'Blasphemy Murder' Of Nigerian Christian Student

23 June 2022 | By Douglas Burton and Beloved John

A photo of Deborah Emmanuel's photo on her Facebook page. Emmanuel, a Christian student in Nigeria, was killed by an Islamic mob on her college campus on May 12, 2022. | CNA

Deborah Emmanuel, the Nigerian Christian student who was murdered by a Muslim mob last month, spent her final hours with a close friend who has shared exclusive details of the brutal killing with CNA.

CNA is using the pseudonym “Mary” for the woman’s protection. A Christian herself, she nearly was killed by the same mob.

Significantly, Mary’s account contradicts the claim of authorities that they attempted to rescue Emmanuel from the mob but were “overwhelmed.”

On the contrary, the police “could have stopped the murder if they had really tried,” Mary told CNA.

Emmanuel’s so-called “blasphemy murder” took place on May 12 on the campus of Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto, Sokoto State, a major city located in the northwest corner of Nigeria. The city is home to the Muslim Sultan who serves as the top religious authority for Nigeria’s 100 million Muslim believers.

Prior to the attack, Emmanuel, a home economics major who attended Evangelical Church Winning All, was bullied by fanatical Muslim students at the teacher’s college for audio statements she made on WhatsApp, a messaging platform. She credited Jesus Christ for her success on a recent exam, and when threatened and told to apologize she refused, invoking the Holy Spirit, saying “Holy Ghost fire! Nothing will happen to me,” according to WhatsApp messages reviewed by CNA.

In the aftermath of these heated exchanges, a Muslim mob attacked Emmanuel on the college’s campus. After an hours' long siege, the mob beat and stoned her to death, then set her body on fire with burning tires, according to graphic video footage posted online. Rioters later that week rampaged in a Catholic Church compound in Sokoto and attacked other Christian-owned properties.

A relative of Emmanuel’s, who said he was standing approximately 60 feet from the mob, also told CNA he believes the police could have saved her. He, too, asked that his identity be withheld for his safety.

Unarmed campus security personnel made a futile attempt to rescue Emmanuel, according to a campus security report shared with CNA. But Emmanuel’s relative said there were dozens of armed police officers on the scene who didn’t fire their weapons.

The commissioner of police in the state also said officers did not fire their weapons. However, he maintained that only 15 of his officers were at the scene, according to a report in The Epoch Times.

Bishop Matthew Hassan Kukah of the Diocese of Sokoto has strongly condemned the attack and called on Emmanuel's killers to be brought to justice.

"This matter must be treated as a criminal act," he said. You can read his full statement here.

A plea for help

On the day of Emmanuel’s death, Mary received a frantic phone call from her around 9 a.m, asking for help. By that time, women who lived in her dormitory had begun slapping Emmanuel, Mary told CNA.

Mary arrived at the campus to see her friend surrounded by a mob and being led by a campus staffer to a gatehouse building for her protection. The Muslim students had bloodied her face and head with blows from rods and were joined by male students who believed their duty was to execute a blasphemer on the spot, Mary said.

“Allahu Akbar!” meaning “God is Great” was bellowed for hours, she said.

Mary initially stayed outside the building and tried to intercede for her friend, but she said it wasn’t long before the mob turned on her, too. Within moments Mary was trying to ward off punches and blows from sticks as she backed away from the gatehouse and toward the gate of the college 40 feet away.

Mary said a college lecturer rescued her and brought her to join Emmanuel inside the gatehouse by 10 a.m.

At 10:25 a.m., the relative said, six officers of the Department of State Security (DSS) — the equivalent to the FBI in the U.S. — arrived, firing their rifles in the air but with no effect. Five minutes later, he said, a group of Sokoto police came on the scene and fired tear gas, temporarily scattering the mob.

The above map is based on eyewitness accounts of the murder of Nigerian Christian student Deborah Emmanuel on her college's campus on May 12, 2022. Graphic by Alexander Hunter.

For about 10 minutes police had an opportunity to disperse the mob and force their way to the gatehouse to extract Mary and Emmanuel, Emmanuel’s relative believes. But that did not happen.

By 11 a.m., the mob had returned to the building, holding cloths against their faces to ward off the tear gas. The mob tried hurling stones at Mary through the windows of the locked gatehouse, but Mary barricaded herself behind a table.

The mob then threw gasoline on the women through the front windows and attempted to burn them alive, Mary said.

“Deborah was soaked with gasoline, but when lighted plastic was pitched in through the windows, I quickly stamped the flames out,” Mary said.