Nigeria: Christian Students File Suit Against University

Bauchi, Nigeria - Three students expelled for sharing the gospel in November last year say their fundamental rights as Christians were violated by the authorities of the Abubakar Tafawa Balewa University (ATBU) in the town of Bauchi in northern Nigeria.

Abraham Adamu Misal, Habakkuk Solomon, and Miss Hannatu Haruna Alkali filed suit No: FHC/J/CS/118/2004 before the Federal High Court of Justice in Jos against ATBU. The three were students of the university in the departments of Electrical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, and Biology Education, respectively, until November last year when they were expelled for doing campus evangelism among Muslim students. The case between the three Christian students and the authorities of ATBU first came up before the court on May 12.

Emmanuel Danboyi, lawyer to the Christian students, filed a 32-point statement of claims saying the expulsion was a gross violation of the students’ fundamental rights as Christians, which also amounted to religious persecution.

According to Danboyi, the university’s disciplinary committee which investigated the case was biased because it had 10 Muslims and only one Christian on the committee. He said this contributed to the committee wrongly accusing the Christian students of blasphemy against the prophet of Islam, Mohammed, and creating a situation in which the Christian students were expelled from the university and a death sentence passed on them by the Muslims in the institution.

“The Muslim members of the disciplinary committee who constituted a majority were biased and unfair in their investigation in that they acted as accusers, prosecutors and judges in the matter in which members openly showed interest,” the lawyer to the Christian students told the court.

After Alkali, Misal, and Solomon were expelled, Muslim students attacked Christian students at the university and murdered a Christian student leader on December 8, 2004. ATBU was closed. In January, Muslim militants pronounced a death sentence on the expelled students, and the families of Alkali and Misal were attacked on January 26. (See Compass Direct, “Muslim Militants Target Expelled Christian Students,” February 3, 2005.) ATBU re-opened on February 28 under tight security and without meeting the demands of Christian leaders who sought to reinstate the expelled Christians.

Danboyi asked the court to declare, “The recommendation of the disciplinary committee contained in its report signed by Prof. U.O. Aliyu is null, void and of no effect whatsoever, in that it was made in gross violation of the plaintiffs’ constitutional right to a fair hearing.”

The Christian students are also asking the court to set aside their expulsion from the university.

Authorities of the university through their lawyer, Mahmood Sanda (Esq.), asked the court to dismiss the claims of the Christian students as the suit was not filed within the period permitted by law. However, Danboyi proved before the court that the case was filed within the time frame permitted by the law. Justice Charles Efanga Archibong, judge of the Jos Federal High Court, submitted his statement that the court will proceed to hear the case.

The court began its hearing of the suit on Monday, June 6, with Alkali testifying. The hearing continues on July 6.