By Leo Igwe
A 23-year-old Christian barber, Elijah Ode, from Benue state in Central Nigeria has been arrested for blasphemy in Abdullahi Umar Ganduje OFR . Smith Akoko posted some information about the arrest on Facebook. The post states:
YOUNG BENUE BARBER DETAINED IN KANO FOR ALLEGED BLASPHEMY
By Smith Akoko
Elijah Ode, a resident of Kano from Adum East, Obi LGA of Benue State, who combines barbing with studies and is domiciled in the Sabon Gari town of the state was reported to have been in the net of Islamic religious extremists, who believe he has committed blasphemy in the cause of his work as a barber.
Report says Elijah, who is well patronized by young people for possessing exceptional skills in trendy haircuts, attracted the wrath of the extremists last week Wednesday when two of his customers were tortured to stupor for designs claimed to be blasphemous to the Islamic religion.
Thereupon, Elijah was traced to his barbershop, where he was arrested for complicity and has been in Police detention with the two customers since last week.
According to information obtained from his cousin, Mr. Sunday Ukenya, the young barber did not design the hairstyles to provoke. He said he was only being innovative doing his work, as usual, to eke a living and pay his fees at his tertiary institution of study in Kano, where he sponsors himself. Ukenya also added that the case is already in the court of law at the wish of the aggrieved Muslims with the first session being yesterday. He expressed sadness, however, that all efforts by the young barber’s lawyer to bail him proved abortive for the claim that it is a major case and is as a result not bailable. At the moment the family has run out of hope, soliciting intercessory prayers as the reality of incarceration stares Elijah in the face. And indeed, jamesibechi.com can confirm that unless prayers are offered or reputable human rights activists from across the globe rise for the defenseless self-sponsored young barber, the reality may be undesirable but inevitable.I have spoken with Smith Akoko and Sunday Ukenye and they confirmed the story. Islamic police in Kano arrested and detained Ode last week in connection with a hairstyle which they deemed an insult to Islam. Ode’s barbing shop is located at Aba road by Igbo road at Sabon Gari in Kano. Mr. Ode’s case came up for hearing at a magistrate court at Jedi Jedi, along court road on Monday, February 1, 2020. But the magistrate refused Mr. Ode and other accused persons bail. The court adjourned the case to Thursday, February 4. Nobody knows the prison where they are kept at the moment. It is not certain that the accused persons will be granted bail at the end of the hearing tomorrow. If some pressure is not brought to bear on the Kano state government, Elijah Ode and other accused persons would languish in jail. There has been a growing number of allegations of blasphemy in Kano. The Islamic police, Hisbah are often behind these arrests and the Kano state government turns a blind eye to these abuses. Kano is an Islamic stronghold and Muslims in the state take advantage of their number and political power to oppress, harass and abuse minorities with impunity. When sharia law was introduced in Kano in 1999, the Muslim establishment stated that the Islamic law would only apply to Muslims. Incidentally, that has not been the case. As the case of Mubarak Ode, Mubarak Bala and other non-Muslims accused of blasphemy have illustrated, sharia is being enforced on non-Muslims in Kano and other Muslim majority states in northern Nigeria. Blasphemy law is incompatible with human rights and civilized values. It is a weapon for religious oppression and persecution. Free Elijah Ode. Free Mubarak. Free all persons accused of blasphemy in Kano! Repeal all blasphemy laws.
Leo Igwe chairs the Board of Trustees for the Humanist Association of Nigeria