Published on 6 April 2021 in Blasphemy news

Nigeria: Bauchi man beaten to death and set alight for ‘blasphemy’

The killing of a water seller in Bauchi state, Nigeria, by local villagers after he was accused of blasphemy should serve as yet another harrowing reminder of why blasphemy laws must be repealed in the country, said the End Blasphemy Laws (EBL) Coalition today.

On 30 March 2021, a man identified as Talle Mai Ruwa, a water seller in Sade village in the Darazo Local Government Area of Bauchi State, northern Nigeria, was reportedly dragged from the police station in which he was being held, beaten to death and his body set ablaze by a local mob. 

The attack followed an altercation between Ruwa and a young woman seeking to fetch water during which Ruwa was alleged to have insulted the Prophet Muhammad. Members of the local community have indicated that Ruwa appeared to be suffering from a mental illness. Ruwa himself is believed to have been a Muslim.

Bauchi is one of 12 northern Nigerian states which operate parallel Customary and Sharia legal systems. In the case of the offense of ‘blasphemy’ the difference is striking. While Customary Law treats blasphemy as a misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison, the maximum penalty applied under Sharia law is death. In addition to handing down executions, predominantly Muslim states have frequently seen riots, violence and murder after blasphemy accusations, as in the case of Ruwa.

In neighbouring Kano state, there have been several high-profile cases of individuals facing prosecution under blasphemy laws, over the past year. They include: the case of President of the Humanist Association of Nigeria, Mubarak Bala, who has been held in detention without charge following allegations that he had insulted the Prophet Muhammad for almost a year; singer Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, who is currently appealing the death sentence; and a 13-year-old boy whose sentence to 10 years in prison was subsequently discharged.

The EBL Coalition urges the local government authorities to bring those responsible to justice, while also calling on the Nigerian state to repeal its blasphemy laws.