Nigerian student 'arrested after converting to Christianity from Islam'

A Nigerian university student who converted from Islam to Christianity has been arrested by state security forces along with the man who introduced her to Christianity, according to World Watch Monitor (WWM).

The young woman who was arrested last week is Nabila Umar Sanda, 19, a student at Bingham University in Karu, in the central state of Nasarawa. The university is owned by one of Nigeria's major churches, Evangelical Church Winning All.

While studying there she became friends with Simput Dafup, a 33-year-old Christian, who invited her to meet a local church leader, Jeremiah Datim, after she expressed an interest in the faith.

World Watch MonitorSimput Dafup, 33, and Nabila Umar Sanda, 19, have both been arrested.

Speaking to the press in Jos, the capital of neighbouring Plateau state, Datim explained that after the young woman decided to become a Christian, he immediately made contact with the local Islamic organisation, as has become customary according to WWM.

Datim said: 'Knowing the sensitive nature of conversion from lslam to Christianity, and given that between the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the [Islamic group] Jama'atu Nasril lslam (JNI) ... there is a working understanding, or protocol, that where such issues or situations arise relating to any of the two religions, the leaders of the affected religion should contact the leadership of the other religion from which the convert is coming, I immediately contacted the leadership of JNI in the state and informed them that I had one Miss Nabila Umar Sanda in my possession and that she had converted to Christianity.'

WWM reports that Datim then went to meet a JNI leader, who made contact with Sanda's parents. Datim claimed that later that day – 8 January – detectives from the Department of State Security Services 'stormed my house, assaulted my wife, daughter and eight-month-old baby, and took Nabila away'.

Dafup was arrested that same day, and both are still being held in an unknown location.

Religious conversion is not illegal in Nigeria.

Datim said: 'I want to state, for the avoidance of doubt, that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees the right to anyone to propagate his faith and the right to also practise any religion of one's choice. Miss Nabila told me she is 19 years old and therefore free to choose a religion for herself.

'After I met Miss Nabila for the first time ... I interacted with her and asked her a lot of questions about both the Christian faith and Islamic faith. Nabila clearly said that she had made up her mind to join the Christian faith and was willing to be a Christian no matter what obstacles were placed on her way.

'I understand that her father has said he has all the "connections" in this country to deal with me, Dafup and any other person found to have been involved in the conversion of his daughter to Christianity, and that he will ensure that we rot in jail. l want to state here without fear of contradiction that neither Dafup, myself or any other person that has established contact with Nabila has breached any law of this land.

'I also learnt that Nabila's father reported to the DSS that we forcefully abducted and brainwashed her into becoming a Christian. l challenge the DSS to produce Nabila and put us side by side so they can ask her if she was forcefully converted to Christianity or abducted or brainwashed.'

Dafup's mother, Lydia, also addressed the media in Jos, saying: 'The men who stormed my son's premises, heavily armed, in five...vehicles, blocked everywhere and assaulted even passers-by. It has become so worrisome for me to let you know about this, because, as I speak with you now, I don't know where my son is. Nobody has contacted me or any member of the family as to his whereabouts.

World Watch MonitorJeremiah Datim and Lydia Dafup speaking at a press conference in Jos.

She continued: 'As a mother and a widow, l am worried about the safety of my son. I beg you journalists to help me to trace where my son is please.'