Female Students Disappear after Muslim Assault in Nigeria
Attack is latest instance of Islamic attack on Christians at university in Kaduna state.
by Obed Minchakpu
ZARIA, Nigeria, April 10 (Compass Direct) Two female Christian students remain missing after seven Muslims, also young student women, assaulted them on March 18 here at Ahmadu Bello University in Kaduna state.
The two students were about to bathe at the womens residence, Ribadu Hall, when the Muslim women, veiled and covered in Islamic robes, emerged from a mosque and attacked, beating them until they were unconscious, said James Kagbu, a lecturer in the chemistry department at the university.
The victims, identified only as Joy and Priscilla, were treated at the university health clinic but were not seen before the university closed for a break shortly thereafter; nor have they been seen since the campus reopened on March 28. Their disappearance has raised religious tensions on campus, Kagbu said.
The beating of these two Christian students is the height of an alarming pressure on the Christian community in this university, Kagbu said. We have over the years been forced into living with marginalization and discrimination just because we are Christians.
Kagbu, who is also the universitys Joint Chapel Council (JCC) secretary, added that Muslim students under the auspices of the Muslim Students Society [MSS] have been terrorizing Christians in the university without provocation.
JCC is a Christian council that represents both the Catholic and Protestant churches in the university.
A statement issued by Vice Chancellor Shehu Abdullahi confirmed the incident and identified Muslim students as the aggressors.
Some dark forces bent on imposing a sectarian crisis within the ranks of students took the law into their hands, said the statement by Abdullahi. In the early morning hours of 18 March, a group of seven Muslim female students harassed, intimidated and flogged two Christian students who were taking their morning bath around 5 a.m. When the university security personnel intervened, the girls that did the flogging ran and hid themselves in the mosque of Ribadu Hall which is the female hostel where the nasty act took place.
Abdullahis report added that all evidence indicated that the leadership of the Muslim Students Society has deviated from a just path and has failed to properly guide its membership. Therefore, he noted, the leadership of the MSS has been proscribed, and all Muslim students involved in the incident will face appropriate sanctions once investigation on the issue is over.
Victoria Adidu of the Students Affairs department confirmed the attack on the two Christian students.
I personally counseled them, and all I can say is that they are traumatized, she said.
Adidu declined to give further details on the incident or discuss the whereabouts of the two students, saying, I do not have the authority to speak on this issue.
Anxious about the safety of their colleagues, Christian students at the Samaru campus of the university organized an open-air prayer program on March 29, but Vice Chancellor Abdullahi ordered the program cancelled.
Kagbu said the attack on Christians at the university is not restricted to students, as even lecturers have been assaulted. The irony is that these Muslim students seem to have the backing of the university authority, which is under the influence of Muslims, Kagbu said.
Christians have faced severe discrimination in employment, admissions, and housing at the university, Kabgu said. Such discrimination is calculated to break the spirit of Christians and to make them feel they are second-class citizens in their country, he added.
Kagbu noted that Muslim students issued a fatwa against Andrew Akume, a law lecturer in the law faculty, for asking a Muslim student to comply with university regulations; the students later attacked him. In the agriculture department, a Muslim student walked into a class taught by Eunice Onyilola, insulted her and beat up a female Christian student. Kagbu also noted that Professor Philip Oluwarola of the pharmacy department was questioned by the vice chancellor about Oluwarolas request of a female student to unveil her face while he was couseling her; she refused and reported him to the vice chancellor.
Kagbu said these incidents are just the tip of the iceberg of the problems confronting Christians at the university.
Muslims are employed as lecturers even when some of them have questionable qualifications, he said. Christians who have requisite qualifications for these positions are not employed, and those already in the employment of the university are sidelined.
Likewise, he said, admission requirements are usually waved for Muslim students who do not meet standards, while Christian students who have the requirements are denied admission.
The situation is such that Christian students number just 7,000 of the total student population of about 25,000 on the two campuses of the university at Samaru and Kongo, he said.
At the inception of the university, the population of Christian students was overwhelmingly higher than that of Muslim students; in fact, the population was in the ratio of 3 to 1 against Muslim students, Kagbu said. But in the past few years, the Muslim administrators in the university have adopted policies that have reversed the trend, even when it is known that Christians in northern Nigeria have the upper hand in western education, he added.
Kagbu said Muslims have been able to marginalize Christians as they have been appointed into the administration of the university by Nigeria s federal government.
The vice chancellor and the registrar, the two principal officers of this university, are Muslims, he said. They are the ones vested with the powers for employment and admission of students. Now, why would they not favor Muslims?
The issue of dress code is threatening to tear the university apart. Muslims, according to Kagbu, are trying to impose Islamic dress code on Christian students, resulting in constant harassment of believing female students.
Christian girls are being harassed almost on a daily basis, Kagbu said.
When contacted for comments about the March 18 attack, Vice Chancellor Abdullahi referred Compass to the schools Information and Protocol department.
Bitrus Galmaka, university information and protocol officer, confirmed details of the attack and promised justice.
The university administration is not happy about this and has taken steps to investigate this matter, and appropriate punishment will be meted out to the Muslim students based on the universitys regulations, Galmaka said. The senate of the university has directed that the case be investigated, and I am assuring you that justice will done in this case.