AGBAHIME AND THE OUTRAGEOUS ACQUITTAL

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The authorities should reopen investigations into the case and bring the murderers to book
A sense of outrage has greeted the acquittal, by a Kano Magistrates Court, of five suspected killers of a Christian Igbo woman, Bridget Agbahime, who was lynched to death by fanatical Moslem youths at Kofar Wambai Market on June 2, 2016.

Accused of blasphemy, the 74-year-old trader was subjected to jungle justice by fanatics who obviously felt justified to mete out instant punishment to someone considered to be an infidel. The Police uncharacteristically announced some arrests, and days later, charged Dauda Ahmed, Abdulmumeen Mustafa, Zubairu Abubakar, Abdullahi Abubakar and Musa Abdullahi with a four-count of alleged incitement, disturbance, culpable homicide, joint act and mischief.

Last Friday, Ibrahim Muhammad, the presiding magistrate, acquitted them because the Kano State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice said he was unable to find evidence to ground a conviction.

“We received the case diary from the police on June 8 and having gone through the case diary, the attorney- general of the state evaluated the facts in accordance with sections 130 and 150 of the criminal procedure code,” Mr Rabiu Yusuf, the state counsel, who represented the attorney-general of the state, told the court. “The legal advice presented to the court, dated June 24, states that there is no case to answer as the suspects are all innocent, and orders the court to discharge all the suspects.”

As relations of the suspects who gathered at the court premises rolled out the drums, celebrating their wards’ release, an angry Christian community raged with anger, condemning the turn of events as provocative and subversive of years of efforts to restrain adherents of their faith from retaliating serial fatal attacks.

“The Christian Association of Nigeria is deeply saddened by the news of the release without trial of the five suspects accused of killing a 74-year -old Christian woman in Kano, Mrs Bridget Agbahime, who was murdered sometime in June, 2016. This is a highly provocative and insultive act on our collective sensitivities as a democratic nation,” it said.

The outrage of CAN is understandable having regards not only to the gruesome nature of the murder, which is now going unpunished, but also the insensitivity of the Attorney General of Kano State, whose obvious tolerance of the sloppy police investigation mocks the efforts Christian of leaders to restrain their followers from recourse to retributive justice.

It is a national shame that the police could not build a case against criminal suspects who were caught in the act of the murder of an old woman, a criminal act that occurred in broad day light! This lack of diligence on the part of the investigating and prosecuting authorities of state, without a doubt, threatens the foundation of peaceful cohabitation of faiths in a multi-faith society like Nigeria.

There appears to be a growing trend of the President Muhammadu Buhari administration’s seeming lackadaisical attitude towards the sanctity of lives of Nigerians who get killed daily by criminal gangs, including herdsmen, violent sectarian agitators and kidnappers. In most cases, arrests were never made, no matter how gruesome and brazen the killings were. And in few cases of arrest, as in this instance, investigations were too sloppy to secure conviction.

This newspaper has warned repeatedly that the failure of the state to dispense justice, particularly over sectarian violence that dot the states of the federation, is an open invitation to anarchy as aggrieved Nigerians increasingly feel justified to turn to self-help in defence of their lives and property.

To assuage this legitimate feeling of helplessness in the face of relentless assault on their liberty, government must as a matter of urgency turn a new leaf and reposition its law enforcement apparatus to rise up to the demands of their responsibilities. In the instant case of the murder of Agbahime, we urge the Attorney-General of Kano State to immediately direct the police to reopen investigations into the case, fish out the murders and bring them to book. Justice for the murdered demands nothing less.