A chemist owner in Kaduna State, Sani Abubakar, tells Abdullateef Fowewe how some youths in his community attacked him on September 8, 2023 for eating dog meat
Can you explain the circumstances that led to the disagreement between you and your neighbours?
My name is Sani Abubakar. I am 27 years old. I hail from the Chiku Local Government Area of Kaduna State. I belong to a group of Muslims who believe in following only the teachings of the Qur’an as our source of guidance. I use this holy book to worship God. There is nowhere in the Qur’an that says that it is forbidden to slaughter and consume dogs. On a Friday morning, September 8, I decided to slaughter one of my dogs. As word spread, people started coming to my compound out of curiosity. However, instead of trying to understand my actions, they began to stone me, labelling me as an unbeliever and claiming that what I did was against their religion and taboo in their tradition. I made it known to them that I do not worship any of them and that there is nowhere in the Nigerian Constitution forbidding such actions. Furthermore, I emphasised that we follow the same religion and the Qur’an acts as our guiding principle, and I requested them to indicate where the holy book stated that it is prohibited to slaughter or consume dogs, but they were unable to present any evidence, not even from their leaders.
What did they do next?
Subsequently, they reported to their Imam and community leaders that I was engaging in a forbidden act, insisting that strict action needed to be taken against me. Consequently, they convened a meeting to discuss the course of action to be taken. After four days, they came to my residence with the intent to harm me and my pregnant wife. They proceeded to demolish my mosque, house, and school and also stole some of my belongings. In response, I questioned whether there was any verse in the Qur’an that encouraged them to kill or destroy the property of anyone engaged in unlawful acts, which ultimately resulted in one of them hitting me with a cutlass. I made it clear to them that Islam represents peace, and all individuals practising the religion must adhere to and exemplify its true meaning. Meanwhile, I didn’t secretly kill the dog or invite those individuals with different beliefs to eat it. Instead, I shared the meal with my people who shared the same religious understanding. The Qur’an grants everyone the freedom of religion. So, I am uncertain how I offended them in any other way. So, I am curious about the reasons behind some Muslims behaving as if our religion promotes violence.
Have you eaten dog meat before? Or was that your first experience?
Yes, that was my first time eating dog meat.
Why did you choose to eat dog meat? Did you eat it to impress anyone?
No, I didn’t eat it to impress anyone, and we never discussed it before. I just wanted to try it because it is permissible according to my religion, without intending to oppress anyone or cause disruption in the community.
Were those who attacked you people you are familiar with?
Yes, they are people I know, and I never imagined that they would do something like this to me. My actions were not against the laws of the country, and it is also permissible in my religion. Moreover, some of those individuals are my relatives, and I am the one providing medical treatment to many of them when they are sick. Even the person who attacked me with the cutlass frequently visits my workshop for treatment. Meanwhile, we all grew up in the same community.
Why do you not think that you offended their sensibilities by killing and eating a dog?
Not at all. I am certain that I did not offend any of them. The individuals who attacked me were simply following the instructions of the religious leaders without considering our relationships. The leaders and their followers falsely accused me of slaughtering the dog for a naming ceremony, even though my wife was still pregnant at that time. In addition, it is against our religious beliefs to slaughter any animal for naming ceremonies, and only certain animals are allowed to be used for a naming ceremony.
You mentioned that some of the people who attacked you were your family members. Do you think they attacked you for other reasons?
No, I did not offend any of them. However, many of them dislike me because I changed my religious beliefs. I can recall a time when we all had the same religious understanding and believed in the Qur’an and the hadith. Once I realised that the Qur’an was the sole trustworthy book, I abandoned the hadith and instead concentrated on the Qur’an. None of the Muslim members can dispute or deny that the Qur’an is not the only book that God revealed to the prophet Muhammad. Therefore, I saw no harm in stating that I would only adhere to what I read in the Qur’an. The issue lies in the fact that many Muslims have now forsaken the teachings of the Qur’an and instead follow their desires. This has led to the rise of religious conflicts, particularly in the northern regions. The Qur’an, too, upholds freedom of religion for all individuals. Therefore, I am perplexed as to how I may have offended them.
I don’t think they are jealous of my success. This is because I am a poor man, lacking even basic possessions such as a vehicle, or even a motorcycle. I believe there may be other reasons behind their actions.
Where have you and your family been residing since the incident occurred?
Since then, I sent my wife and child to stay in her elder brother’s residence. But for me, sometimes I sleep in the residence of one of my friends.
Is it true that the attackers chased your pregnant wife?
Following the destruction of my school, they unlawfully entered my home and began searching for my pregnant wife, threatening to harm her and remove her womb so they would be able to kill the unborn child. As soon as I heard their conversation, I instructed my wife to hide in the ceiling with our one-year-old son. After they extensively searched the premises to no avail, they left after causing harm. I then safely removed my wife and son from the house, and we ran out of the community.
Do you report the incident to the police?
I reported the incident at a police station, where they took my statement and promised to apprehend the suspects. However, no arrests have been made so far. I have not received any updates from the police.
Do you plan to take the matter to court?
My friend’s teacher, who is a lawyer, plans to take up the case and pursue justice on my behalf. This is currently my only hope for justice.
What exactly did the police tell you when you reported the incident?
According to the police, they received information that apprehending the assailants would result in an attack on them (the police). That was the reason why they had not yet arrested them. However, they advised me to file a lawsuit against the assailants and assured me that if a court order was obtained, they would be able to apprehend them with assistance from another police division. Some community leaders are currently providing protection to the assailants to prevent their arrest.
All I seek from the government is justice. It would greatly please me if they could apprehend the assailants, punish them for their actions, and restore the properties that have been destroyed, stolen, and burnt.
How are you recovering from the attack?
I am grateful to God that I am healing because I used to have difficulty walking, but now it has improved.
How is the health of your wife and child?
My wife’s mental health was affected by the incident as she was scared since she heard that they would kill her and remove her womb. So, based on what her brother told me, she usually wakes up crying in the middle of the night. Therefore, we are planning to take her to a hospital for proper treatment.
Did your wife say anything to the attackers when they invaded your home?
I believe she did not offend any of them, as she is not from our community but rather from Jigawa. She has not been unkind to any of our neighbours, and I am certain that she greeted them politely.
I believe the individuals followed their teacher’s and leaders’ instructions because they had been taught and deceived that anyone who strayed from their religious belief was considered an unbeliever. They were also made to believe that if they were able to find and kill such individuals, they would be rewarded with entry into paradise.
How did the leaders in your community react to the incident?
Some of the community members expressed happiness and appreciation for their (attackers’) actions, as they share the same religious belief. However, there is a minority within the community who did not support them and viewed their actions towards me as acts of violence.
I seek the support of Nigerians to get justice. I also desire for my fellow Muslims to gain a comprehensive understanding of the Quran, as I believe this will positively influence the state of our nation. Furthermore, I wish for Christians to understand that Islam promotes peace, and is devoid of terrorism and violence. It is important to acknowledge that anyone who engages in violence or terrorises the country in the name of Islam is deceitful. Overall, if people grasp these concepts, it will contribute towards the betterment of the country and enhance its reputation.