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5/13/2024 Nigeria (International Christian Concern) — On May 12, 2022, a mob of angry Muslim students stoned Deborah Samuel Yakubu to death after the second-year Christian college student was accused of blasphemy against Islam. Two years later, advocates are renewing calls for justice and demanding an official inquiry into her death.

Before her death, Yakubu allegedly shared a comment on WhatsApp criticizing posts that her Muslim classmates had shared that were related to religion. She believed the conversation was safe since it was on school-related topics.

On the day of her attack, Muslim men took Yakubu from a room at the Shehu Shagari College of Education, where she was hiding with her cousin, Josephine. Outside, a cab had been waiting to take Yakubu to the police station for her safety. The mob, however, got to her first and stoned her. People then piled tires on her body and set it on fire.

A student who had witnessed the attack shared that Yakubu’s last words were, “What do you hope to achieve with this?” Someone posted a video of the stoning online.

As the anniversary of Yakubu’s death approached once again, Esther Yakubu, an independent religious rights activist, called for an immediate investigation into Deborah’s death to help prevent further attacks on Christians.

“We must work towards creating a society where people of all religions can coexist peacefully and without fear of persecution,” she recently told an International Christian Concern (ICC) staff member.

Soon after the video of the attack circulated on social media, authorities detained two Muslim men identified in the video. In response to their arrests, protestors attacked and looted three churches and other Christian-owned stores in northern Nigeria. The three churches in Sokoto — a state in the Muslim-dominated north — were the Holy Family Catholic Cathedral, St. Kevin’s Catholic Church, and Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA). Deborah Yakubu regularly attended the ECWA.

A team of 34 lawyers defended the two suspects in court. Although authorities charged them with “criminal conspiracy and incitement of public disturbance,” the court acquitted the men after the prosecution’s lawyers failed to show up to court. Even though one man filmed himself describing his involvement in the attack in graphic detail, nobody has been prosecuted for Yakubu’s death.

The Stefanos Foundation, a Nigerian-based humanitarian and advocacy organization that advocates for persecuted Christians in Nigeria, remembered Yakubu on social media on the anniversary of her death. It also called out those who conduct extra-judicial killings based on religion and the Nigerian government for ignoring calls for justice.

“Stefanos Foundation today remembers Deborah and calls on the international community to pressure for Justice for Deborah and also ensure that such extra-judicial killings never occur again in the country,” the statement said. “All lives are sacred, and all humans have freedom to practice the religion of their choice.”

Josephine, whose full name is being withheld for her protection, recently shared with an ICC staff member how she remains disappointed with the Nigerian government’s failure to bring justice to her cousin’s killers.

Since Yakubu’s death, Josephine has faced challenges. One Muslim student threatened to kill her — simply because she was Yakubu’s cousin. Another time, Islamic militants attacked her village and kidnapped young girls. Fortunately, Josephine managed to escape. On Sept. 14, 2022, militants kidnapped her brother, and her family was threatened with further harm if they didn’t pay a ransom. Josephine fled and received help from an ICC staff member.

She told an ICC staff member that she is now safe and is living a healthy life. She thanked the organization for saving her life and her family.

“Thanks to the support of ICC and its donors,” Josephine said.

Gregory Stanton, a former foreign service officer with the U.S. Department of State and founder of Genocide Watch, also called for an investigation into Yakubu’s murder.

“This chilling testimony of Deborah Emmanuel (Yakubu’s) cousin, Josephine, demands an independent investigation by a commission appointed by the Nigerian Supreme Court,” Stanton said.

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