Blasphemy: Echoes of Deborah Emmanuel as another woman is arrested
…for sharing video on WhatsApp group
…12 High Court Judges in Bauchi refused to sign her bail
… Rhoda’s prolonged detention violates national, international laws on human rights, says lawyer
For close to six months, Ya’u Adamu, a low-level civil servant in Nigeria’s northeast has endured the pain of watching his wife being incarcerated by the government of his State of Bauchi.
Mrs. Rhoda Ya’u, 45, has been held incommunicado by the Bauchi authorities since May 20 on allegations of blasphemy.
She was arrested by the Nigerian Secret Service in her hometown of Katanga in the State’s Warji County after she forwarded a video on WhatsApp which was considered blasphemous.
Ya’u was instantly locked up at the Medium Correctional Center in Bauchi without any trial.
As of November 1, Christian Solidarity International, (CSI) was supporting local rights attorneys to appeal the decision of 12 High Court Judges in Bauchi who denied her bail.
The mother of five risks a death sentence under the Sharia laws of northern Nigeria. The thought of this has traumatised the 50-year-old Adamu who himself was born a Muslim.
“I have known no sleep since she was arrested,” said a tearful Adamu when CSI partners visited him in Bauchi. All I want is for her to be alive and free,” he said, begging for public intervention.
In recent months, Adamu has sold all his belongings to finance a suit for his wife’s release, he said.
Our investigations have revealed Police in Bauchi has also extorted huge sums of money from Adamu, falsely claiming to have the power to free his wife.
Adamu has been living with his five children in an unfinished building donated by a Pastor in a Bauchi suburb since his wife’s arrest.
He was forced to flee his home in Katanga after large Muslim crowds swarmed over the town on the afternoon of May 20 demanding his wife’s blood.
Violent demonstrations started after Mrs. Ya’u, a staff of the Primary Healthcare Board in Warji forwarded a video to a WhatsApp group of her workplace, wherein a former Ghanaian Muslim was condemning the brutal lynching of a Christian college student – Deborah Emmanuel on May 12 in northwest Sokoto State.
Sources in Warji say Ya’u’s Muslim colleagues circulated the post, claiming she had blasphemed the Prophet Muhammed.
Within minutes, more than 200 youths armed with sticks and knives surrounded her house calling for her death according to Rev. Ishaku Dano, a Pastor in Katanga who witnessed the violence.
“They stormed her residence shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ [God is great], said Dano in an interview. “They had gone to find her at her office before coming to the house when they realised she was not there. But at that time, she was already in detention at the DSS headquarters in Bauchi town,” Dano said.
After searching in vain for their victim, the crowd, Dano said, spread throughout the town and for several hours attacked Christian residents without intervention by the Police.
“They injured at least 15 Christians including myself and burned several houses and shops belonging to Christians,” he said. “Even the ECWA Church in Katanga which I Pastor was vandalized,” he added.
The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed during a visit to Katanga on May 22 condemned the violence and promised to prosecute the perpetrators as well as compensate victims. https://www.thisdaylive.com/index.php/2022/05/22/bauchi-gov-reads-riot-act-as-violence-erupts-over-alleged-blasphemy/ But his promise was not followed with any action.
Instead, Mrs Ya’u was kept behind bars at the Criminal Investigation Department of the Bauchi State Police Command for two weeks without access to a lawyer or her family, it was gathered.
She was later transferred to the Medium Correctional Center in Bauchi on a so-called court order charging her with “inciting public disturbance, exciting contempt of religious creed and cyberstalking.”
A statement of the charges read prior to her jailing reads: “On the 20th day of May 2022 at about 1500hrs, you Rhoda Yau aged 45 years of Tudun Alheri via Warji Local Government Area of Bauchi State posted a video which despairs Allah, Prophet Muhammad, his parents and the entire Muslim community to a Warji group (WhatsApp) of Primary Healthcare Authority of Warji Local Government Area with the intent to cause the religious crisis. You, therefore, committed the aforestated offense contrary to Sections 114, 210 of the Penal Code Law and Section 24 subsection 15(b) of Cybercrime Prohibition Prevention Act 2015 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
The punishment for these offenses in the penal code law which only exists in the Muslim north of Nigeria is a maximum of three years in jail with or without a fine.
But an activist singer in northwest Kano State – Yahaya Aminu Sharif who was 2019 charged with the same offenses in 2020 handed a death sentence.
His sentence under the Islamic Sharia law was last August reversed by an appeal court which ordered his retrial. But the court ruled the Sharia law which runs parallel to the Nigerian constitution in northern Nigeria was not unconditional. https://www.reuters.com/world/africa/nigerias-sharia-blasphemy-law-not-unconstitutional-court-rules-2022-08-17/
Yau has not been tried or convicted by any court. Yet, several requests for her bail were declined.
According to Barrister Nasara, none of the 12 High Court Judges in Bauchi agreed to sign her bail as of October 13, promoting an appeal in faraway Jos the capital of Plateau State.
“We filed an application for her bail on 20th July after she was held for two months which is the maximum period permitted by the constitution for any suspect to be detained without trial,” Nasara said.
“But the application was not assigned to a judge until June 26 and by then, judges had gone on vacation. It was in August that the application was reassigned to a vacation judge who heard it for the first time on 11th August,” he said.
But after several adjournments, the presiding judge at the Bauchi State High Court 12 on October 13 ruled it was risky to release Adamu, Nasara said.
“The judge claimed her release could reignite violence and expose her to danger,” said Nasara.
Mrs. Ya’u’s prolonged detention violates national and international laws on human rights, said rights lawyer Solomon Dalyop. “The laws require that a suspect is charged to court within two days of arrest, but such is not the case,” he said during a visit to Adamu’s residence in Bauchi.
Dalyop who presented Adamu with a $500 donation from CSI regretted the family was a victim of religious persecution. The Rev’d Dano who witnessed the donation confirmed Christians who are a minority in Bauchi have for long been “dying in silence”.
“Such persecution of Christians in Bauchi is just becoming public. But for a long, we’ve been suffering and dying in silence. For you as a Christian to gain employment or school admission in Bauchi, it takes the grace of God.
“Such discrimination is displayed even by students and teachers and public schools against Christian children and no one dares utter a word. The more you try to speak, the more you fall, victim to situations like that of Rhoda, because they know they are the ones in control of the government and law enforcement. We are a minority amongst them,” he said.
Yau has been arraigned on the 19th of December 2022, and the case was adjourned till the 10th of January 2023.
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