Abuja, Nigeria (AP) — Nigerian authorities imposed a curfew in the northwestern state where hundreds of protesters on Saturday demanded the release of a suspect in the brutal murder of a Christian student charged with blasphemy against Islam.
Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal issued a 24-hour curfew “with immediate effect” as protests escalated in the capital amid religious tensions.
The victim, identified as Deborah Samuel, was stoned, beaten and burned at the stake on Friday at Shehu Shagari Normal University in Sokoto for “posting social media posts that blasphemed the Prophet Muhammad”, police said.
Authorities have closed schools and asked other students to vacate the building. Nonetheless, students rallied on Saturday to demand that the police release two fellow students who were arrested as suspects in connection with the murder.
The murder of Samuel, a Christian, underscores deep religious divisions in Africa’s most populous country, where violence against actions or remarks considered anti-Muslim in the past has erupted.
Even in the distant Kaduna state, about 500 kilometers (310 miles) from Sokoto, the state banned protests “related to religious activity” citing “movement of some non-patriotic elements” to organize protests over the Sokoto incident.
Christian and Islamic leaders alike condemned the student’s murder and called for the perpetrators to be prosecuted.
Nigerian President Mohammadu Buhari said: “The news of the murder of a young woman by his colleagues is worrisome and demanding a fair and extensive investigation into everything that happened before and during the incident.”