Christian Nursing Student Apparently Kidnapped in Nigeria

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Institution had expelled her from school after Muslims accused her of blasphemy.

by Obed Minchakpu

SOKOTO, Nigeria, February 14 (Compass) -- School authorities closed a nursing institution here yesterday following the suspected kidnapping of a Christian student by Islamic militants on Friday (February 10).

Muslims students had accused Ladi Mohammed, a female student of the School of Nursing and Midwifery in the capital city of northern Nigeria's Sokoto state, of blasphemy against the prophet Muhammad.

'For this reason, the militants, who threatened to cut off her head, hunted and kidnapped her after she had fled from the school,' said John Usman, a Christian student at the institution.

School authorities closed the school for security reasons. They had already expelled Mohammed from the institution last week for the alleged remarks.

Militant Muslim students in the school had circulated a pamphlet claiming Mohammed had made a 'misguided and derogatory statement against Islam.' A Christian from the Zuru ethnic group of the state of Kebbi, Mohammed injured the feelings of the Muslims, the students claimed. School authorities did not say, however, what she uttered to elicit such a harsh reaction from the Muslim students and institutional authorities.

Alhaji Abubakar Zaki Amale, Sokoto State Commissioner of Health, confirmed the accusations, expulsion and closing of the school. The incident resulted in tensions brewing at the school, with Christian students living in palpable fear of being attacked by the militant Muslim students.

Alhaji Sa’idu Gaya, state commissioner of police, said the police command had drafted men to provide security at the school. Gaya said the school was closed to avert potential religious conflict.

“Thank God the news [about the incident] got to us in good time, and we quickly mobilized our men to the school,” he said. “It would have caused a lot of trouble if the school had remained opened.”

When asked if Mohammed was with the police, the police commissioner said, “She is not with us,” confirming fears among Christians at the school that she was kidnapped. Her Christian colleagues at the school said her parents have been searching for her without success.

Sokoto state is one of the 12 northern Nigeria states implementing the Islamic legal system, sharia. In the six years since adopting sharia, the state government under Gov. Atahiru Bafarawa has Islamized all public policies, creating room for what analysts call a rise in Islamic fundamentalism.

With an estimated population of 4.2 million, Sokoto state has witnessed religious conflicts that have resulted in the destruction of churches and the killing of Christians. Most of the state’s Muslim population is Sunni, with a Shia a minority.

The city of Sokoto is the seat of the caliphate, the official headquaters of Islam in the country.

Copyright 2006 Compass Direct