According to Black Law’s Dictionary, murder is the crime of unlawfully killing a person, especially with malice aforethought. Murder is willful, deliberate or premeditated.
The long interval between the time the alleged blasphemous audio was sent and the time of the murder makes it deliberate and premeditated and not provocative.
The deceased was said to have blasphemed while cautioning her course mates about sending some nonsense religious posts or stuff about a ‘nonsense prophet’.
Blasphemy is the act of insulting, showing contempt or lack of reverence for God as stated by Merriam Webster’s dictionary. Whether or not the lynching and burning of Deborah Samuel as a penalty for blasphemy is constitutional just raises an issue.
Section 33, Chapter one of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, provides that ‘every person has a right to life and no one shall be deprived intentionally of his life, save in execution of a court in respect of a criminal offence of which he has been found guilty in Nigeria’.In the above scenario, there has been a breach of the victim’s fundamental right to life.
Section 204 of Nigeria’s criminal code prohibits blasphemy with a penalty of two years imprisonment. However, Sokoto is a sharia state and sharia law punishes blasphemy with a death sentence but must be sanctioned by the court of law or higher authorities. The actions of the mob are therefore unconstitutional and this is a criminal offence (Murder) according to Section 315 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code. The United Nations Organization (UNO), also declared murder a grievous crime against humanity.
Religious discrimination, injustice, intolerance and partiality could have spiced the gruesome, atrocious, horrifying and unlawful killing of Deborah Samuel on the said date. There might be no case if perhaps Deborah was a Muslim. She probably might have been chastised by her coursemates, instead of rewarding her with an undeserved untimely death. The perpetrators have no right whatsoever to stone the defenceless girl to death.
Sharia law makes provision for only adulterous women to be stoned to death and not a ‘blasphemous girl’. Section 38, Chapter four of the Nigerian constitution advocates for the right to the freedom of thought, conscience and religion. This is backed by article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which was adopted on December 10, 1948, by the United Nations general assembly.
In Twelve predominantly Muslim states in Northern Nigeria, Islamic Law (Sharia law) operates both in the criminal and religious domains, though only Muslims are supposed to be subject to it. This shouldn’t have been applicable to a Christian like Deborah Samuel.
Federal authorities and higher courts prevent the implementation of inhumane sharia sentences and void sharia decisions that are contrary to federal law. As in the case of a twenty-two-year-old musician, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu who was accused of blasphemy in 2020 because of a song he shared on social media. This case attracted international press and attention and a higher court in Kano State nullified the verdict of the sharia court due to some irregularities and abnormalities in the previous trial.
This is relatable. Deborah Samuel’s case could have been the same if she was not denied her right to a fair hearing as stated by Section 36, chapter four of the Nigerian constitution. Deborah was not proven guilty by any law court and as such, cannot be labelled a criminal to be deprived of her right to life.
Deborah Samuel’s body was burnt after she was stoned to death. Section 242 of Nigeria’s criminal code negates improper, indecent interference with, or offering an indignity to any dead human body or human remains whether buried or not. The mob’s action is therefore unconstitutional and is a breach of the victim’s right.
After reviewing all these laws and relating them to the above scenario, there is no other submission to reach than the fact that Deborah Samuel did not deserve the punishment meted to her. This is therefore a case of social injustice. The lawbreakers should be charged with murder, denial of the right to a fair hearing and offering indignity to a dead human body.
University of Abuja