By CHUKWUNWIKE NWEKE
By now, it is no longer news that the alleged murderers of Mrs Bridget Agbahime – the Imo state born woman who was murdered on the accusations of blasphemy at the Kofar Wambai market in Kano on the 2nd of June this year have been set free. According to Daily Trust newspaper, the chief magistrate, Muhammad Jibril discharged the five suspects and terminated the case as advised by the attorney-general of Kano state. Acting through a
counsel, the attorney-general argued that having evaluated the facts in accordance with the relevant sections of the criminal code, there is no case for the suspects to answer as the suspects are all innocent. Thus, he ordered the court to discharge all the suspects.
The implications of this charade of a judgement should not be lost on anyone. This is a huge miscarriage of justice; a travesty of reasoned judgment. Ours is fast turning into a free-for-all country where anyone can do anything and go scot-free so far as you belong to a group or part of this country where certain rules are traditionally meant to be broken. The central argument of the judge was that there was not enough supporting evidence to make the accused stand trial. But why is that so? What exactly did the police do before rounding-up the suspects? Could they not have at least gathered apparent incriminating evidences? Isn’t it obvious that the initial arrest was a mere charade aimed at dousing the tension at the time and assuaging flared tempers? For starters, it must be noted that the accusation of blasphemy for which Mrs Agbahime was murdered is a huge lie. She was murdered by her assailants for refusing to allow his Muslim neighbor perform ablution in front of his shop. But like I argued before, even if it was true, any belief that does not respect the sanctity of human life is not worthy to be upheld by sane humans.
The application for a nolle prosequi by the attorney-general in this case only helps to abet crime and embolden the perpetrators of dastardly acts like this. But beyond this obvious enablement, there is even a more overt one that has been happening. From time to time, Sharia courts sentence people to death for blasphemy. What the killers of Mrs Agbahime did was only to speed-up a process that has been endorsed by “the law”. The police who “arrested” them, the judge who tried the case, the Kano state government who from time to time use tax payers’ money to prosecute blasphemy cases and the attorney-general are on the same page. Sections 110 and 382b of the Sharia penal code to which they subscribe has death as a penalty for speaking against their god or the prophet.
I have refrained from reacting immediately the news broke on Thursday last week. The idea was to tread cautiously and wait to see the reactions of the authorities on this. As I type, I am yet to see or hear what the majority of Northern Muslims including the elites who joined the outcry for justice at the time of the murder are saying about this. No one has yet spoken or at the very least issued a statement including the state government and President Buhari who at the wake of the outrage caused by the murder issued a very shallow statement. It makes one want to ask, was their “faked” outrage then only to appeal to popular sentiments in the prevailing zeitgeist? Why aren’t they saying anything? Or, is my earlier submission that their supposed outrage was only a grandstanding feigned as authentic sympathy becoming more that just a mere conjecture?
Again, is the attorney-general of Kano state actually telling us that Mrs Bridget Agbahime murdered herself? Pray, how does one explain such kangaroo judgement? Are they telling us that the persons previously arrested and released were not the actual perpetrators of the said crime and that the actual perpetrators are being arrested as I type? The issues and questions raised plead for serious answers.
For the bloodshed, Mrs Agbahime deserves justice. For justice to come, there must be retribution and punishment. The judgement is a foul taste in the mouth. It is at its best depressing and at worse, despicable. It is an ominous sign. This judgment gives those who argue for jungle justice in the face of certain provocations a field day for their argument to thrive. In what other ways can we convince those opposed to court processes that their stand is not the right one? How did such judgement emanate from a civil court in a supposedly secular, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic country? On what basis exactly was the judgement passed? On the basis that Mrs Agbahime’s right to life was not violated? In filing for a nolle prosequi, did the attorney-general use a constitution other than that of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? This judgement threatens peaceful co-existence. In it is a very strong message – go, kill the infidels, we are with you. Otherwise, how does one explain that for all the blasphemy killings that happened this year, including the Pandogari, Niger State and the Kubwa, Abuja own, no one has been found guilty by any court? How do we sue for peace and unity in a country that is averse to justice? In the absence of justice, let it be noted that any argument for peaceful coexistence is a ruse. The absence of justice only serves to breed and nurture toxic emotions. The questions raised here beg for serious answers; for the sake of the bloodshed and of course, for justice.
Nwike, a public speaker and a writer can be reached via email@example.com.
By CHUKWUNWIKE NWEKE