Nigerian mob kills Muslim accused of blasphemy
Advocates urge authorities to punish the perpetrators
Just over a year after an irate mob murdered Christian student Deborah Samuel Yakubu over blasphemy accusations, authorities in Nigeria’s northwestern Sokoto state are responding to yet another blasphemy-charged killing.
The latest death has fueled calls to end such attacks and punish the perpetrators.
Witnesses said Usman Buda, a Muslim, was arguing with another trader at the Sokoto main slaughterhouse early on Sunday when he allegedly insulted Islam’s Muhammad.
Videos from the scene showed a crowd, including minors, pelting stones at Buda while others hit him with sticks and chanted “Allahu Akbar,” which translates to “Allah is great.” Some of his colleagues who tried to assist him were injured.
Ahmad Rufa’i, a police spokesperson, said the crowd fled when the police arrived, leaving an unconscious Buda behind. He was declared dead at a hospital. “Investigation is on to arrest the perpetrators and bring them to book,” Rufa’i said.
Buda’s colleagues and family members described him as a devout Muslim who loved learning. A witness to the incident, Nuhu Bala, told Nigeria’s Daily Trust that the argument started after some Muslims misunderstood Buda, who was talking to a beggar about using Muhammad’s name to beg for alms.
“They started throwing stones at him and stabbing him with knives,” Bala said.
The state chapter of the Muslim Rights Concern group affirmed that Islamic law prescribes the death sentence for anyone who insults Muhammad, but the group condemned Buda’s death. “Islamic law does not leave the killing open in the hands of private individuals as it happened in the case of Usman Buda,” the group said in a statement.
Nigeria is one of 71 countries that criminalize blasphemy. The country also operates as a pluralistic legal society. Criminal law applies alongside Islamic law in 12 predominantly Muslim northern states. States like Sokoto and Kano also have Hisbah police, a religious police force known to enforce Shariah law.
In 2020, a Shariah court in northern Kano state found Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Muslim singer, guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death by hanging. Sharif-Aminu was accused of insulting Muhammad in audio messages shared on WhatsApp. He remains in detention even after the state High Court and Court of Appeal overturned his sentence and ordered a retrial.
But violent mobs often don’t wait for the legal system to act on blasphemy allegations.
Last May, a mob in Sokoto state stoned Yakubu, a second-year student at a public college, after some of her classmates said a voice note she shared on a WhatsApp student group criticized Muhammad.
In January, a Chief Magistrate Court in Sokoto freed two suspects facing charges of public disturbance—but not murder—in Yakubu’s case after police prosecutors failed to turn up in court. In 2016, a Muslim mob killed a 74-year-old Christian woman in Kano state over similar accusations. Authorities also acquitted those suspects.
In a statement, Christian Solidarity Worldwide condemned Buda’s killing and the lack of progress in Yakubu’s case.
“The repeal of the blasphemy law is essential,” said the group’s president, Mervyn Thomas. “Not only is it incompatible with the country’s constitutional and international obligations, it also fuels the kind of religious extremism that leads to gruesome murders of innocent individuals following malicious accusations.”
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