*The situation escalated fast, the last escalation for Bala happened in 2014 when he formally renounced Islam and became an ex-Muslim and an atheist. Dr. Leo Igwe has been working hard to providing reportage and acquire international support through the relevant networks in the international freethought community with many hearing the call and acting on it – kudos to all for the support for Bala. This is a legitimate, serious case and could end in death by (religious) law or murder by social reprisal for Bala. After reading the relevant legal and rights documents brought forward by S.S. Umar & Co., who made the formal complaint against Bala, internationally on rights, there is no or very little standing. Nationally, in terms of the Constitution of Nigeria, also, there appears little standing. I won’t go into the details. However, in Northern Nigeria dominated by Islamic jurisprudence privileges, Sharia courts exist for the claims only the religious can make against the non-religious, i.e., claims of blasphemy. Many Nigerians on social media, appropriately, brought forward the comparison case of hundreds raped, thousands killed, and hundreds of thousands displaced – not to mention the financial costs to the Nigerian economy – because of Abubakar Shekau (Boko Haram leader) who claims the mantle of militant extremist Nigerian Islam (which seems to harm the image for ordinary Muslims far more than Bala), which makes the focus on this case of words online, especially in the midst of a pandemic while using public resources on it, all the more corrosive of the legitimacy of the claims against Bala.*
By Leo Igwe
Two days ago, the police arrested Mubarak Bala, President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, in Kaduna. Detectives from the Kano State Police Command went to his residence, arrested and later detained him at Gbabasawa police station. According to local sources, the police were planning to transfer him to Kano where some lawyers had lodged a petition against him. They accused him of insulting the prophet Muhammad. The police should not take Mubarak to Kano due to the following reasons.
First of all, the police will be putting Mubarak’s life at risk if they do so. The police know this. And the concern has been registered with the Force headquarters in Abuja, the AIG at the zonal headquarters, and the commissioner of police in charge of the state command. Before his arrest, Mubarak received several death threats from Muslims in Kano who were angry with his posts and writings. They threatened to kill him if they could find him. According to Mubarak, one of those who made the threats was a police officer in Kano. So are the police taking him to Kano to be tried or to be killed?
Mubarak informed me that a military officer had threatened to murder him some time ago. Following his arrest, there have been several threats from Muslims who plan to attack and kill Mubarak. These are not idle talks but unequivocal declarations of intent to shed the blood of this foremost humanist. So the threats should not be taken for granted or swept under the carpet. One of those who issued the threat on Facebook said that Mubarak would be killed if he set foot in Kano. That the police post in Kaduna where he was detained would be razed to the ground if they kept him there for more than two days. Another potential assassin, Kawu Garba stated that if Mubarak was acquitted, “We will kill him”. In the message, Garba went further to say: “Quote me.”
Now, these are not made up stories and hearsay but statements of intent by bloodthirsty individuals vying to eliminate Mubarak Bala. Mubarak informed me that these threats did not only emanate from jihadists in Kano but also from their allies in other parts of Northern Nigeria including Northern Nigerian Muslims living as far away as Saudi Arabia. They were not only male but also female.
Another reason is that Kano has a history of religious bloodletting, of ‘judicial’ and the extrajudicial killing of blasphemers. The Islamic mobs usually call the shots and determine the fate of those who are accused of blasphemy. Police investigation and prosecution of alleged blasphemers are a charade. They are usually a window dressing, conducted to placate the mob, not to uphold the rule of law and justice. There is nothing which shows that the case of Mubarak would be different. There is grave concern that Mubarak could be murdered while in police custody as Gideon Akaluka was in the 90s. Some think that while in detention, the jihadists would come in large numbers, overpower the police, burnt down the police station and kill Mubarak. The police should not pretend that they do not know that this is a likely possibility; that this has happened in the past and could happen to Mubarak.
Yet another serious concern is that if taken to Kano, Mubarak would be tried at the sharia court. Kano state has a very active sharia police. Meanwhile, efforts would be made to force him to return to Islam while in detention. Otherwise, he will be tried and if convicted of apostasy and blasphemy under the sharia penal code of Kano state, Mubarak will be sentenced to death. He would languish in jail until he is executed or returns to the Islamic faith.
Moving Mubarak to Kano is a risky and dangerous undertaking that could lead to his death. It is my submission that Mubarak Bala will not receive a fair hearing and investigation in Kano, that is if he lives to be investigated and tried.
Again, I want to draw the attention of the police that a thorough investigation could be carried out without taking Mubarak to Kano and endangering his life. Mubarak was born in Kano but does not live in Kano. He lives and works in Kaduna. Mubarak was accused of posting comments on Facebook that insulted Prophet Muhammad. Facebook is not domiciled in Kano. It is an online facility. So any crime supposedly committed on Facebook could be investigated from anywhere in the country.
In conclusion, the police should give priority to Mubarak’s safety and security; they should take the death threats seriously. The inspector general police should take urgent steps to move Mubarak’s case to a neutral place where an impartial investigation and a fair hearing would be conducted.
Image Credit: Leo Igwe/Mubarak Bala.