DC NGO Meets with President Muhammadu Buhari to Reverse Death Sentences

Washington, DC—This past weekend, the top Intelligence Officer in Nigeria informed the Secular Policy Institute (SPI), a think-tank and advocacy organization, that nine individuals who were recently sentenced to death by an Upper Sharia court are temporarily under the protection of the Nigerian Federal government. However, Kano State Governor Abdullahi Umar Ganduje has stated that he plans to uphold the Court’s death sentences.

The nine citizens already lost all of their possessions—as well as their reputations—when they were convicted of blasphemy last month. Known widely now as the “Nigerian Nine”, the charge was wielded because of their affiliation with the Tijaniyyah Sufi sect (which, in addition to Muhammed’s birthday, celebrates the birth of another Islamic profit).

In urgent response, SPI and its approximately 300 international coalition member-groups recently appended their names to a letter to the President, Governor, and Ambassador of Nigeria requesting pardons for the Nigerian Nine.  Numerous SPI Fellows and Advisors assisted in writing the letter and in reaching out to top Nigerian officials. Among other calls to action, the letter requests a meeting with Ambassador Adefuye to discuss how organizations around the globe can be of assistance in protecting these people, and their right to freedom of religion and expression.

The President of Nigeria is currently in Washington, DC, and met with President Obama last Monday at the White House. Edwina Rogers, SPI CEO and 20-year policy expert, was included in a meeting with President Muhammadu Buhari last Wednesday at the Institute of Peace.

“The situation is complex,” Ms. Rogers stated.  “Nigeria is organized under a Federal structure, but the States rule strongly, also.  This is why Federal security forces seized the nine individuals. Thankfully, for the moment, they are being kept safe until the Federal government can broker a deal with the Kano State Governor.”

Nigeria is Africa’s most populous country, the continent’s largest economy, and home to both its largest Muslim and Christian communities.  State law is often religious law. The electoral victory of General Buhari as President of the Federal Republic this past March was historic, as it marked the first time in the country’s history that an opposition candidate had defeated an incumbent president in a truly democratic election. But pardoning powers are still dispersed and disputed. While Nigeria has a central government and a Federal Capital Territory, it also consists of 774 local government areas loosely organized across the 36 States and under 6 different geopolitical zones.  By law, State governors in Nigeria still enjoy vast fiscal, territorial, security, and legal powers.

If you wish to add the name of your organization to the list of signatories on the pardon letter for the Nigerian Nine, please act immediately by emailing edwina@secularpolicyinstitute.net.

CONTACT: Madeline Schussel, SPI Policy Director, at madeline@secularpolicyinstitute.net, or Edwina Rogers at (202) 430-1888.