Nigeria: Murder in the name of religion

Nigerian Tribune
Editorial: Secondary school staff member murdered by students for accidentally throwing out a copy of the Qur'an.
Citizen Oluwatoyin Oluseesin was killed recently by irate students of the Government Day Secondary School, Gandu, Gombe State, where, until her gruesome murder, she was a contract staff member.
The deceased was reportedly assigned to invigilate the SS1 students who were writing their Islamic Religious Knowledge paper when she observed that one of the students was attempting to smuggle some books into the examination hall. Sensing that a foul play was about to take place, she allegedly collected the books and threw them outside.

Unfortunately, that simple act of preventing the occurrence of fraud was to prove fatal for Mrs. Oluseesin. Unknown to her, a copy of the Holy Qur'an was among the books she allegedly collected from the aberrant student and threw outside. Newspaper reports claimed that she was attacked outside the school premises after the examination and beaten to death by the students for allegedly desecrating the holy book. Efforts made by the principal of the school, Mr. Mohammed Sadiq, to control the rampaging students, the reports further claimed, proved abortive. His attempt to protect the victim by hiding her in his office also failed. He was reportedly beaten up by the riotous students who also burnt down his car as well as three classrooms, the school's clinic, library and the administrative block.

It may sound strange that all these atrocities took place in the Nigeria of today all in the name of religion. But it did happen, and 12 persons, according to the Gombe State Commissioner of Police, have been arrested in connection with the ugly incident. But the bitter truth, though very embarrassing, is that this type of incident that portrays Nigerians as a bunch of uncivilized people with little or no respect for human lives is not entirely new in the country.

For instance, in Kano, in a not too recent past, one Gideon Akaluka was forcefully removed from prison by a mob which accused him of desecrating the Qur'an. And in a most despicable manner, the irate mob beheaded him, hung the head on a stick and danced round the ancient city of Kano with it. Only last year, a 14-year-old girl was attacked and killed in a police station in Izom, Guarara Local Government Area of Niger State for allegedly distributing a blasphemous material. The material was considered offensive to Islam and the image of Prophet Mohammed (PBOH). The victim who had taken refuge in a police station was attacked right inside the premises of the police station!

These isolated cases in addition to more pronounced and widespread religious and sectarian crises that occur once-in-a-while have tended to define Nigeria as an unstable nation perpetually at the edge of the precipice. We condemn in very strong terms the murder of Mrs. Oluseesin by a group of lazy, criminally-minded and morally bankrupt students whom she prevented from engaging in examination malpractices. We also condemn the unbridled manner and ease by which some uncivilized people engage in criminal acts using religion as a cover. It is unthinkable that any rational human being could delude himself by attempting to avenge God who he thinks is 'powerless' to avenge Himself.

Major religions of the world preach and profess peace, love and tolerance. And indeed, the imperatives of the modern world that more or less compel interdependence of peoples, nations etc, of diverse cultures, religions and values clearly point to tolerance as a minimum irreducible virtue for harmonious relationships. Yet, most tribal and political differences often find practical expressions in violent religious crises. Charlatans and patently unreligious persons hide under religion to wreak havoc, advance and/or protect their selfish and personal interests. And because these criminal acts often go unpunished, there is a sense of impunity which bolsters the impudence of the murderers and arsonists to continue in their dastardly acts.

The extant laws of the land, whether implicitly or explicitly, do not permit anyone or group to deliberately terminate the life of another person. So whatever laws these bloodthirsty religious fanatics apply in carrying out their barbaric act are non-existent in our statute books. To this end, the law must always be allowed to take its course whenever these miscreants masquerading as religious faithful engage in their criminal and morally reprehensible act. To date, members of the public are not aware of what became of those who killed Gideon Akaluka in Kano and the 14-year-old girl in Izom, Niger State.

Mrs. Oluseesin's case should not be allowed to go the way of similar ones before it. The Gombe State police command should investigate the incident thoroughly and bring the murderers to justice speedily and publicly. Wicked and ignorant religious fanatics must be stopped at all costs from further unleashing terror on innocent citizens in Nigeria.

01 April, 2007