Eyewitness details brutal ‘blasphemy murder’ of Nigerian Christian student

On the day of Emmanuel’s death, Mary received a frantic phone call from her around 9 am, asking for help. By that time, women who lived in her dormitory had begun slapping Emmanuel, Mary told CNA.

Mary arrived at the campus to see her friend surrounded by a mob and being led by a campus staffer to a gatehouse building for her protection. The Muslim students had bloodied her face and head with blows from rods and were joined by male students who believed their duty was to execute a blasphemer on the spot, Mary said.

“Allahu Akbar!” meaning “God is Great” was bellowed for hours, she said.

Mary initially stayed outside the building and tried to intercede for her friend, but she said it wasn’t long before the mob turned on her, too. Within moments Mary was trying to ward off punches and blows from sticks as she backed away from the gatehouse and toward the gate of the college 40 feet away.

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Mary said a college lecturer rescued her and brought her to join Emmanuel inside the gatehouse by 10 am

At 10:25 am, the relative said, six officers of the Department of State Security (DSS) – the equivalent to the FBI in the US – arrived, firing their rifles in the air but with no effect. Five minutes later, he said, a group of Sokoto police came on the scene and fired tear gas, temporarily scattering the mob.

The above map is based on eyewitness accounts of the murder of Nigerian Christian student Deborah Emmanuel on her college’s campus on May 12, 2022. Graphic by Alexander Hunter

For about 10 minutes the police had an opportunity to disperse the mob and force their way to the gatehouse to extract Mary and Emmanuel, Emmanuel’s relative believers. But that did not happen.

By 11 am, the mob had returned to the building, holding cloths against their faces to ward off the tear gas. The mob tried hurling stones at Mary through the windows of the locked gatehouse, but Mary barricaded herself behind a table.

The mob then threw gasoline on the women through the front windows and attempted to burn them alive, Mary said.

“Deborah was soaked with gasoline, but when lighted plastic was pitched in through the windows, I quickly stamped the flames out,” Mary said.

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No escape

All of this transpired as police and DSS officers watched from a safe distance, according to Emmanuel’s relative.

The traumatized women said little to each other, but Emmanuel was still hoping to do her examination that day, Mary said. At one point, she recalled, Emmanuel asked, “What time is it? I have an examination at noon. ” Mary said she looked at her cell phone and told her it was 1 pm

After another excruciating hour of siege, the mob pushed down a single Sokoto policeman guarding the door, broke the padlock on the door, and rushed in to find Mary and Emmanuel hiding behind furniture, Mary and the relative related. Two rioters placed a chain around Mary’s neck and pulled it hard, trying to strangle her, she recounted.

“Let this girl go! She is not an offender, ”Mary recalled one of the rioters shouting. But as they released her, a young man in the mob grabbed Emmanuel and took her to the front steps of the gatehouse. There she was bludgeoned with steel pipes and wooden rods and stoned, the relative said.

Two DSS officers attempted to rescue Emmanuel but were hit by stones and pushed aside, the relative said. The police officers remained in position and did not come to her aid, he alleged.


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