Blasphemy Killing: Kano govt refuses to explain why ‘killers’ of Bridget Agbahime were freed

Six weeks after setting free all the ‘prime’ suspects nabbed in connection to the gruesome murder of Bridget Agbahime, the Kano State Government has refused to give any useful explanation for its action.

Several efforts by PREMIUM TIMES within this period to obtain information from the Abdullahi Ganduje administration were frustrated.

Accused by a mob of committing blasphemy against Islam, Mrs. Agbahime, 74, was murdered in broad daylight in downtown Kano on June 2.

The murder, which took place at Kofar Wambai Market, cut deep into Nigeria’s religious and tribal fault lines.

It was roundly condemned by President Muhammadu Buhari and the Sultan of Sokoto; both of whom urged an urgent and diligent investigation by concerned authorities.

On June 4, Mr. Ganduje announced the arrest of one Dauda Ahmad as a ‘prime’ suspect in the murder, which helped douse sectarian tensions that were brewing at the time.

Mr. Ganduje, who announced the arrest at a meeting with a delegate of Christian leaders in the state, promised a thorough prosecution of anyone charged in connection to the murder.

On June 10, the police arraigned five suspects, including Mr. Ahmad, before a Chief Magistrate’s Court in Kano.

The remaining four were: Abdullahi Mustapha, Zubairu Abubakar, Abdullahi Abubakar and Musa Abdullahi.

They were all charged with four counts of incitement, culpable homicide and mischief, based on sections 144, 80, 51 and 327 of the state penal code. If convicted, the offences could attract a death penalty.

At the opening of the trial, state prosecutor, Dauda Jibrin, submitted to the trial judge that Mr. Ahmad led his alleged accomplices to confront Mrs. Agbahime.

After slapping her several times while chanting ‘Allahu Akbar,’ the suspects then started hitting her with sticks, causing bruises and other bodily injuries to her until she struggled to death, Mr. Jibrin said.

Mr. Jibrin, who was representing the Kano State Attorney-General, Haruna Falali, told the court that even more suspects were at large.

He identified them as: Salawiyu, Ibrahim, Dini, Isiyaku Mada, Mallam Sani and Yunusa Sufi.

Shortly after the suspects were arraigned, the police transferred all the case files to Mr. Falali’s office for legal advice and continued prosecution.

But on November 3, Mr. Falali abruptly withdrew the case and asked the court to discharge all suspects.

Mr. Falali said he discharged them because there was “no case to answer as the suspects are all innocent.” He ordered the court to “discharge all the suspects.”

The announcement sparked a nationwide outrage, with the Christian Association of Nigeria describing it as “highly provocative and insulting act on our collective sensitivities as a democratic nation.”

But efforts by PREMIUM TIMES to get the Kano State Government to give further explanation about its action were rebuffed.

Questions such as who the state believed was responsible for the act since those it initially described as ‘prime’ suspects had been freed, why it failed to move the matter to a high court for prosecution after several months —since the Magistrate Court can not try capital offences— and how it arrived at the decision to exonerate the suspects were left unanswered.

Mike Agbahime, Bridget’s husband, said he identified all the five suspects arraigned in connection to the murder of his wife.

“Yes, I know all of them.  Even at the police station, I identified all of them. All of us were in the same market (some of them in the same line),” he told The Punch in an interview last month.

When contacted, Mr. Falali told PREMIUM TIMES that he won’t be able to comment on the matter due to its sensitivity.

The Commissioner for Information, Muhammad Garba, also declined to comment on the matter despite repeated enquiries from this newspaper.

The Chief Press Secretary to the Governor, Salihu Tanko-Yakasai, also declined comments, saying he could not obtain any information from the Attorney-General.

But some officials of the administration who spoke with PREMIUM TIMES on the condition of anonymity blamed Mr. Falali for the withdrawal.

One source said Mr. Falali was determined to hush up the case out of bias even though he was warned not to do so but to charge it to the high court in Kano instead.

“He had made up his mind to silence the case which is the reason he withdrew it when the governor travelled to Cairo,” one official said. “His action will do a lot of damage to this government.”

Mr. Falali declined PREMIUM TIMES’ request for his reaction to the allegations from his cabinet colleagues.

Another source said the governor had not been able to compel Mr. Falali for further explanation because he had been too busy.

“The governor has been very busy and I am sure that must have been the reason he could not force the attorney-general to give Nigerians and the world any explanation,” the source said. “I know this excuse will sound lazy to you because the story is a very big one and the governor had promised to do something about it and clearly failed.”

The police in Kano absolved themselves of any involvement in the withdrawal of the case.

The Police Public Relations Officer, Musa Magaji, told PREMIUM TIMES they arrested the suspects and ensured they were charged to court before pushing the case to the state government.

“Since the state government had decided to withdraw the matter, we could not do anything about it,” Mr. Magaji said. “Our duty as the police was to arrest the suspects and ensure they were immediately charged to court. We did all of that.”

Mr. Magaji said the options of the police are quite narrow at this point.

PREMIUM TIMES’s efforts to reach Mike Agbahime, Bridget’s husband, fell through because he had gone underground. Deeper Life Bible Church, where he had been a preacher for years, has taken charge of his welfare and will only allow him to make any public statement on an occasional basis.

Indonesia’s Christian governor goes on trial for ‘blasphemy’

The Christian governor of the Indonesian capital, Jakarta, went on trial on Tuesday to face charges of blasphemy over remarks perceived as insulting to Muslims.

The trial of the governor, Basuki Purnama, followed a wave of protests by conservative Muslims demanding his prosecution.

According to the indictment read out by prosecutors, Mr. Purnama is accused of “publicly expressing hostility to, abusing and disparaging’’ a religion, a crime punishable by up to five years in prison.

Security was tight for the trial at the North Jakarta district court and hundreds of conservative Muslims dressed in white gathered outside to demand Mr. Purnama be jailed.

Mr. Purnama said “I understand the charges but I don’t understand why I’m being accused of blasphemy,’’ after prosecutors read out the indictment.

Mr. Purnama said as a Christian politician running for office in a Muslim-majority country, he had been unfairly attacked by political opponents because of his faith.

Mr. Purnama said in tears “They abuse holy verses to achieve their political goals, because they can’t compete in terms of programmes and personal integrity’’.

Under Indonesian law, a defendant does not have to enter a plea at the start of a trial.

The blasphemy allegations stem from remarks made by Mr. Purnama in September, when he said his opponents had used a verse from the Koran to deceive voters.

At a gathering with residents, he said they did not have to vote for him in the upcoming February 15 gubernatorial election if they were afraid of going to hell because they “have been lied to using Surah Al-Maidah verse 51’’.

Some Muslims interpret the Koranic text in question as prohibiting them from electing non-Muslims as their leaders, although other Muslims disagree that Purnama’s remarks were blasphemous.

Mr. Purnama has repeatedly apologised, saying his comments meant that politicians misinterpreted the Koranic verse.

Tensions have risen in Jakarta after more than 100,000 Muslims rallied on November 4 demanding the prosecution of Mr. Purnama, who is a member of the ethnic Chinese minority.

A second anti-Purnama rally on December 2 was attended by more than 200,000.

Mr. Purnama became Jakarta’s first Christian governor in 50 years when he took over from Joko Widodo, now Indonesia’s president, in 2014.

Mr. Widodo, an ally of Mr. Purnama, has accused “political actors’’ of exploiting anger over Mr. Purnama’s remarks to undermine his government.

Mr. Purnama’s ascension to the top job in the city teeming with 10 million people had been hailed as an example of Indonesia’s embrace of democracy and diversity.

Hard line groups such as the Islamic Defenders’ Front have always been critical of Mr. Purnama, but their past protests against the governor failed to gain strong support, until his remarks on the Koran hit a nerve with many Muslims.

Mr. Purnama is known for his strong stance against corruption and being an effective administrator in a bureaucracy that has long been plagued by corruption and incompetence.

Before the blasphemy case, polls consistently showed him leading in the race for the governorship.

However, more recent polls showed his numbers had dropped significantly, putting him second in a three-way race.

Mr. Purnama has also made enemies along the way, including officials and members of the city council who he criticised publicly, suggesting that they are incompetent and corrupt.

As part of his urban renewal programmes, he forcefully evicted squatters and slum dwellers, and relocated them to apartments where they have to pay rent and are far from their livelihoods.

Godwin Onyeacholem: Kano blasphemy killing: Where is justice for Bridget Agbahime?

Indeed, for any keen observer of governance in post-colonial Africa, Nigeria must be a very depressing address. And this is more so for the simple reason that no country, in many people’s reckoning, has done so much as Nigeria in consistently consciously making itself an object of perpetual ridicule in the comity of civilized countries of the world. That explains why those who argue that Africa’s backwardness is a function of Nigeria’s pathetic leadership vision cannot be entirely wrong after all. Even Nigeria’s own citizens, who look up to their country to provide the required domestic and international leadership, have continued to be utterly disappointed and embarrassed in very many ways.

Take for example the case of Bridget Agbahime. On June 2, the 74-year-old kitchen utensils trader from Imo State was brutally attacked and killed at Kofar Wambai Market in Kano by a Muslim mob who accused her of blasphemy. According to reports, she was pounced upon and murdered after she refused to allow a Muslim man perform ablution in front of her shop. As expected, the circumstances of Bridget’s death sparked outrage within secular, Christian and progressive Muslim circles across the country and beyond, provoking once again that troubling question as to when these ignorant killings in the northern part of the country in the name of Allah would come to an end.

On behalf of President Muhammadu Buhari, Special Adviser on Media and Publicity, Femi Adesina, promptly issued a statement describing the incident as “sad and regrettable.” In the usual tone of such statements, it urged the people not to take the laws into their hands and affirmed that justice would be done in the matter.

On his part, Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje, also called a meeting attended by prominent personalities including state chairman of Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Ransome Bello, the husband of the deceased, Pastor Mike Agbahime, of Deeper Life Bible Church, Igbo leaders in Kano, Islamic scholars and security agencies. At that meeting the governor named the prime suspect in that heinous crime as one Alhaji Dauda. He said the killing was “unjustifiable” and that justice would be done in accordance with the provisions of the Nigerian constitution.

The Police corroborated the governor as regards Dauda. Olabisi Okuwobi, Assistant Commissioner of Police who was then Force Public Relations Officer, issued a statement saying two key suspects, Dauda Ahmed and Zubairu Abdullahi, were already in custody and would be speedily prosecuted. Added Okuwobi: “In order to ensure a diligent and professional investigation the Inspector General of Police has directed the Deputy Inspector General of Police in charge of the Force Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department (FCIID) to deploy the Homicide Section of the Department to immediately take over the investigation of the case and ensure a meticulous investigation and speedy prosecution of arrested suspects.”

Apart from Dauda and Zubair, the investigation led to the arrest of three more suspects namely Abdulmumeen Mustafa, Abdullahi Abubakar and Musa Abdullahi. The five suspects were charged at the Kano Magistrate court on a four-count allegation of allegedly inciting disturbance, culpable homicide, joint act and mischief.

And five months into the incident, more than enough time for Nigerians and the Agbahime family to have arrived at a closure on that act of bestiality, what did the people get? Just when they were bracing for a firm prosecution that will lead to conviction, they were treated to the familiar abracadabra that is peculiar to the country’s legal system. In what must go down as a classic judicial swindle, the chief magistrate, Muhammad Jibril, acting on the advice of the Attorney General of Kano State, discharged the suspects and terminated the case.

According to the Kano State government, “There is no case to answer as all the suspects are innocent.” Really? And this from a State whose governor had called the killing “unjustifiable” and vowed to go all out to ensure that the culprits are treated in line with the country’s laws? Where is the justice Buhari promised in his reaction to Bridget Agbahime’s killing? What the Kano government did to this case is not the kind of thing that should happen in a government that professes “change.”

Surely now, the widower, Mike Agbahime, and the entire Agbahime family must be heartbroken. It would not be surprising to hear that the man has suddenly developed some serious health problem, for this is the sort of perversion of justice that led to the death of Justice Atinuke Ige, whose husband, Bola Ige, was assassinated at their Bodija residence in Ibadan in 2001. Sixteen months later, the woman died from a heartbreak resulting from glaring manipulation of justice by state prosecutors who deliberately messed up the trial of suspects arrested in connection with her husband’s gruesome murder.

This is not the first time blasphemy killings would occur in the northern part of the country. In 1995, in the same Kano, a young Igbo trader, Gideon Akaluka, was beheaded by Muslim fanatics who stormed the police station where he was being held for alleged blasphemy. The head was hoisted on a stick and used as trophy which the mob carried round the streets in a chilling victory parade. There was neither arrest nor prosecution.

In 2007 Christiana Oluwasesin, teacher and mother of two, was beaten to death by her own students at Government Day Secondary School, Gandu, Gombe State. The sixteen suspects arrested in connection with the crime were released without any charge. In addition to the Agbahime case, this year has also witnessed blasphemy killings in Talata Mafara in Zamfara State, and Padongari in Rafi local government area of Niger State. In these two cases as in others, not one person was arrested and made to face the law.

Suffice to say that blasphemy killers in Nigeria, a secular, multi-ethnic and multi-cultural country are never brought to justice. Yet without justice there can never be peace. And the absence of peace means there is no unity. Agbahime’s case happens to be the first time an attempt, no matter how idle and unenthusiastic, has been made to arraign alleged perpetrators of blasphemy execution.

But against all expectations, the case has decidedly been bungled by the government which ought to protect citizens, messed up in a manner that powerfully vindicates those who insist that Nigeria is not yet a nation, that much as the people desire to live together as one, there is an urgent need for a roundtable meeting of its various stakeholders to fashion out a modern nation by agreeing on terms for the people’s coexistence. Call it whatever name, Nigerians has to work towards arriving at an acceptable framework that determines the basis of a much desired unity in a re-invented country.

A cornerstone of that framework must be justice for all, regardless of your background or where you come from. As it is now, no matter what any Nigerian leader at whatever level preaches about Nigeria, with the way they have been denied justice, the Agbahime family, or the children of Oluwasesin, for instance, will never, ever feel that they belong to this country.

But this government can still redeem itself and that is what it should do by revisiting the Agbahime case and making sure those who needlessly killed that woman are truly punished. Otherwise, not only that this country will continue to be a laughing stock in the eyes of the world, one would be persuaded to queue behind those who still argue with candid vehemence that we are yet to have a country.

Godwin Onyeacholem is a journalist. He can be reached on

Blasphemy Killing: Kano Court Frees All Suspects

A Kano Magistrates’ Court on Thursday discharged all the five suspects, who allegedly killed a trader, Mrs. Bridget Agbahime, in Kano on June 2 over allegations of blasphemy.

The suspects, Dauda Ahmed, Abdulmumeen Mustafa, Zubairu Abubakar, Abdullahi Abubakar and Musa Abdullahi were slammed with a four counts of inciting disturbance, culpable homicide, joint act and mischief.

Agbahime, 74, an Imo indigene, was murdered in Kofar Wambai Market in Kano over alleged blasphemy.

The Chief Magistrate, Muhammad Jibril, discharged the five suspects and terminated the case as advised by the attorney-general of Kano State.

Earlier, the Principal State Counsel, Mr. Rabiu Yusuf, representing the attorney-general of Kano State, told the court that “we received the case diary from the police on June 8.

“Having gone through the case diary, the attorney-general of Kano State evaluated the facts in accordance with Sections 130 and 150 of the Criminal Procedure Code, presented the legal advice.

“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,” Yusuf said.

Counsel to the suspects, Abdulsalam Gambo, commended the attorney-general for the judgment in the case.

The suspects and their families expressed gratitude to Allah for the judgment and for their freedom.



Zamfara ‘Blasphemy’ Killings: What Really Happened

Further details has been obtained of the killings in the Talata Marafa town of Zamfara State, where eight residents were burnt to death by a mob suspected to be students of Abdu Gusau Polytechnic.

Reporters spoke to a resident of Talata Mafara, Salisu Mafara on Tuesday. He said trouble began when a student of the Polytechnic was accused of blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad.

“The young man was a Muslim before he converted to Christianity and fellow students always accused him of saying nasty things about Islam.

“However, he reportedly said terrible things about the prophet and the students around descended on him and he was seriously injured,” he said.

Mr. Mafara said another resident of the town who speaks the same language with the accused student came to his rescue.

“When they noticed that he was not moving at all, they thought he was dead, but one man who is from the same tribe with him now came and took him to hospital in his car.

“When the mob got to know what happened, they now began to rush to the General Hospital. However, that man just dropped the boy in the hospital and left.

“But before the mob could reach the hospital, another young man, who is an indigene of Mafara, but is a boyfriend to the sister of the attacked student, reached the Hospital before them and took away the injured man before the mob got there.

“When they reached the hospital and realised that the injured man was not there they came back to town and when they saw the vehicle used in taking him to the Hospital the first time, they burnt it down.

“They also went to the man’s House and burnt it down with all the occupants inside. About eight people were in the house and they all died,” he said.

Mr. Mafara also said three other persons may have died when security agents opened fire on the crowd that became uncontrollable.

When contacted, the spokesperson of the Police in the state, Mohammed Shehu said a state security council meeting was held immediately after the incident and a dusk-to-dawn curfew imposed.

He also said security was heightened in the town and that everywhere was now calm.

He however, failed to confirm the burning of the house and the killing of occupants.

He said his attention was needed by the Commissioner of Police, Adoge Gabriel, and be abruptly ended the call.

Subsequent efforts to speak with him failed as he did not answer calls or respond to a text message.

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Zamfara ‘Blasphemy’ Killings “Barbaric & Unacceptable”, Buhari Pledges Justice

President Muhammadu Buhari has condemned the killing of at eight persons in Zamfara State on the allegation of “blasphemy”.

A mob, suspected to be students of Abdu Gusau Polytechnic, on Monday descended on a man they accused of blaspheming the Prophet of Islam. They later set those who tried to help him alight.

The attack occurred at Talata Mafara, a town in Zamfara.

Mr. Buhari described the attack as “barbaric and unacceptable”.

Writing on Twitter, the president said he “received news of the mob killings in Zamfara with great dismay”.

“I assure that the law will take its course. My prayers are with the families of the victims,” he said.

Mr. Buhari, who has been widely criticized for failing to speak out or condemn similar attacks in the past, said “Under my watch we will work to ensure that there is no place for violence in the name of religion, ethnicity, or in any guise whatsoever”.

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Zamfara Mob Kills 8 Over Alleged Blasphemy

No fewer than eight persons were killed on Monday in Talata-Mafara community in Zamfara State following violence that erupted over alleged blasphemy by a student of the Abdu Gusau Polytechnic, Talata-Mafara.

The state Governor, Alhaji Abdulaziz Yari, joined hundreds of people to bury the deceased, who were said to have all been killed when an angry mob set fire on the house of a man who tried to rescue the student.

The student was alleged to have made a blasphemous statement against Islam and Prophet Muhammad and was consequently attacked by a mob.

The News Agency of Nigeria reported that the boy was said to have been beaten to a pulp by the mob, and the man, whose name was simply given as Tajudeen, took him in his car and drove him to a hospital.

Enraged by the act of the man who rescued the student, an eye witnesses to NAN that the mob moved to his (Tajudeen’s) house, set it on fire and killed eight persons.

The governor, who called for an emergency security council meeting over the incident, expressed sadness and vowed that “no stone will be left unturned until all those behind this act are brought to book.”

NAN further reported that the police had imposed a 12-hour curfew in the community, from 7p.m. to 7a.m. daily until further notice, with warning that anyone caught violating the order would be prosecuted.


Blasphemy: Kano Youths Burn Down Sharia Court, Storm Govt. House

Youths in Kano burnt down a sharia court scheduled to hear a case of blasphemy against ?the? prophet of Islam. The court, situated at Rijiyar Lemo, was razed down before the man alleged to have blasphemed the prophet was brought in.

The youth also took to the streets protesting an alleged blasphemous comment by the leader of a sect, Tijjaniyya, Abdul Nyass. The youth held up placards condemning the statement made against ?Prophet Mohammed.

?T?he aggrieved youths marched towards Mandawari and Dandago, ?and ?headed to the Emir of Kano’s palace. The sect leader allegedly made the statement last week during his ?routine? preaching at Goron Dutse, Kano metropolis.

All efforts to contact the police spokesperson, Musa Majia, proved abortive as he failed to pick the calls to his phone. The protesting youth also blocked Kano government house in their protest. Heavily armed security personnel were drafted to secure the town.