Religious groups and rights activists in Nigeria are demanding justice after a Christian student was murdered by a mob on charges of alleged blasphemy.
A student was beaten to death on the premises of a school in northwestern Sokoto state.
The Catholic Diocese of Sokoto criticized the attack in a statement on Friday and called on state officials to catch and prosecute the killers.
Rights groups such as Amnesty International, and the Socio-Economic Rights Accountability Project, or SERAP, have also condemned the attack and are calling for justice for the student.
Police say that two people have been arrested so far in connection with the incident and they are on the lookout for others involved in the murder.
The incident took place at Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto State. Deborah Yakub was lashed, stone pelted and eventually burnt by a mob of students near the school on Thursday.
The students accused Yakub of blaspheming the Muslim prophet Mohammed during an online debate with classmates.
The dispute took place during the Muslim Ramadan holiday. But when the school resumed on Thursday, a group of students attacked Yakub.
Sen Bakare is the spokesperson for Amnesty International.
“This is not only sad but also extremely disturbing because this is not the first time things like this are happening,” Bakare said. “We have called for a thorough and impartial investigation into what really happened and we are hoping that the perpetrators will be arrested so that it can serve as a deterrent.”
The Christian Union of Nigeria blamed the authorities for failing to stop the attack. Sokoto state officials have closed the school indefinitely.
Under Nigeria’s secular law, blasphemy can carry a prison sentence of up to two years. But in the more conservative northern region where religious or sharia law is favored, blasphemy is often met with harsh punishments, including the possible death penalty.
Last month, a court in northern Kano state sentenced a Nigerian atheist to 24 years in prison for blasphemy.
Bakare said that both secular and Sharia laws violate international human rights standards.
“In comparison to international human rights law, none of these laws can stand because international human rights law guarantees freedom and Nigeria is a state party to international standards that uphold freedom of expression,” Bakare said.
Last November, the US government removed Nigeria from its list of countries that violate religious freedom.