GOMBE, Nigeria - Christianah Oluwatoyin Oluwasesin, a teacher at Government Secondary School of Gandu in this northern Nigerian town, was in high spirits last Wednesday (March 21) as she made her way to school where she teaches government..
Soon her happiness would be cut short. Muslim students at the school, along with outside Islamic extremists, murdered Oluwasesin on March 21 over claims that she desecrated the Quran. They beat, stoned, and clubbed her to death, then burned her corpse...
Musa told Compass that Oluwasesin had collected papers, books and bags before the exam in the all-girls class, in accordance with school procedures to prevent cheating, and dropped the materials in front of the class.
"Soon after the bags collected by Oluwasesin were dropped in front of the class, one of the girls in the class began to cry. She told her colleagues that she had a copy of the Quran in her bag, that Oluwasesin touched the bag, and that by doing so she had desecrated the Quran, since she was a Christian.
" Soon after the student raised this alarm, other students in class began to shout "Allahu Akbar [God is great]."
"It was at this point that I was attracted to the riotous scene in that class, and I then rushed there," said Musa... He notified Malam Baba Musa, patron of the Muslim Students' Society at the school. The MSS patron, along with three other school staff members, went to the classroom to try to bring calm, Aluke Musa said. In the raucous confusion, he managed to rush Oluwasesin out of class to the principal's office.
"The principal left me and Oluwasesin in his office and also went there to calm down the Muslim students," he said. "Knowing that the students may soon come to this office, I pushed Oluwasesin into the bathroom in this office and then locked up the office."
By the time he had rejoined the principal and other staff members, he said, the entire school was engulfed in uproar. Muslim extremists from outside the school rushed in to join in the unrest. "They destroyed school property and were demanding that Oluwasesin must be given to them to be stoned to death," Musa said. "When we could not give in by releasing Oluwasesin to them, they started stoning us..."
"While we were thinking of ways to take Oluwasesin out of the school, the Muslims broke into the principal's office and dragged her out," he said. "The principal rushed there to save her as they clubbed her with an iron on the head and blood was gushing out from the wounded side of the head. He was pleading that they should not kill her, but they were insisting that she must be killed..."
"The principal succeeded in getting Oluwasesin up to the school gate," he said. "There was a house near the gate, and he dragged her into the house, but the rioting Muslims went into the house and dragged her out again. This time, they clubbed her to death, brought old mats and placed dirt on her corpse, and then burned the body."
Musa said he was baffled that throughout the unrest, the copy of the Quran supposed to have been desecrated was never seen, nor was it produced by the offended student.
"Whether the Quran was in the bag of that student, nobody knows," he said.
Attempts by at least four policemen to quell the unrest had failed as they had been forced to retreat, Musa told Compass. "The Muslims smashed the car of Oluwasesin, which was parked in the car park attached to the building housing the library, office and some classrooms," he said. "Her car was set on fire, and soon the entire building went up in flames."
Along with Oluwasesin's car, the school library, and other offices near the parking lot were all burned, he said. When the Fire Brigade arrived, he said, Muslims prevented firemen from coming into the school by striking them with stones.
Having killed Oluwasesin, the extremists turned their attention on Musa, who said he had been advised to leave and had done so in time. The extremists set his motorbike on fire, he said, when they realized he had eluded them.
The Government Secondary School of Gandu has a student population of about 4,000, about 10 percent of whom are Christian, Musa said.
The school has been closed down since the incident. Principal Mallam Mohammed Saddique, who was injured in the melee, could not be reached for comment, but Vice-Principal Hajiya Hadiza Ali Gombe told Compass that the situation had been brought under control. "There is no more problem," she said, declining to speak further on the issue.
All secondary schools in the Gombe metropolitan area have been shut down indefinitely to avert a spread of the crisis, according to news reports.
Authorities have arrested at least 12 students involved in the killing, according to Voice of America. A five-member committee appointed by the state to investigate the incident is due to present findings in two weeks.
In February 2006 in the neighboring state of Bauchi, at least 20 Christians were killed and two churches were burned down by Muslims furious that a Christian high school teacher had tried to confiscate a Quran from a student who was reading it during class. (See Compass Direct News, "Teacher Accused of Blasphemy in