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The gruesome murder of Deborah Yakubu; just like Abdullar Umaru in 1999

This is exactly what happened to Abdullar Alhaji Umaru on the 14th day of July 1999. Here is the gist of what happened in that case as decided by the Supreme Court in SHALLA v. STATE (2007) LPELR-3034(SC).

One man called Abubakar Dan Shalla and five of his friends heard that Abdullar insulted the Prophet (SAW). According to Shalla, he told the police what happened as follows:

“On Wednesday 14/7/99 at about 2000hrs after
Isha’I prayers, I sat down at the frontage of Mosque at Faransi Area of Kardi then one Musa Yaro of Kardi came and met me with an information that, someone abused Prophet Mohammed at Randali Village which he is not sure, but he will try to find out at Randali.

On hearing that, I stood up and went inside my house and carried knife along with me, and I moved to Randali. On reaching there, I went straight to one Shugaban Samari for confirmation about the abusing of Prophet Mohammed and he assured me that, the issue is true, and that there were witnesses to testify but he did not tell me the kind of abuse. And from there, I heard someone saying, that Abdullahi Alh Umaru who abused the Prophet had been arrested at Kardi, then I quickly went back and met Abdullahi.

As they returned back from the Village Head’s house, Musa Yaro made some quotation in Risalah which means that whoever abused Prophet Mohammed shall be killed, then people started beating Abdullahi Alh. Umaru, and Mohammed Sanibmatcheted him and he fell down, then I removed the knife that was in my possession with my right hand and slaughtered him “deceased” just along Randali-Kardi Road near a burial ground of Kardi. And we all dispersed.”

Shalla and his five friends were charged for murder or culpable homicide before the trial Judge, Ambursa, J. on 24-02-2000 of the Kebbi State High Court.

They were found guilty of murder and sentenced to die by hanging. They appeal to Court of Appeal and failed. They further appealed to Supreme Court.

Here is an interesting pronouncement by My Lord the Justice I. T. Mahmud JSC who is now the Chief Justice of Nigeria. He said:

“Islamic religion is not a primitive religion that allows its adherents to take the law into their own hands and to commit jungle justice. Instead, there is a judicial system in Islam which hears and determines cases including the trial of criminal offences and anybody accused of committing an offence against the religion or against a fellow Muslim brother should be taken to the court (either a Sharia or a secular/common law court) for adjudication. It is only when a person is convicted and sentenced by a court of law that he will be liable to a punishment which will be carried out by an appropriate authority (i.e. the prison)”

He further stated that:
Although it is true that there is the provision in Risala which prescribes the punishment of death on any Muslim who insults the Holy Prophet such punishment can only be imposed by the appropriate authority (i.e. the court) rather than by any member of the society whether a Muslim or otherwise.

The relevant provision can be quoted from “Risala (treatise on Maliki law)” translated and annotated by Joseph Kenny – Chapter 37 at paragraph 37.19 page 173 as follows- ‘If someone speaks disrespectfully of the Messenger of God (sabb-an-nabiy) he should be put to death without accepting his repentance.’

The chapter begins with the following passage which is instructive- ‘37.01 No one may be put to death for homicide unless he is convicted by –
(1) adequate testimony (bayyinat) or
(2) his own admission (lgrar), or
(3) as sworn indictment (qasama) If that is necessary … ‘ (italics and brackets supplied for emphasis)

It is also pertinent to note that the next immediate chapter following chapter 37 (i.e. chapter 38) in the Risala provides for “judgment” Procedure and Access.” In this subsequent chapter, it is made very clear that decisions on cases including criminal cases are the function of Judges who observe the court procedure and whose actions or decisions are based on testimony or evidence (bayyina) admission (Iqrar) or oath (Yamin) – see Aththamarud Dani (Commentary on Risala) pages 604-707…

All my above explanations of the rule in Risala relied upon by the appellants in their action show that it is the Judge (who is qualified to adjudicate) or the court of law whose responsibility is to apply the judgement.

He further stated that the Accused persons “were merely a bunch of bloodthirsty and militant or religious fundamentalists who were all out to satisfy their vindictive zeal against the deceased.”

He concluded that “In my view, it is the appellants rather than the deceased who committed an offence against Islamic or Sharia by their unjustified action which represents to the public that Sharia is an uncivilized and primitive system which allows or permits the killing of people without complying with the due process of law.”

On the above view, Shalla and his friends that killed Abdullar on the allegation of insulting the Holy Prophet were sentenced to die by the Supreme Court.

Each of them narrated fully the role he played. The 3rd accused admitted striking the deceased with a matchet on the neck, the 5th accused admitted slaughtering the deceased with a knife, the 6th accused admitted holding and pulling the deceased to the last destination, the 1st accused admitted giving the authority to kill the deceased while the 2nd and 4th accused admitted going up and down to ensure that the deceased was punished. They were all sentenced to death.

This should be the fate of all those who actively or passively support the murder of Deborah Yakubu in Sokoto in line with the above decision of the Supreme Court.

By: Pius Danba

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