- Nigerian evangelist Daniel Kefee* was charged with kidnapping after helping 17-year-old Christian convert to safety following death threats from her family.
- With support from ADF International, Daniel has been completely acquitted by northeast Nigerian court.
NIGERIA (20 November 2023) A northeast Nigerian court has fully acquitted Nigerian Christian evangelist Daniel Kefee* of any wrongdoing for helping 17-year-old Christian convert, Hafsatu*, to safety. In 2018, Hafsatu converted to Christianity following an encounter with Kefee.
Kefee was subjected to kidnapping charges for securing her safety in light of death threats from her family due to her conversion from Islam. He had obtained Hafsatu’s safe passage and accommodation at a Christian school residence in a nearby locale.
ADF International allied attorneys in Nigeria defended Kefee in court, submitting that providing life-saving assistance is not a crime. The court has ruled in Kefee’s favor, stating to government prosecutors that, “should the defendant have left the girl, what would have happened with her?”. Kefee was completely acquitted on 8 November 2023.
“This is an incredible victory for religious freedom in Nigeria. Christian converts from Islam in Nigeria are often denied the ability to live out their faith due to credible threats and targeted attacks against them. We are relieved that Hafsatu found safe refuge and that Daniel was completely acquitted of the charges related to helping her to safety,” stated Sean Nelson, legal counsel for ADF International.
Nelson added: “We are hopeful that this important decision will help others facing similar threats because of their Christian beliefs. No one should be persecuted or threatened with death for their faith, and we pray that all in Nigeria will have their inherent right to religious freedom fully and completely recognized”.
Hamman Ezekiel Pwana, Kefee’s lawyer in Nigeria, has responded to the ruling stating: “We are thrilled that Daniel has been exonerated and that Hafsatu can live out her newfound Christian faith freely. We thank the courts that they have recognized that Christian converts should not face threats from anyone and that it is not a crime to assist them. We are hopeful that this will set a precedent to allow Christian converts throughout Nigeria, and especially the North, to find peace and safety.”
ADF International supported Kefee’s legal defense, and advocates for the rights of all people to worship and live out their faith freely.
Persecution in Nigeria
Together with other religious minorities in Nigeria, the persecution of Christians in Nigeria is especially severe. Worldwide, over 5,500 Christians were killed for their faith last year. Of those, 90% were Nigerian.
ADF International is supporting the legal defense of Nigerian musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Sufi Muslim sentenced to death by hanging for sharing song lyrics that were deemed “blasphemous” on WhatsApp. With the support of ADF International, Sharif-Aminu is appealing his case to the Supreme Court of Nigeria in the hopes of overturning the death penalty blasphemy laws in Nigeria. Sharif-Aminu, imprisoned for over three and a half years to date, is awaiting his appeal.
The criminalization of blasphemy in Nigeria carries with it dangerous implications for the country as a whole. In a country of more than 200 million, split nearly evenly between Christians and Muslims, blasphemy laws are a significant driver of societal tensions. These laws punish the innocent for expressing their beliefs, silence people from sharing their faith, and perpetuate societal violence.
Blasphemy accusations also can lead to brutal mob violence. In May 2022, Christian student Deborah Emmanuel Yakubu was stoned and beaten to death, and her body burnt, by her Muslim classmates in Sokoto State after they accused her of blasphemy for thanking Jesus for helping her pass an exam. Another Christian woman, Rhoda Jatau, condemned the violence against Yakubu on social media, and subsequently faced death threats, mob violence, and is now imprisoned awaiting her own blasphemy trial. ADF International is supporting Jatau’s case.
Recently, ADF International, along with other religious freedom advocacy organizations, appealed to the United Nations on behalf of Yakubu and Jatau. In response, UN experts sent a joint allegation letter to the Nigerian government, highlighting the danger of blasphemy laws as a violation of international human rights.
*names changed for security reasons