Rioters Attack Christian Sites over Arrests in Sokoto, Nigeria

Churches, shops damaged as Muslims demand release of suspected killers.

College student Deborah Emmanuel was stoned to death in Sokoto, Nigeria on May 12, 2022. (Facebook)

College student Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu was stoned to death in Sokoto, Nigeria on May 12, 2022. (Facebook)

ABUJA, Nigeria (Morning Star News) – Rioters upset over the arrest of two Muslims in connection with the killing of a Christian college student in Sokoto, Nigeria attacked three church buildings and looted and damaged Christian-owned shops on Saturday (May 14), sources said.

Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu, a 200-level student at Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, the capital of Sokoto state, was beaten, stoned to death and her body set on fire on Thursday (May 12) after she was falsely accused of blaspheming the prophet of Islam because she had refused to date a Muslim, sources said.

Following the arrest of two Muslim suspects, Muslim rioters started bonfires and damaged the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral, St. Kevin’s Catholic Church and an Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) building in Sokoto, area residents said. Yakubu was a member of the ECWA church in her native Tungan Magajiya town, Rijau County in Niger state.

Area Muslims demanding the release of the two suspects assembled in strategic areas of the city and then marched to the palace of the sultan of Sokoto, leader of Nigeria’s Muslims, demanding the release of the two Muslims suspected of being behind the killing of Yakubu, residents said.

“Hundreds of Muslims here in Sokoto this morning converged at various points in the city to protest the arrest of two Muslims who were involved in the killing of Deborah, the Christian student of Shehu Shagari College of Education,” area resident Angela Anthony said in a text message. “In spite of efforts by the police and other security agencies to prevent them from becoming violent in their protest, these Muslims still succeeded in attacking and destroying two churches, the Catholic Cathedral and the ECWA church in Sokoto.”

Sokoto resident Precious Arigu requested prayer.

“So far, two churches [were damaged] and dozens of shops belonging to Christians have been looted and then destroyed by these Muslims,” Arigu said. “Please be in prayers for those of us who are Christians living in Sokoto.”

The Rev. Christopher Omotosho, Sokoto Diocese spokesman, said the protestors also shattered the windows of the diocese’s Bishop Lawton Secretariat and vandalized a bus parked on the premises. They also attacked the diocese’s Bakhita Centre on Aliyu Jodi Road and set a bus there on fire, Omotosho said .

“St. Kevin’s Catholic Church, Gidan Dere, Eastern By-pass, was also attacked and partly burnt,” he said. “Windows of the new hospital complex under construction on the same premises were shattered.”

Police reportedly have begun searching for others who appeared in a video-recording of the murder that appeared on social media.

Some of the rioters upset with the sultan of Sokoto, Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, for condemning the killing surrounded his palace shouting the jihadist slogan, “Allahu Akbar [God is greater],” an area resident told Agence France-Presse (AFP). When the rioters refused to leave, police and soldiers hurled teargas canisters and fired into the air to disperse them, AFP quoted the resident as saying.

The mob then tried to loot shops owned by Christians but were dispersed by security patrol teams, another resident told AFP.

Sokoto Gov. Aminu Waziri Tambuwal on Saturday (May 14) declared a 24-hour curfew in the city. The Rev. Stephen Baba Panya, president of the ECWA, called on the governor to ensure justice.

“The brutal killing and burning of Deborah by some misguided Muslim students is nothing short of overt criminality which we at the ECWA roundly condemn,” Pastor Panya said. “We therefore call on the Sokoto state government under the leadership of His Excellency, Aminu Tambuwal, to be deliberate in ensuring that no step is left to ensure that justice is not only seen to be done, but that it is indeed done.”

He said the ECWA also called on President Mohammadu Buhari to ensure justice.

“Deborah may be just one young girl whose precious life and ambition has been cruelly cut short, but the entire world is watching, waiting and crying out for justice here on earth, otherwise, in heaven,” Pastor Panya said. “In this midnight hour of our nation, at this very trying and agonizing moment, our hearts go out to the parents, siblings and entire family of Miss Deborah and all that are grieving her death; we encourage you to take solace in the fact that no matter how it  may look, Deborah’s martyrdom shall never be in vain. Light will ever prevail over the forces of darkness.”

The Rev. Joseph Daramola, general secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), said in a statement that the inability of the Nigerian government to prosecute Muslims who have killed Christians over false claims of blasphemy have fueled such criminal acts.

“It is the failure of the security agencies and the government to rise up to such criminalities in the past that gave birth to terrorists and bandits,” Pastor Daramola said. “And as long as the state fails to bring these beasts and criminals amidst us to book, so also the society will continue to be their killing fields.”

Acknowledging that the sultan of Sokoto condemned the crime and called on security agencies to bring the perpetrators to justice, Pastor Daramola called on all “teachers and preachers of religious intolerance, extremism and terrorism to repent before the wrath of God descends on them if the state fails to bring them to book.”

“Killing in the name of blasphemy is ungodly, satanic, foolish, reprehensible, and totally unacceptable,” he said. “This is not a Stone Age, and Nigeria is not a Banana republic. Nigeria remains a non-religious state where no religion is supreme to the other. We acknowledge and commend the restraint of the Christian students of the college who refused to embrace reprisal attacks on those who murdered their colleague. It is our prayer that those vampires in religious garments will not push the country to a religious war.”

Herdsmen Kill 36 Christians

In central Nigeria’s Benue state, Fulani herdsmen suspected of collaborating with Muslim extremist terrorists killed an estimated 36 Christians in multiple attacks last month, sources said.

In Tarka County, about 15 Christians were killed in an attack on Tiortyu village at 2 a.m. on April 12 that killed a grandfather and wounded his young granddaughter, the girl’s mother, Faith Iorshie, told Morning Star News by phone.

“About 15 Christians were killed when the Fulani terrorists attacked our village, Tiortyu,” Iorshie said. “I escaped the attack, but grandpa took my 2-year-old daughter and tried escaping with her and was shot and killed while my daughter was shot and wounded. We’re currently in a hospital where she’s being treated. Pray with us for God to save her life.”

Iorshie, 25, said she and her family are members of the Universal Reformed Christian Church (NKST in Nigeria) in her village.

The attacks in Logo, Kwande, Tarka and Guma counties added to the recent displacement of about 2 million people in Benue state and the bordering areas of Nasarawa and Taraba states. The displaced took refuge in camps for Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) across Benue state, government officials said.

Two Christians were also killed in Logo County, 10 were killed in Kwande County and 9 in Guma County, sources said. In Logo, Muslim Fulani herdsmen on April 29 attacked Tse Tune, killing two Christians who were working on their farms, said Nathaniel Ikyur, spokesman for the Benue governor’s office.

“The two Christians killed by the bandits are Terkende Injarwua and Mfaiga Ukor,” Ikyur said in a statement. “Their corpses have been evacuated from their farms and buried.”

In Kwande County, herdsmen attacked Waya, Jato-Aka, and Turan the night of April 21, killing 10 Christians, residents said. Lawrence Akerigba identified some of those killed as Gbaeren Orsoo, Terdoo Tsega, Bemdoo Tsega, Abacha Tsega, Terkaa Tsega, Aôndoaseer Tyov, Iorhen Atim and Aôndowase Igba.

Tartor Chianson, a council official of the country, confirmed the attack.

“Ten Christians were killed during the attack on three communities in Kwande Local Government Area,” Chianson said. “The corpses of those killed have been recovered and taken to Jato Aka Hospital Mortuary.”

In Guma County, Fulani herdsmen the night of April 11 killed nine Christians, sources said.

Benue state Gov. Samuel Ortom said officials have called for help without any answer.

“It is becoming increasingly glaring every day that Christians are now endangered species in Nigeria,” he said in a statement. “We have cried for help against these Muslim invaders, but nothing is forthcoming. We are left alone, and it looks like it is a deliberate strategy to eliminate us because of our Christian faith.”

Nigeria led the world in Christians killed for their faith last year (Oct. 1, 2020 to Sept. 30, 2021) at 4,650, up from 3,530 the previous year, according to Open Doors’ 2022 World Watch List report. The number of kidnapped Christians was also highest in Nigeria, at more than 2,500, up from 990 the previous year, according to the WWL report.

Nigeria trailed only China in the number of churches attacked, with 470 cases, according to the report.

In the 2022 World Watch List of the countries where it is most difficult to be a Christian, Nigeria jumped to seventh place, its highest ranking ever, from No. 9 the previous year.

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