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Nigeria: Anger and riots over the killing of a female student

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There is outrage over the killing of a female Nigerian student over her social media post.

The level 200 university student was allegedly beaten and burnt to death by fellow students in north-western Nigeria after she was accused of making a blasphemous social media post.

According to a police statement, Deborah Samuel was killed in the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto state after being accused of “making a social media post that blasphemed Prophet Muhammad”.

Authorities have closed the school indefinitely, in a bid to calm frayed nerves in that part of Nigeria where residents have in the past violently reacted to actions or comments deemed anti-Islamic.

Facts of the case

Witnesses said Samuel, a second-year college student whose age was not made public, was immediately attacked by her fellow students after she criticized a religion-related post on the students’ WhatsApp group.

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“She was angry the way Muslims were talking about Islamic affairs in that WhatsApp group, which made her to make some un-Islamic utterances against Prophet Mohammed,” said Basharu Guyawa Isa, a resident and human rights activist in Sokoto.

The school authority quickly deployed security personnel to protect Samuel but they were overpowered by angry youths.

“Students forcefully removed the victim from the security room where she was hidden by the school authorities, killed her and burnt the building,” said Sokoto police spokesperson Sanusi Abubakar.

A video of the incident posted on social media showed Samuel lying on the ground as she was stoned and beaten with planks.

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The young men surrounding her then dumped tires on her, and set them ablaze.

Samuel’s killing has caused outrage and shock among many Nigerians on social media.

The city of Sokoto is now under curfew (file pic). Photo: Getty Images

Riots over arrests of suspects

On Saturday Nigeria’s military and police had to quell riots over the arrest of some suspects in connection with the murder.

Hundreds of people in the city of Sokoto went on rampage after the arrests with police saying a manhunt for other suspects who appeared in footage of the murder shared on social media had started.

But the irate Muslim youths took to the streets of the city, lighting bonfires and demanding the release of the two suspects, despite the earlier deployment of police to maintain order, residents said.

Some of the protesters besieged the palace of Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar, the sultan of Sokoto and the highest spiritual figure among Muslims in Nigeria, after he condemned the killing and demanded those involved face justice.

“It was more of a riot by a mob of young men and women who were demanding the release of the two people arrested over the killing of the Christian student. The crowd which made bonfires on the streets were also demanding the police stop the manhunt for those identified to have taken part in the murder. Some among the security men deployed to protect the palace tried to ask the protesters to leave but they became unruly”, a resident said.

Policemen and soldiers deployed outside the palace fired tear and succeeded in dispersing the crowd.

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Escalating tensions

The mob retreated downtown where they tried to loot shops belonging to Christian residents. They also attacked some churches but were dispersed by security patrol teams.

Nigeria’s president, Muhammadu Buhari, has “strongly condemned” the murder of Samuel.

In a statement, President Buhari said “no  person has the right to take the law in his or her own hands in this country, and violence has and never will solve any problem”.

A curfew has also been declared in Sokoto to bring the situation under control. Sokoto Governor Aminu Waziri Tambuwal urged the protesters saying “Please, in the interest of peace go back home.”

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