BAUCHI, North-East, Nigeria – A Bauchi State indigene and a low level Civil Servant, Mr Ya’u Adamu, has cried out alleging that his wife has been incarcerated by Bauchi State Government for the past six months over his conversion from Islamic faith to Christianity.
He said his wife, Mrs Rhoda Ya’u Adamu, who is 45 years has been kept incommunicado for the past seven months on a false allegation of blasphemy by Bauchi State Government, a development, he said, he has endured enough.
Rhoda was arrested by the Department of State Services, (DSS) on May 20 and detained in the State’s Medium Correctional Centre without trial after she forwarded a video on Whatsapp which was considered blasphemous.
The embattled house wife was picked up from her matrimonial home in Katanga in Warji Local Council Area of the state.
As at November 1, CSI was supporting local rights attorneys to appeal the decision of 12 High Court Judges in Bauchi who denied her bail. It is the only hope of the mother of five who risks a death sentence under the Sharia laws of Northern Nigeria. The thought of this has traumatized her husband, 50-year-old Adamu, whom himself was born a Muslim.
“I have known no sleep since she was arrested,” said a tearful Adamu when CSI partners visited him in Bauchi. “All I want is for her to be alive and free,” he said.
Begging for intervention by the good spirited Nigerians, Adamu said, he has sold all his belongings in the recent months to finance a suit for the bail of his wife, noting that what his wife was being accused constitutes death penalty in Shariah law.
He decried that some Police personnel in Bauchi have extorted him, claiming that they could free his wife.
The father of five has been living in an uncompleted building donated by a Pastor in the suburb since his wife was arrested. He initially fled being mobbed by a swarm of Muslim crowd in the town on May 20 who demanded for his wife’s blood.
The content of WhatsApp which Mrs Ya’u, a staff of Bauchi State Primary Healthcare Board in Warji forwarded to her group was where a former Ghanaian Muslim was condemning the brutal lynching of a Christian college student, Deborah Emmanuel on May 12 in Sokoto State.
Reports in Warji said, Ya’u’s Muslim colleagues circulated the post, claiming she had blasphemed against Prophet Muhammad.
Within minutes, over 200 youths armed with sticks and knives surrounded her house calling for her death, according to Rev. Ishaku Dano, a pastor in Katanga who witnessed the violence. “They stormed her residence shouting ‘Allahu akbar’ [God is great], said Dano in an interview.
“They had gone to find her at her office before coming to the house when they realized she was not there. But at that time, she was already in detention at the DSS headquarters in Bauchi town,” Dano said.
After searching in vain for their victim, the crowd, Dano said, spread throughout the town and for several hours attacked Christian residents without intervention by the police.
“They injured at least 15 Christians including myself and burned several houses and shops belonging to Christians. Even the ECWA Church in Katanga which I pastor was vandalized,” he added.
The Governor of Bauchi State, Bala Mohammed, during a visit to Katanga on May 22 condemned the violence and promised to prosecute the perpetrators as well as compensate victims.
But his promise was not followed with any action. Instead, Ya’u was kept behind bars at the Criminal Investigation and Intelligence Department of the Bauchi State Police Command for two weeks without access to a lawyer or her family, it was gathered.
She was later transferred to the Medium Correctional Center in Bauchi on a so-called court order charging her with “inciting public disturbance; exciting contempt of religious creed; and cyberstalking”.
A statement of the charges read to Jatau prior to her jailing reads: “On the 20th day of May 2022 at about 1500hrs, you, Rhoda Jatau aged 45 years of Tudun Alheri via Warji Local Government Area of Bauchi State posted a video which despairs Allah, Prophet Muhammad, his parents and the entire Muslim community to a Warji group (WhatsApp) of Primary Healthcare Authority of Warji Local Government Area with the intent to cause religious crisis. You, therefore, committed the aforestated offence contrary to Sections 114, 210 of the Penal Code Law and Section 24 subsection 15(b) of Cybercrime Prohibition Prevention Act 2015 Laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“The punishment for these offences in the penal code law which only exists in the Muslim north of Nigeria is a maximum of three years in jail with or without a fine.”
But an activist singer in northwest Kano State, Yahaya Aminu Sharif, who was charged in 2019 with the same offences, was in 2020 handed a death sentence. His sentence under the Islamic Sharia law was last August reversed by an appeal court which ordered his retrial. But the court ruled the Sharia law which runs parallel to the Nigerian Constitution in Northern Nigeria was not unconditional.
12 Judges Decline Bail Request
Jatau has not been tried or convicted by any court. Yet, several requests for her bail were declined. According to Barrister Nasara, none of the 12 High Court Judges in Bauchi agreed to sign her bail as at October 13, promoting an appeal in faraway Jos the capital of Plateau State.
“We filed an application for her bail on 20th July after she was held for two months which is the maximum period permitted by the constitution for any suspect to be detained without trial.
“But the application was not assigned to a judge until June 26 and by then, judges had gone on vacation. It was in August that the application was reassigned to a vacation judge who heard it for the first time on 11th August,” Nasara said.
But after several adjournments, the presiding judge at the Bauchi State High Court 12 on October 13 ruled it was risky to release Adamu.
“The judge claimed her release could reignite violence and expose her to danger,” Nasara said.
Mrs. Ya’u’s prolonged detention violates national and international laws on human rights, said rights lawyer Solomon Dalyop. “The laws require that a suspect is charged to court within two days of arrest, but such is not the case,” he stated during a visit to Adamu’s residence in Bauchi.
Dalyop who presented Adamu with a $500 donation from CSI regretted the family was a victim of religious persecution.
Rev’d Dano who witnessed the donation confirmed Christians who are a minority in Bauchi have for long been dying in silence.
“Such persecution of Christians in Bauchi is just becoming public. But for long, we’ve been suffering and dying in silence. For you as a Christian to gain employment or school admission in Bauchi, it takes the grace of God. Such discrimination is displayed even by students and teachers and public schools against Christian children and no one dares utter a word.
“The more you try to speak, the more you fall victim of situations like that of Rhoda because they know they are the ones in control of the government and law enforcement. We are a minority amongst them,” he said.