call on Muslim leaders to go beyond mere verbal condemnations of this atrocity among their youth and inculcate in them the need to report any such cases to the law-enforcement agencies, rather than taking the law into their own hands.
All Nigerians are supposed to be protected by the law, and the law enforcement agencies are expected to sniff out brewing inter-ethnic and inter-religious issues before they blow up into big problems resulting in the loss of lives and property. They must wake up.
We urge Nigerians to strive to understand one another’s religious sensitivities and avoid anything that could threaten our peaceful coexistence.