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Deborah Samuel’s Killers Walk Free But Rhoda Jatau is in Jail For Condemning Her Killing

The Nigerian judicial system is in a curious state. In May 2022, a young Christian girl was lynched in a College of Education in Sokoto, northwestern Nigeria, instigated by her speechwriter for blasphemy. Her crime? – she asked that her class WhatsApp group be just about academic activities without religious stuff.

Two males were arrested for the murder of Deborah Samuel but they were not charged with murder. They were charged with public disturbance because the police claimed the actual killers were at large, probably in neighbouring Niger Republic. Even with the flimsy charge which carried a maximum of two years in prison or a fail, the police didn’t push for their conviction. The police continually failed to show up in court and the magistrate, fed up with this dereliction of duty, threw the case out and let the accused go in January 2023.

However, the authorities who had shown sheer negligence for the cause of justice in Sokoto where active, 755 kilometres away, in the Northeastern city of Bauchi, ensuring that justice is served in the case of Rhoda Jatau who is charged with “inciting public disturbance, contempt of religious creed, and cyber-stalking”. In actuality, she just shared a video clip of the killing of Deborah Samuel to her work WhatsApp group and condemned it.

Muslims in Rhoda Jatau’s town of Katanga, Warji Council of Bauchi State were offended by Jatau’s show of empathy and called for her life. They didn’t find her, but they found six homes and seven shops belonging to Christians and burned them to the ground and injured 20 Christians.
The authorities found her. Rhoda Jatau, a mother of five was arrested on May 22, 2022 by Nigerian secret police and has remained in prison.

Efforts by local and international advocacy groups have failed to move the government of Bauchi State into releasing her. On November 27th, 2023, a glimmer of hope that Rhoda Jatau would be released sparkled. It was a “no-case submission” made before the judge. The judge refused the application and ruled that the case must be continued.

“It really shows how far extremism has permeated deeply into our institutions,” said Ndi Kato, politician and executive director of Dinidari, an advocacy group for women’s rights in the Middle Belt region. “I don’t think that has any place in our society today.”

Rhoda Jatau’s next court case is on December 19th, 2023. If convicted, Rhoda Jatau can be jailed for more than ten years. Her offence? – condemning the barbaric killing of Deborah Samuel.


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