Abuja, Nigeria –
Nigerian authorities have ordered a curfew in a northwestern state where hundreds of people protested on Saturday demanding the release of suspects in the brutal murder of a Christian student accused of blasphemy against Islam.
Sokoto state Governor Aminu Tambuwal has imposed a 24-hour curfew “with immediate effect” as protests in the state capital escalated amid religious tensions.
The victim, identified as Deborah Samuel, was stoned, beaten and burned alive on Friday at the Shehu Shagari College of Education in Sokoto state after being accused of “making a social media post that blasphemed … against the prophet Muhammad,” police said.
The authorities closed the school and asked other students to leave the premises. However, on Saturday the students demonstrated to demand that the police release their two fellow students detained as suspects in connection with the murder.
The killing of Samuel, a Christian, highlights the deep religious divide in Africa’s most populous country, where violence has erupted in the past in response to actions or comments deemed anti-Islamic.
In far-flung Kaduna state, some 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Sokoto, the state government has also banned protests “related to religious activities,” citing “movements by some unpatriotic elements” to stage a demonstration over the Sokoto incident.
Christian and Muslim leaders alike condemned the student’s murder and called for the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari “said the news of the young woman’s murder by her fellow students was cause for concern and demanded a full and impartial investigation into everything that happened before and during the incident,” according to a statement from a spokesperson.