Date: November 1, 2023
Religious Liberty Prayer Bulletin | RLPB 717
NIGERIA: BLASPHEMY IN BAUCHI
By Elizabeth Kendal
On 27 November 2023 a court in Bauchi State, in Nigeria’s North East Region, will rule on a ‘No-Case Submission’ filed by lawyers defending Mrs Rhoda Ya’u Jatau. The Christian healthcare worker – who is married with five children – has been detained without trial, held incommunicado, since her arrest in May 2022 on vexatious charges of blasphemy and incitement. While the prosecution has closed its case, the defence has not even been heard, because each time Jatau’s lawyers apply to make their case – i.e. that there is no case – the court postpones the hearing. Solomon Dalyop Mwantiri, a human rights activist from Plateau State, who travelled to Bauchi to monitor proceedings on 20 September, told Christian Solidarity International (CSI, 28 Sep): ‘The postponement[s] appears to be a tactical delay to keep Jatau in continued remand. A religious agenda of Christian persecution is being played out in this case.’ On 4 August multiple human rights advocacy organisations protested the situation in a joint letter to the Nigerian government. The letter was only made public in early October after the 60-day confidentiality period expired and the Nigerian government still had not responded. On 16 October Judge Fatima Jibrin ruled that the defence’s ‘No-Case Submission’ will be considered on 27 November.
green circle = Warji LGA.
(click on map to enlarge)
Mrs Rhoda Ya’u Jatau (45) is a resident of Katanga, Warji Local Government Area (LGA), Bauchi State – a Sharia state, the population of which is around 85 percent Muslim. Jatau was arrested on 20 May 2022 after she forwarded a video to a closed WhatsApp group for staff at the Primary Healthcare Board where she worked. In the 2:26 minute video, a Ghanian man (a convert to Christianity) condemns the horrendous 12 May 2022 mob lynching by Muslims in Sokoto (in Nigeria’s far north-west) of Christian student Deborah Emmanuel [see RLPB 645, Nigeria: Horrific killing; Pivotal case, 18 May 2022]. Enraged by the video, Muslim staff accused Jatau of blasphemy and mobilised local youths against her. Intending to kill Jatau, but unable to find her, the 200-strong mob instead spread out to loot and burn Christian homes and businesses throughout Katanga. At least 15 Christians were injured, the ECWA (Evangelical Church Winning All) church was vandalised, and Jatau’s family was forced into hiding [see RLPB 646 (25 May 2022)]. Jatau’s husband, Adamu (50), has sold all his belongings to finance his wife’s legal defence.
Rev. Ishaku Dano, who oversees the ECWA church in Katanga, told Sahara Reporters in December 2022: ‘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.’
Judges overseeing Jatau’s case have repeatedly refused to grant bail on the grounds that Jatau’s release would likely trigger a fresh wave of destructive Islamic rioting. Human rights attorney Solomon Dalyop Mwantiri told TruthNigeria (17 Oct) that if, on 27 November, the No-Case Submission is successful, then Mrs Rhoda Jatau would be acquitted and released in what would be a great win for religious freedom in the country. However, if the submission is rejected, then Jatau could remain in jail indefinitely. Acutely aware of the pivotal nature and high stakes of this case, Dalyop is appealing ‘for prayers and the intervention of all advocates of religious freedom around the world’.
PLEASE PRAY THAT OUR MERCIFUL GOD WILL:
- sustain and protect Mrs Rhoda Jatau, her husband Adamu and their five children, along with all those who are working to secure justice and liberty in this case, and Christian freedom and security in the state. May the Lord provide their every need and keep them safe.
‘fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.’ [see Isaiah 41:10-13 ESV]
- intervene for justice in the case of Mrs Rhoda Jatau. May the defence’s No-Case Submission be heard and accepted; may the vexatious charges against Mrs Rhoda Jatau be dropped so that she might be freed from prison and reunited with her family.
- intervene for peace and security in Northern Nigeria’s Bauchi State. If it be the case that intolerant elements do incite unrest and violence against Christians, may the Lord step in to defend, help and fight for his people. May the police have courage to uphold the law and maintain civil order, for the sake of Bauchi’s minority Christians, who have long ‘been suffering and dying in silence’. Lord have mercy!