THE Media Rights Agenda (MRA) has condemned incitements by religious leaders and murder of persons accused of blasphemy in the country.
MRA, in a statement by its Programme Director Ayode Longe, through its Communications Officer Idowu Adewale, called on both the federal and respective state governments to take decisive actions to arrest the situation.
The organisation said the current situation where both the federal and state governments turned a blind eye in the face of incessant calls by so-called religious leaders on their followers to kill other citizens alleged to have insulted any religion or religious figure or committed blasphemy was unacceptable and unjustifiable as incitement to violence or murder was an offence under the Nigerian law.
“Nobody has the power or right to call for the killing of another person for any reason whatsoever or under any circumstance when the person has not been charged and tried before a court of competent jurisdiction, convicted and sentenced to death for an offence that carries the death penalty.
“Anybody who calls for the killing of another person is a criminal in the eyes of the Law and should be arrested and prosecuted accordingly. We fail to understand why the Government continues to encourage and enable such lawlessness by ignoring the criminal conduct of such individuals parading themselves as religious leaders,” said Alonge in a statement made available to The ICIR on Friday.
He stressed that “the government has a duty to protect the lives of all citizens, including those who are accused of offences with an obligation to check the conduct of those who have arrogated to themselves the roles of the complainant, prosecutor, judge and jury that are quick to condemn others to death for utterances that they disagree with or even find offensive, in violation of the 1999 Constitution and the laws of the land.”
According to him, although blasphemy was an offence in some parts of Nigeria, it was not within the authority of anybody to take another person’s life or incite others to do so without the due process of the law, saying that any person alleged to have committed an offence was entitled under the Nigerian Constitution and international human rights law to a fair trial before any punishment could be imposed on them.
He said by condoning the barbaric conduct of those seeking to subvert and circumvent this sacred principle of justice, the government was complicit in portraying Nigeria before the world as a country where jungle justice was a culture and persons could be killed with impunity for alleged offences without the due process of law and without being given an opportunity to defend themselves.
MRA called on the federal government and the government of Sokoto State not to overlook the latest of such incidents in the state where an Islamic cleric, Sheikh Bello Yabo, while delivering a sermon in Hausa in a mosque in the state, reportedly ordered the murder of a young man, Isma’il Isah, who was arrested on allegations of blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed.
In his sermon, a video of which is currently in circulation, Sheikh Yabo was heard ordering the killing of Isma’il whenever he would be released from custody. Isma’il reportedly made comments considered blasphemous on Facebook in frustration over his failure to secure an appointment with a local government in the state and was arrested as a result.
MRA called on the Attorney General of the Federation and Minister of Justice Abubakar Malami as the chief law officer of the country to intervene and ensure that no harm befell Isma’il, urging that the rule of law prevailed in the handling the matter as it was his duty to do so.
It also called on the Sokoto State government to ensure that no harm befell Isma’il as a result of citizens taking the law into their own hands.