Alleged Blasphemy: NBA cancels conference over murder of Sokoto college student

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The NBA decided to cancel the conference after the killing of Deborah Yakubu over alleged blasphemy drew nationwide outrage.

The Nigerian Bar Association (NBA), on Tuesday, called off its conference that was scheduled to hold in Sokoto State following the brutal killing of Deborah Yakubu, a 200-level student of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, over alleged blasphemy.

The event, with the theme, ‘Rule of Law and Democratic Evolution in Nigeria’, was scheduled to hold in Sokoto between May 22 and 26.

Miss Yakubu was accused of blasphemy and subsequently lynched with her body set ablaze by a mob last Thursday in Sokoto. The mob was made up of mainly fellow students.

The incident drew nationwide outrage with many calling for the prosecution of those involved in the killing.

In the wake of the student’s murder and the arrest of some suspects linked to the murder, protests erupted leading to the torching of properties.

A former chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Chidi Odinkalu, and a former education minister, Oby Ezekwesili, among many other prominent Nigerians, had called for the cancellation of the NBA conference after the gruesome murder.

Concord. ng reported how Mr. Odinkalu, one of the expected participants at the conference organized by the Section on Public Interest and Development Law (SPIDEL) of the NBA, announced his withdrawal from the conference on account of Miss Yakubu’s lynching.

Mr Odinkalu announced his withdrawal from the conference in a statement last Friday

“I, Chidi Anselem Odinkalu, am cancelling my participation,” he said. “I will, in addition, actively campaign against the meeting.”

But the SPIDEL chairman, Monday Ubani, in a statement, described the calls for the cancellation of the conference as “preposterous.”

Mr Ubani said the conference would go on since the lynching was not authorised by the Sokoto State Government.

Conference called off

However, the NBA President, Olumide Akpata, on Tuesday, issued a statement calling off the conference.

“The NBA is deeply worried not just by the chilling news of the murder of Miss Deborah Yakubu, but also by the sudden and sad turn of events and the deteriorating security situation in Sokoto State,” Mr Akpata lamented.

He based the NBA’s decision to cancel the conference on “the current security condition in Sokoto,” saying “it has become apparent that we cannot guarantee the safety of our guest speakers, delegates and other stakeholders that have committed to attend the NBA-SPIDEL’s conference.”

“Accordingly, the Executive Committee of NBA-SPIDEL came to the painful decision to request, and I have approved, that the 2022 NBA-SPIDEL Annual Conference be postponed not only for the safety of our conferees and guests, but as a mark of respect for the memory of the slain Miss Deborah Yakubu,” Mr Apkpata said.

NBA opposes suspects’ charge with ‘mere breach of public peace’

The umbrella body of Nigerian lawyers in the country expressed concerns over the prosecution of the suspects in Miss Yakubu’s murder.

We are, however, worried by yet-to-be-confirmed reports reaching us that the suspects have been charged with mere breach of public peace in an episode that cut short Deborah’s life in her prime,” the Bar president said.

He said the NBA is opposed to a “banalisation of the situation”, calling on the “Sokoto State Government to immediately rethink its prosecution strategy and file charges that truly reflect the gravity of the situation.”

Security agencies must bring perpetrators of killings to justice

Detailing the spate of extra-judicial killings by criminals across the country, the NBA urged the government to “ensure that the perpetrators of these heinous acts are made to face the full wrath of the law.”

It condemned the gruesome murder of a military couple in Anambra State recently and the lynching of a sound engineer by a group of commercial motorcyclists in the Lekki area of Lagos last week.

“The government should immediately commence the prosecution of all suspects involved in these brutal and arbitrary killings in order to send a strong signal that such acts will no longer be tolerated in Nigeria.

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