By John Shiklam in Kaduna, Damilola Oyedele in Abuja and Ugo Aliogo in Lagos
For the killers of Madam Bridget Agbahime, who was murdered in Kano last week for alleged blasphemy, more knocks came yesterday as the Jama’atu Nasril Islam (JNI), the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 northern states and the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon Yakubu Dogara, condemned the act as barbaric and demanded justice.
The JNI, headed by the Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Saad Abubakar, in its statement signed by the Secretary General, Dr. Khalid Abubakar Aliyu, described the killing as criminal and not Islamic.
“These ugly incidences utterly stand condemned and are regarded as criminal and unislamic, perpetrated by miscreants and criminals” the JNI said.
The group said it was difficult to believe that such a dastardly act could happen in the name of religion, considering the various enlightenment programmes on interfaith and mutual co-existence being put in place by the Muslim scholars and the leadership.
The JNI also commiserated with the family of the deceased over the unfortunate incident and pray God to grant her eternal rest.
It said: “The Sultan of Sokoto and President-General, JNI calls on all to remain calm and avoid all actions that could lead to the breach of law and order.
“The generality of Muslims are also implored to fervently pray for the restoration of peace and security in Nigeria bearing in mind that without Nigeria there will be no Nigerians.”
The CAN in its statement signed by its spokesman, Rev. Joseph Hayab, dismissed allegations of blasphemy levelled against the deceased, explaining that information made available to CAN revealed that those who murdered Bridget went to do ablution by her shop and she asked them to stop blocking the entrance to her shop.
According to CAN, “From the information we gathered, Bridget never committed blasphemy as claimed by those who killed her.
“Information reaching us has shown that one of her killers had been looking for her trouble very often and on that day he went to her shop and started his ablution right at the entrance of her shop and she complained and argument ensued.
“The man suddenly started shouting Allahu Akbar and a mob surrounded her shop and descended on the woman. Frantic efforts were made to save her life by people who tried to rescue her but the mob overwhelmed them and we wonder where the police were when this thing was happening.”
Bridget’s killers had alleged that she blasphemed Prophet Mohammed.
But CAN said it was sad that people would wake up and kill a fellow human being like an animal, adding that such a dastard action should not be condoned in any civilised society.
It noted that a similar incident happened in Kano some years ago when another Igbo trader was beheaded for the same allegations of blasphemy and said it was not enough for the Kano State government to announce that one of the killers of Bridget had been arrested.
The Christian body said: “The government must ensure that the perpetrators of the evil act are brought to face justice and this time around, we will closely monitor to ensure that justice is done.
“We cannot say we are Nigerians and some people will wake up and kill fellow Nigerians at will in the name of religion and they are not brought to justice.
“Our religious leaders must come out and preach the true tenets of religion, because this arrogance is getting too much.”
It urged Christians to remain peaceful and law abiding and pray for the progress of the country.
In Abuja, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Hon. Dogara, called on security agencies to ensure the arrest and prosecution of Bridget’s murderers.
Dogara, according to a statement by his spokesperson, Mr. Turaki Hassan, yesterday condemned the murder, which he described as a grievous act of lawlessness and impunity.
“We live in a society governed by clearly stated rules and laws. When such crimes of high magnitude, or any at all, are allowed to go unpunished for any reason, we risk descending into a state of lawlessness and anarchy where anyone can assume the role of judge, jury and executioner,” he said.
“The rule of law must prevail. I urge all security agencies to ensure that they carry out a thorough investigation into the events that led to her untimely death and ensure that the perpetrators of this crime are made to face the full wrath of the law,” the Speaker added.
In its reaction, a group known as Aka Ikenga also condemned Bridget’s killing.
The group in a statement signed by its President, Chief Goddy Uwazurike, stated that the masterminds of this murder should be charged to court promptly, adding that the act was a premeditated action under the pretence of religion.
Uwazurike, therefore, called for justice to prevail, stressing that it would serve as a deterrent to other murderers planning to carry out a similar attack.
“We demand most strenuously that they (murderers) be used as an example so that other murders under the cover of religion would be stopped,” he said.
He commended the state Governor, Abdullahi Umar Ganduje, and the Police Commissioner, Muhammad Katsina, for their prompt response during the crisis, while expressing shock that the Emir of the Kano, Mohammed Sanusi II, had not led the fight to stop the religious bigots.
But speaking on the growing wave of violence in the country, the Governor of Anambra State, Chief Willie Obiano, called for an end to violence nationwide.
He spoke during a special mass to commence the activities marking this year’s edition of the World Environment Day at St Patrick’s Cathedral Awka yesterday, and frowned on the ease with which life was snuffed out of Nigerians at the slightest pretext in recent times and advised that there was a strong need for wisdom, calmness, patience and prayers at these times.
“It is important to reiterate that nobody should lose his or her life under any circumstance and I condemn that very act in the strongest terms,” he said.
On the recent face-off between the police and some youths who filed out to mark the Igbo Day in Nkpor, Idemili Local Government Area of the state, Obiano reiterated his regret over the loss of lives and said that as the chief security officer of the state, his priority was to secure lives and property.
According to him, it was a great idea to celebrate Igbo Day, but the method adopted by the youths to mark it ought to be reappraised to avoid unnecessary conflict with the constituted authority, as that would defeat the aim of the event which is to draw attention to the developmental challenges of the South-east zone.