Authorities also closed the school indefinitely, in a bid to calm broken nerves in parts of Nigeria where residents have in the past reacted violently to actions or comments deemed anti-Islamic.
Samuel’s assassination has caused outrage and outrage among many Nigerians on social media.
The incident highlights the deep religious tensions in Africa’s most populous country, which is almost equally divided between Christians in the south and Muslims in the north. An atheist was sentenced in April by a court in the northern state of Kano to 24 years in prison for a social media post proving blasphemous against Islam.
Witnesses say Samuel, a second-year college student whose age has not been made public, was immediately attacked by his colleagues after he criticized a religion-related post on a WhatsApp group of students.
Basharu Guawa Isa, a resident of Socoto and a human rights activist, said he was “outraged” by the way Muslims were talking about Islam in that WhatsApp group, which forced him to say some un-Islamic things against the Prophet Muhammad.
School authorities quickly deployed security personnel to protect Samuel, but they were overpowered by angry youths.
“Students forcibly removed the victim from the school authorities’ security room, killed him and set the building on fire,” said Sanoki Abubakar, a spokesman for Sokoto police.
A video of the incident was posted on social media and verified by the Associated Press, Samuel was found lying on the ground when he was stoned and beaten with a plank. Then the youths around him threw tires on him and set him on fire.
Abubakar said two students involved in the incident had been arrested while an investigation was underway under the direction of Sokoto Governor Aminu Tambuwal.
“The suspects have been spotted in a viral video on Twitter and will be identified soon,” he said.