Police say Deborah’s killers have been arraigned, but have they been sentenced?

Police say Deborah’s killers have been arraigned, but have they been sentenced?

By Promise Eze

In a nation where justice often feels elusive, the case of Deborah Emmanuel’s tragic demise stands as a haunting reminder of the uphill battle faced by victims and their families.

Exactly one year ago, on that fateful May 12, 2022, Deborah, a bright and promising student of the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto State, met a horrifying fate at the hands of Islamic extremists, who accused her of blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed.

Deborah’s crime? Speaking out against the posting of religious content in a WhatsApp group meant for academic discussions. Little did she know that her words would ignite a firestorm of violence and intolerance.

The echoes of her screams and the sight of her merciless beating and stoning were forever etched in the minds of those who saw the horrific videos shared on social media.

The nation trembled with outrage, demanding swift justice for Deborah and her grieving family. Civil society organizations (CSOs), Muslim leaders, and various groups, including the esteemed Sultan of Sokoto, Muhammadu Abubakar, added their voices to the chorus of condemnation.

In response, the Sokoto police command apprehended two suspects connected to the heinous crime. However, this step only fueled the anger of some Muslim youths in Sokoto, who took to the streets in protest. Their placards bore slogans such as “Release our Muslim brothers,” “Muslims Are Not Terrorists,” and “Peaceful Riot.” The tension became so palpable that Governor Aminu Tambuwal declared a curfew in parts of the state to quell the unrest.

A Magistrate Court in Sokoto took up the case and remanded the two suspects, Bilyaminu Aliyu and Aminu Hukunci, in a correctional center. The police prosecutor, Khalil Musa, asserted that they were leaders of the mob that ended Deborah’s life. Still, the defense counsel, an impressive team of 34 lawyers led by Professor Mansur Ibrahim, pleaded for bail. The magistrate, however, denied their request, ordering the suspects to be held in custody until further notice.

Days turned into weeks, and weeks into months, but the news of Deborah’s killers facing justice remained conspicuously absent. Rumors swirled, suggesting that the perpetrators had been secretly released, casting a shadow of doubt on the entire judicial process. The growing uncertainty led to a plea from a Catholic Priest, Fr Kelvin Ugwu, who took to social media, directing his questions to Governor Tambuwal, President Muhammadu Buhari, and the Nigeria Police Force.

“I am asking the Governor of Sokoto, Hon Aminu Waziri Tambuwal, please sir, where are the killers of Deborah? Have you found them? Where did you keep them? What did you do to them? And to the Nigeria Police Force, what has happened to the swiftness you normally employ in arresting people who make posts on social media you consider inciting and divisive? What did you do to the killers of Ms Deborah? Where are the killers?”

This plea struck a chord with countless Nigerians who shared the same sentiments, yearning for answers and closure. The Force Public Relations Officer, Prince Olumuyiwa Adejobi, attempted to assuage their concerns by affirming that the suspects had indeed been arraigned. However, the troubling question lingered: why was the process of sentencing taking so long?

In a nation plagued by a strained and inefficient judicial system, the prolonged wait for justice is an all-too-common tale. Delays, adjournments, and bureaucratic hurdles often leave victims and their families in a state of perpetual anguish. Deborah’s case has become a typical example.


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