Thursday, August 25, 2016

CHRISTIAN ELDERS CHASING SHADOWS



25th August, 2016
PRESS RELEASE:
CHRISTIAN ELDERS CHASING SHADOWS


The Christian Elders Forum (CEF) yesterday descended on the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar III for describing Nigeria as a multi-religious nation. They insisted that Nigeria is a secular country.     


The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) takes exception to the stand taken by the Christian Elders. CEF is trying to hoodwink the Nigerian public by making bogus claims. We challenge the Christian Elders to show us the word ‘secular’ in the constitution.      


A secular country is one that does not recognize God or religion at all. Examples are Russia, China and other communist entities. But is that true of Nigeria? This is a country that recognizes the existence of many faiths. Churches, mosques and shrines thrive in their thousands while the Federal and State governments give official recognition to the spiritual engagements of the followers of all creeds.

To cap the edifice, the preamble of the Nigerian Constitution starts with the words, “We the people of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, having firmly and solemnly resolved to live in unity and harmony as one indivisible and indisolluble sovereign nation under GOD…”  This is an indubitable rejection of secularism. So how secular is ‘secular’Nigeria? It is sheer bunkum. We assert clearly, emphatically and unequivocally that Nigeria is a multi-religious nation.



MURIC affirms that the Sultan is right. Nigeria is a multi-religious nation. By describing Nigeria as a secular country, CEF ploy is to sustain the colonial game of Christianisation of the Nigerian structure. They are simply defending the actions of the colonial master. Based on the strategic approach of all belligerent elements and oppressors, that attack is the best form of defence, it is now in the character of Nigerian Christian leaders to be constantly on the attack.

The truth is that the British colonialists had forcefully entrenched Christian way of life on Nigeria. A few examples will suffice. Whereas Friday was our day of rest since the advent of Islam in Nigeria in 1085, the colonial master who came 800 years later (in 1842) annulled Friday (like June 12) and changed it to Sunday. Shariah was prohibited while Christian common law was imposed on us till today.


Hijab, which was an integral part of school uniforms for female students, was outlawed. Islamic Studies was trivialised while Bible knowledge was prioritized. The Christian cross was forced on us as symbol for the hospitals. The church choir gown became the officially recognized academic gown used during ceremonies in universities. It is also used by lawyers and judges in the law courts. We can go on and on ad infinitum.


Christian elders complain that Muslims are now occupying certain posts but they ignore all other sensitive positions being occupied by Christians. Were they on sabbatical in the days of former President Jonathan when General Ihejirika was Chief of Army Staff, Rear Admiral Dele Ezeobe was Chief of Naval Staff, Air Vice Marshall Alex Badeh was Chief of Air Staff? Were these people Muslims? Where were the Christian elders when all Jonathan’s ministers from the South West were Christians?


We appeal to the Christian Elders to allow their nomenclature to reflect in their actions and utterances. They should let Nigerian youths benefit from the wisdom of elders and not vice versa. We expect CEF to douse tension and not to heat up the polity. Nigeria has enough on its hands already and true patriotism demands that all hands be on deck to salvage the near-helpless situation. Let us squarely face the tangential and ignore the peripheral. Nigeria should be on our mind, not fishing for men or rabble-rousing.


MURIC salutes the Sultan of Sokoto for his self-control, unparalleled tolerance and robust appetite for moderation. We urge him to ignore all sorts of provocation and continue in his chosen path of statesmanship and responsible leadership.


Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Tuesday, August 23, 2016

JAIL BREAKS: FG SHOULD IMPROVE PRISON CONDITIONS





23rd August, 2016
PRESS RELEASE:
JAIL BREAKS: FG SHOULD IMPROVE PRISON CONDITIONS


Incidents of jailbreaks within the country are becoming rampant. For instance, 13 prisoners escaped from the Koton Kafe prison in Kogi State on July 29, 2016. Another 15 prisoners escaped from Nsukka prison on August 9, 2016, while an attempted jailbreak occurred in the Abakaliki prison on Thursday August 18, 2016.       


The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is greatly worried about these regular jailbreaks. They constitute an eloquent testimony to the porous nature of our prisons as well as the poor security arrangements in them. We lay the blame for the frequent jailbreaks squarely on the doorsteps of the Federal Government (FG), Nigerian prison authorities and the country’s slow, unresponsive and archaic judicial system.  


Poor prison conditions force prisoners to find alternatives to their predicament. Unfortunately the poor conditions are products of corrupt practices among prison officials. Prisoners are stinted of food while a large part of raw food supplied is diverted to private homes. Funds meant for the rehabilitation of prisons are siphoned to private bank accounts. The trial of Imaobong Akon Esu-Nte, an accountant with the Nigeria Prisons Service and two others who laundered prisons funds is an eye-opener in this regard.


Overcrowded prisons constitute a major cassu belli for jailbreaks. For example, Nsukka prison which currently accommodates about 500 inmates was built to house 180 inmates only. Enugu Maximum Security Prison, built in 1915 for 638 inmates now houses 1,800. Bauchi Prison which was established in 1820 with the capacity to cater for just 500 inmates now has 1,041. Koton Kafe prison in Kogi State built for 180 inmates now contains 263. Kaduna central prison, established in 1915 for 547 inmates, now has a total of 954 prisoners.


The awaiting trial factor cannot be ignored in the issue of jailbreaks. Exempli gratia, only 82 of the 467 inmates in Minna old prison are convicts. The remaining 385 are awaiting trial. Also, only 104 out of 418 inmates in the new Minna prison are convicts. The remaining 314 are awaiting trial. There are 774 awaiting trial inmates out of the 1,041 in Bauchi prison. Aba prison is the worst as only 113 of the total 600 inmates are convicts.


There is no gainsaying the fact that the above data is alarming. It is noteworthy that the mastermind of Abakaliki jailbreak has been an awaiting trial inmate since 2007. 80 inmates are allegedly insane in Aba prison due to overcrowding. Underaged inmates are kept with much older and hardened criminals for the same reason.


Kazeem Sani spent 10 years in Kirikiri prison without trial on allegation of stealing a mobile phone valued N10,000 in 2006 He was freed this year (2016). Emeka Arum who was accused of armed robbery spent eight years in Enugu prison custody awaiting trial. Kingsley Udenu spent 9 years in prison awaiting trial on allegation of armed robbery and illegal possession of firearms before he was set free in January 2016. What kind of system is this? Why does Nigeria’s culture of waste focus on its youths?


A government that cannot accommodate prisoners and detainees or arrange speedy trials for those apprehended has no moral right to arrest more suspects. Our prison system merely serves the interest of crime rings and their leaders as it provides them easy access to fresh recruits. The onus is therefore on the Federal Government to rise to the occasion.


We commend state governors and Chief Judges who have freed large numbers of awaiting trial prison inmates. Topmost among these are Niger State Chief Judge, Fati Abubakar who freed 70 inmates on Wednesday April 5, 2016 from Minna prisons; Kaduna State Chief Judge, Tanimu Zailani who released 56 inmates from Kaduna Central Prison on Wednesday March 16, 2016 and the Chief Judge of Ekiti State, Ayodele Daramola, who freed 28 awaiting trial inmates from various prisons in the state during a recent inspection visit.


MURIC calls on both the Federal and state governments to immediately embark on an aggressive decongestion programme for prisons. Nigeria is overripe for a radical prison reform. A more robust and more pragmatic legal aid scheme should also be introduced.


We reiterate our earlier suggestion for the introduction of courts-in-prisons. Courts-in-prisons system enables government to build courts inside prisons thereby bringing courts to those who need them most. This will eliminate logistic problems usually faced by prison authorities when attempting to arraign suspects in court.


Finally, policemen and prison authorities should henceforth be made accountable for delayed hearings. Policemen who are eager to make arrests and prison wardens who keep the detainees awaiting trial must be held responsible for any delay in bringing suspects to court. For example, any policeman in charge of a case who fails to turn up in court at the right time must himself be remanded in prison custody to have a taste of the pudding. In addition, such a policeman must not be promoted for the next two years.


The Federal Government should improve prison conditions. More prisons should be built to accommodate enough inmates. Both the state and Federal Governments should enter into partnership with civil society to set up probe panels for investigating all cases of awaiting trial in the country. Any inmate found to have been unjustly imprisoned must be compensated by the relevant authorities. Such compensation must be commensurate with the victim’s level of annual income. Nigeria’s democracy is a fraud if we continue to allow innocent people to suffer for years.     

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Sunday, August 14, 2016

NEW BOKO HARAM VIDEO: IT IS SHEER PROPAGANDA



15th August, 2016
PRESS RELEASE:
NEW BOKO HARAM VIDEO: IT IS SHEER PROPAGANDA


Boko Haram insurgents have released a new video in which they claimed that Nigerian military had bombed some Chibok girls. They also offered to release the girls in exchange for some of their captured leaders.   


The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) dismisses the new video as sheer propaganda. It is calculated to whip up anti-air campaign sentiments. It is a clear proof that the bombing is biting hard and hitting the insurgents where it hurts most.



Boko Haram released the video because its logistics are in shambles. It is surrounded on all sides. Its supplies are cut off. The game is up. Boko Haram should surrender instead of trying to hoodwink Nigerians with anachronistic tactics.


Boko Haram is known to have filmed its own dastardly operations. The victims shown in the video may have been victims of its several massacres of innocent civilians. The new video is nothing more than a fabrication. It is used as a ruse to escape the current pressure. It is also obvious that the girl in the video spoke under duress.


The new video is a ploy to discredit the Nigerian military. It is also calculated to incite Nigerians, particularly parents of the Chibok girls, their immediate neighbours, the Bring Back Our Girls group and the world at large against the Federal Government (FG). This may result in protests against bombings erupting in Abuja, Lagos and other key cities. The international community may also lash out at the FG over the method adopted to wage the war against the insurgents.


MURIC therefore cautions the Nigerian public and the world community not to fall into the trap of Boko Haram strategists. Boko Haram is shedding crocodile tears. We must ask the question, “When did Boko Haram hoodlums become interested in the welfare of the abducted Chibok girls?” We must not succumb to the cheap blackmail of night marauders.


Nobody should blame the Nigerian military for bombing the insurgents. Air superiority has always been used to gain advantage over the enemy, expedite military campaigns and minimize casualty particularly in terra incognito like the wide forests of Sambisa. There has also been increasing evidence that the Nigerian Army under its current leadership has been more professional and more committed to the military campaign in the North East. It has manifested all the qualities of a liberating army.  


Neither should we blame the present administration for the plight of the Chibok girls. While we admit that government is a continuum and any new administration must not only inherit the assets of the past government, it must also inherit its challenges and responsibilities, it will be grossly unfair to overlook the criminal negligence of the Jonathan administration.


Although the abduction took place on April 14, 2014, it is on record that ex-President Goodluck Jonathan refused to take action for weeks after that. The girls would have been rescued if the army had received an order for hot pursuit within hours of the abduction. But it was delayed until the abductors reached their safe haven. Jonathan, for reasons best known to him, allowed the criminals to dig in.


We advise the military to leave Ahmad Salkida (the journalist) alone. Scapegoatism is the last thing expected of the Nigerian Army in this dicey situation. The alert sent out on the journalist is suggestive of desperation. The security agencies should collaborate, exchange information via regular situation report sessions and use the intelligence gathered so far to trace the girls.


Whoever assumes that Ahmad Salkida knows the exact location of the girls is being naïve. Do you think the insurgents will be stupid enough to meet him anywhere near the girls’ hideout? Do you expect them to repose 100% trust in him? Have you ever heard of kidnappers meeting negotiators near their victim? The army must think of something else. Ahmad Salkida is not the problem. It will be unprofessional to scare the insurgents from approaching this journalist in future. We must also think of his personal safety as well as that of members of his family.


MURIC supports negotiation with the insurgents to secure the release of the girls. Exchange may also become necessary as offered by them in the new video but we must make sure that we are not shortchanged in the process. The parents have suffered enough.


In conclusion, we declare the new video as mere ruse designed to save Boko Haram from total annihilation. We affirm that it is naïve to blame the army or the present administration for the plight of the Chibok girls. We charge the military to relentlessly continue its onslaught on Boko Haram insurgents, bombings inclusive. We call on the insurgents to surrender. They should accept the military’s offer of good treatment for those who freely submit themselves.


Abdul Razaq Uthman (Acting Director)            
Shefiu Ayorinde (Public Relations Officer)                Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)


Saturday, August 6, 2016

MURIC TO NEW BOKO HARAM LEADER: LEAVE CHRISTIANS ALONE



7th August, 2016
PRESS RELEASE:
MURIC TO NEW BOKO HARAM LEADER:
LEAVE CHRISTIANS ALONE


The new leader of Boko Haram insurgents, Abu Mus’ab Al-Barnawi, has called for the killing of Christians and the blowing up of churches.      


The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) expresses total bewilderment at the depth of barbarism in the recent hate speech emanating from the leadership of Boko Haram. It is totally despicable and exceptionally criminal to target fellow products of the Adamic chromosome for annihilation. We have no doubt that this call could only have come from a twisted mind.


Islam is love, not hatred. Islam gives life, not death. It builds and does not destroy. The Glorious Qur’an only allows Muslims to fight in self-defence (Qur’an 2:190). It forbids unjust and unlawful killing (Qur’an 6:151). It compares anyone who kills his fellow man to one who kills all homo sapiens (Qur’an 5:32).


We remind the Boko Haram coercion ideologues of the moderate posture of the Glorious Qur’an towards non-Muslims. Qur’an 2:256 says there should be no compulsion in religion (Laa ikraahun fil diin).


Qur’an 10:99 completely sweeps the carpet off the feet of agents of belligerence as it declares, “So you forcefully compel people to believe in Allah? But they would all have believed if Allah had wanted it so!”


Our differences in matters of faith are therefore part of the deliberate and grand design of the Divine Creator. Allah also affirms in Qur’an 11:118 that there would still have been differences even if the whole world follows a single religion. So what is special about belonging to a particular religion if we do not share love?        



This is why Allah reminded Prophet Muhammad to limit his mission to reminding people and never to make any attempt at controlling people’s lives (Qur’an 88:21 – 22).


MURIC charges Muslims all over the world to limit their religious zeal to the true dictates of Islam as reflected in the verses of the Glorious Qur’an lest they transgress. They should leave those who reject Islam alone. Our hypothesis is that Allah did not give anyone the assignment to punish those who reject Islam.


This is reflected in Allah’s own words in Qur’an 88:23 – 26, “They (i.e. the non-Muslims) are coming back to Us and We will call them to account”. We therefore assert firmly, authoritatively and unequivocally that nobody can perform Allah’s role for Him.   


As we round up, we reaffirm our readiness to peacefully coexist with our Christian neighbours. We reject hate speeches and their authors whether from Boko Haram or the Islamic State (ISIS). The directive to attack Western interests is antithetical to the non-racial and pax vobiscum leaning of Islam.


We call on the Nigerian public and the rest of the world to separate criminals from their religion and desist from stereotyping Muslims as terrorists or their sympathizers. In this regard, we welcome the recent pronouncement of Pope Francis in which he urged the world to stop equating Islam with terrorism.


Although we are aware that Boko Haram is technically defeated, militarily debilitated and spiritually demobilized, it is not over until it is over. Nigeria’s security agencies still need to beef up security around Christian clerics and heighten vigilance in churches around the country.


Finally, we urge Muslims in the country to demonstrate solidarity with their Christian neighbours by ensuring that Boko Haram elements are not allowed to launch attacks on Christians in their neighbourhood. We have a duty to defend our Christian neighbours at this critical stage. This is the way to keep Nigeria united.


Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)