John Shiklam in Kaduna
Barely a week after 70-year-old Bridget Agbahime was murdered by a mob in Kano for alleged blasphemy, another incident has manifested in Kaduna where a carpenter, Mr. Francis Emmanuel, was attacked in Kakuri area of the metropolis by some Muslim youths allegedly for failing to observe the current Ramadan fast.
The incident, which almost claimed the life of Emmanuel, reportedly happened around 2.30pm last Tuesday on Sokoto Road, prompting neighbours and good samaritans to rush him to the St. Gerald Catholic Hospital, Kakuri for medical treatment.
Emmanuel, who almost lost his sight, was severely injured and had deep machete cuts on various parts of his body.
The 41-year-old man, who spoke with journalists on his sick bed writhing in pains from the attack, said he was taking his lunch when the boys numbering about six descended on him querying why he was not fasting?
“I went to buy wood to do some work, when I came back, I bought food to eat. As I was eating, about six Hausa boys came and asked me whether I was a Muslim or a Christian. I did not answer them. They asked me why was I not fasting with them? I told them that I am not a Muslim.
“Before I knew it, one of them slapped me. As I stood up, the rest came and surrounded me and started attacking me with knives. I don’t know them. Nobody could come to my aid because of the type of dangerous knives they were carrying.
“They used cutlasses, scissors and knives on me until I became unconscious, I don’t even know who brought me to the hospital,” he said.
Also speaking, his elder brother, Mr. Paul Uloko, who described the incident as barbaric, appealed to security agents to fish out the culprits and bring them to justice.
“We are calling on the authorities to fish out these barbarians and bring them to justice. This wickedness must not be condoned. The culprits must be brought to justice in the interest of peace and stability in Kaduna State,” he said.
The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the 19 Northern states, while reacting to the incident, expressed deep concern over religious extremism, saying that the situation needs serious consideration by government and stakeholders.
The secretary general of the association, Mr. Danladi Yerima, a lawyer, told journalists in an interview when he visited the victim at the hospital that Kaduna had witnessed relative peace for sometime now and urged the authorities to bring the culprits to justice before things get out of hand.
Meanwhile, the Kaduna State Governor, Mallam Nasir el-Rufai, has asked the state’s police commissioner to fish out those responsible for the dastardly act.
El-Rufai, his deputy and other top government officials, who visited Emmanuel and a police officer who was shot by armed robbers, said he was deeply concerned about the incident.
“This is of very serious concern to the state government. We have warned before the beginning of Ramadan that everyone should observe the tenets of his or her religion, but without forcing it on anyone or taking the law into their own hands.
“This is a case of which people have taken the law into their own hands and I have directed the commissioner of police to make sure that the boys that did this are arrested and prosecuted for what they have done” he said in an interview with journalists in the hospital.
In a statement issued after the visit to the hospital, the state government vowed that it would not allow anyone to get away with any crime using his or her faith as an excuse.
According to the statement signed by spokesman to the governor, Mr. Samuel Aruwan, “There is no compulsion in religion. It is a free country, and that means no imposition of faith or religious practices on anyone.
“We sympathise with our fellow citizen, Francis Emmanuel. We have assured him that we will not allow anybody to violate his right, or that of any other citizen. Kaduna State Government is resolute in its stand that all criminals, including those who try to hide under Christianity or Islam, will be tackled and prosecuted.
“We implore everyone to carry out their duties and to uphold peace and security in Kaduna State. We should not allow differences in faith to be a barrier to harmony or a cause for conflict. Nobody can impose the tenet of his faith on another person. The decision to observe any religious activity is the prerogative of the individual.”