By Joseph Erunke, ABUJA
A total of 300 women groups have protested last Thursday’s gruesome murder of Miss Deborah Samuel, a student of Shehu Shagari College of Education, Sokoto, by a mob over alleged blasphemous statement.
The women groups operating under the umbrella of Womanifesto, called for immediate declaration of a state of emergency on the killings of women and girls in the country,adding that “concerted and collective callout of all states which have not implemented the VAP Act 2015.”
A statement Saturday, by Dr Abiola Akiyode-Afolabi, Executive Director, Women Advocates Research and Documentation Centre,WARDC,on behalf of the 300 organisations, tasked “religious leaders in Sokoto and beyond to speak out against this dastardly act.”
“We also demand the declaration of a State of Emergency on the killings of women and girls and a concerted and collective callout of all States which have not implemented the VAP Act 2015. Nigerian Women and girls must not continue to be endangered species thereby threatening the bright future of our country.
“We call on religious leaders in Sokoto and beyond to speak out against this dastardly act. Religious bodies and leaders have a moral responsibility to foster and promote peace, religious freedoms and eschew intolerance among the adherents of their faiths. Nigerians want to see religious leaders play a unifying role and not champion divisions among the faiths,”the statement said.
“Womanifesto finds the current fixation of Nigeria’s public officials and other politicians with the 2023 elections in a country which has many evident signs of being on the brink of collapse, an unkind diversion of energy that should be focused on serving the citizens.
“To ignore the daily killings of Nigerians happening in States across the country at a time like this amounts to a futile exercise of “majoring in the minor” and portends danger for the country. We say, “Enough is enough!” and insist that as citizens of this country our rights as women are as equal to that accorded every other citizen,”the group further said.
The statement read in part,”Another bright young woman was brutally killed in an educational institution Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto on Thursday, May 12, 2022 for what her killers called “religious blasphemy”.
“Media reports revealed that Deborah Samuel was killed in her prime for exercising her right to freedom to education and association.
“All her freedoms as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria were violated at once.
“The blatant disregard for human life and the continuous killing of women and girls with impunity has normalized the culture of jungle justice in evident failure of the Nigeria-State to secure our people.
” Even more is the pattern of official silence when barbaric acts of this kind happen in Nigeria. As we write this statement there is still no official reaction by relevant state and federal leadership and establishments of law and enforcement.
“We would like to recall that several other Nigerian women have been killed in similar circumstances. For example Eunice Olawale in the Federal Capital Territory in 2016 and Bridget Agbaheme in Kano in 2017 were victims of premeditated murdered for what their killers similarly called “religious blasphemy”.
” More than 4-5 years later, nothing has been done by the federal and state governments concerned to give justice to these two innocent women killed by their fellow citizens for reasons of differences in religious beliefs.”
Açcording to the group,”The murder of young Deborah by stoning, lynching and burning in the premises of the College of Education, Sokoto without any protection from the school authorities is the most egregious yet of this pattern of religious intolerance in Nigeria. “
“Our 1999 Constitution is specific in asserting that Nigeria is a secular democracy with no state religion and that the security of lives and property as a primary responsibility of the government.
“We therefore call on the Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal to take immediate steps beyond condemning this barbaric act and collaborate with the Nigeria Police and other relevant federal law enforcement and judicial establishments to commence prosecutorial action against all the identified murderers and complicit school officials of Shehu Shagari College of Education who collaborated to execute and burn Miss Samuel.
“Positive action to forestall future occurrences. We also call on the Attorney General and Minister of Justice of the Federation to take a public interest in this matter alongside the stalled cases of prosecution of the killers of Mrs Olawale and Agbaheme respectively,”it said.
“Womanifesto demands a comprehensive Justice Sector and System Reform to strengthen law and enforcement especially as it concerns the rights of women”,it said, warning that:” The current sector and system mostly exonerates men for crimes against women and girls and this must stop.”