Wednesday, June 14, 2017

HAJJ FARE HIKE: DON’T BLAME NAHCON



14th June 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
HAJJ FARE HIKE: DON’T BLAME NAHCON        

This year’s hajj fare of N1.5 million announced by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has been generating ripples. Prospective pilgrims have wondered why the fare is higher than that of 2016. They have therefore called for a reduction. Other stakeholders have called on the Federal Government (FG) to subsidise hajj fare.        

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) considers the ensuing controversy unnecessary, uncalled for and a sheer waste of saliva and misuse of calories. The suspicion, distrust and allegations leveled at NAHCON are equally products of misinformation.

Our investigations reveal that 98% of the services rendered by NAHCON in Saudi Arabia are determined in US dollars. Although 2016 official exchange rate was N197, recession and the attendant fall of the naira forced 2017 official exchange rate to N305. Whereas a pilgrim needed just $4,003 in 2016, his need in 2017 has risen to $4,805.


Now, if we multiply $4,805 by N305, what we will get is N1,465,525 (approximately N1.5m). This is why NAHCON has pegged the 2017 hajj fare at N1.5 million. Further investigation has also revealed that air ticket from the North is $1,600 while that of the South is $1,700. Furthermore, the cost of accommodation in Makkah is $933 while that of Madina is $430. These are easily verifiable.


MURIC opposes further subsidy for hajj this year for three reasons. Firstly, FG has already subsidized 2017 hajj because the official exchange rate is N368 whereas FG allowed N305. Pilgrims would have had to pay N1,768,240 (approximately N1.8m) at the prevailing bank rate of N368 per dollar if FG had not subsidized at all.


Secondly, Nigeria is in recession and Nigerian Muslims must be prepared to make sacrifices as government cannot afford to play the prodigal son at a time like this. About N34b would be needed to subsidise if pilgrims were to enjoy the 2016 rate of N197 per dollar but this cannot be rationalized in the face of the current recession.


Thirdly, every special concession granted to Muslims is most likely to become a subject of controversy as Christian groups are most likely to challenge FG for taking such an action. We must take the diverse character of our country into consideration at all times.


It is clear from the above details that it is highly naïve to blame NAHCON for the increase in hajj fare. Neither can FG or the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) be blamed. The major correlate which determines hajj fare is the exchange rate.


The options before us, therefore, are: one, to ask the National Assembly (NASS) to wade in and lobby for more concession; two, to appeal to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to intervene executively and secure a reduction for Muslim pilgrims and, three, to enlighten prospective Muslim pilgrims and face the reality. The state of the nation’s economy has automatically knocked off the first two options and unless we want to rely on primordial sentiments, option number three seems the best in the present circumstance.


MURIC is therefore constrained to drum the doctrine of manistata‘a ilayhis-sabiil into the medulla oblongata of 2017 intending pilgrims in particular and all Muslim faithfuls in general (manistata‘a ilayhis-sabiil means hajj is for Muslims who have the means). This means hajj is not mandatory on those who do not have the money to perform it but it becomes compulsory once a Muslim has the means. But does a Muslim who has the money to perform hajj need government’s subsidy or sponsorship? The answer is capital ‘NO’.


A radical interpretation of the doctrine of manistata‘a ilayhis-sabiil will render borrowing from other sources to perform hajj or compelling government to subsidise the cost of hajj absolutely unnecessary. However, subsidies and outright sponsorship of citizens on hajj may be rationalized in an Islamic Republic but Nigeria is not one.


Nigeria has always been among countries with the largest number of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia every year. Of more than 2 million Muslims from 183 countries who performed hajj in 2016, Nigeria had 76,000. But how many out of this number contribute anything to the growth, development and welfare of the Ummah back home?


That is why we want FG to hands off hajj affairs in Nigeria. FG must allow the Muslim Ummah to determine its own destiny. If Muslims are to succeed in becoming owners of Islamic schools, universities, hospitals, libraries, halal hotels and other halal investments, every intending pilgrim must be compelled to pay a particular amount to the coffers of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) before they leave for hajj. Those going for ‘Umrah should pay something higher.


MURIC reiterates the need for FG and state governments to stop sponsoring Muslims on hajj. It is counterproductive because it has been abused severally. Politicians have hijacked it. They sponsor political thugs, hoodlums, riffraffs, mistresses and prostitutes who may not even be Muslims. This category of ‘pilgrims’ become recalcitrant in Saudi Arabia. Some members of the National Assembly also abuse it by seizing those priviledges meant for hajj officials. This practice should cease forthwith as MURIC is poised to monitor the procedure with the aim of identifying NASS members who engage in this immodest behavior. Enough is enough.


As we round up, we reaffirm our belief that it is time to correct misconceptions about hajj among Muslims. Hajj is once in a lifetime but we ignore this principle and rush to Saudi Arabia almost every year. ‘Umrah (lesser hajj) is not compulsory but we force it on ourselves as an annual ritual. We must open a new leaf. Gone are the days when anything goes. We must do what is right at all times.


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

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

STOP PROVOCATIVE UTTERANCES, PROTECT NON-INDIGENES



13th June 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
STOP PROVOCATIVE UTTERANCES, PROTECT NON-INDIGENES    

There has been palpable tension in Nigeria in the past week as regional separatist groups issue threats and eviction orders. Reacting to vituperations, insults, abuses and hate speeches emanating from the Nnamdi Kanu group particularly on Radio Biafra, Arewa youths issued a 90-day quit notice to Igbos residing in the North.

Although Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State quickly issued an arrest order on the leaders of the Arewa youths, IPOB leaders reacted by ordering Igbo people to immediately embark on an exodus out of the North. A similar quit notice issued by a Yoruba group to the Igbos was quickly countered by another Yoruba group.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) regards these ugly developments as ominous signs. We condemn all quit notices issued by separatist groups to their fellow Nigerians of other ethnic groups. It is rash, parochial and unpatriotic.

However, we commend Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State for his proactive directive issued to protect Igbos living in his domain. Also worthy of commendation is the Inspector General of Police who issued orders for the arrest of Arewa youths behind the issuance of quit notice to Igbos in the North. In the same vein, the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdul Mumin Kabir who pledged to protect Igbos with the last drop of his blood, deserves encomiums not only from Nigerians but also from the international community.


We appeal to other emirs in the North to follow the example of the Emir of Katsina. Other efforts aimed at dousing tension should also be embarked upon. Imams throughout Nigeria but with emphasis on the North should preach the golden ideals of peace and unity on the minbar every Friday while Christian clerics do the same on the pulpits every Sunday.

While the visit of the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Ralph Uwazuruke, to Kaduna for a dialogue with Northern leaders facilitated by Al-Mustapha is heartwarming, the silence of governors of the Eastern states is disturbing. We expect governors and traditional rulers from that axis to be more proactive. Statements similar to those issued by the governor of Kaduna State and the Emir of Katsina will go a long way in dousing tension nationwide. Governors and traditional rulers in the South West should do the same thing.

We invite Nigerians to be wary of being used by looters and disgruntled politicians who, having been frustrated by the altruistic, business-like and result-oriented actions of the present administration, are bent on plunging the nation into war. We remind discerning citizens of the serial threats publicly issued by certain people to the effect that they would destroy Nigeria if ex-President Goodluck Jonathan did not win the 2015 presidential election. Only a people suffering from collective amnesia will allow such threats to become a reality.

While we acknowledge the progress being made by the Federal Government (FG) in ensuring the security of lives and properties (e.g. Boko Haram has been technically defeated); creating jobs for the teeming army of unemployed youths (e.g. N-Power programme); plugging loopholes through which looters steal our common patrimony (e.g. introduction of the Single Treasury Account and the ongoing war against corruption) and addressing the complaints of regions and ethnic groups (e.g. the commencement of the dredging of the Niger and the cleaning of environmentally devastated Ogoniland) we urge FG to accelerate its social welfare packages some of which are already manifesting encouraging results and address other perceived cases of marginalization of certain sections.

The above efforts being made by FG speak eloquently of its acceptance of the ideals of restructuring. In our opinion, restructuring is synonymous with good governance. We are restructuring if projects long abandoned in certain sections of the country are given attention, if new reform bills are being introduced and signed into law and if the general welfare of the Nigerian people is being addressed.

MURIC appeals to the Fouth Estate of the realm to play a proactive, mature and responsible role in ensuring peace and unity in the country. We advise both the print and electronic media to downplay divisive utterances and hate messages. The press should not forget that as a crucial partner in governance, it has a duty to join hands with the government in building a stable, secure and progressive society.

We appeal to Nigerians generally to have a change of mindset. We must think positively about our great country. Balkanisation is not the answer. Neither is war a better alternative. War does not determine who is right, it only reveals who is left at the end. Those who started it can never be sure how it will end. Nigeria lost one million people in the Civil War of 1967 – 1970.

We should remember Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 800,000 people died in Rwanda.  Sierra Leone lost 500,000. The toll in Liberia’s first war was 600,000. The second war recorded a casualty figure of 200,000. Those are small countries with limited population. Nigeria’s population hit 193 million by December 2016. Which country can contain us if we turn ourselves into refugees?  

Finally, we call on the security agencies nationwide to be on alert and to nip in the bud any attempt at disturbing the peace. We all need each other.  

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

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

REVOKE SHAMSUDEEN BALA’S PERMISSION FOR HAJJ



8th June 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
REVOKE SHAMSUDEEN BALA’S PERMISSION FOR HAJJ    

A Federal High Court in Abuja yesterday granted the son of former Federal Capital Territory (FCT) minister, Shamsudeen Bala, permission to travel for ‘Umrah (lesser hajj). Bala is standing trial on charges of money laundering to the tune of N1.2 billion.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) denounces the permission granted the accused. The trial judge has been misled. It is a miscarriage of justice and undue indulgence. Permission to travel abroad is usually given to accused persons on medical grounds. Religion is not strong enough as reason for granting an accused person leave to travel outside the country. 


This is a flimsy excuse. The accused is not even going for hajj (pilgrimage) but for ‘Umrah which is lesser hajj. It is rather unfortunate that Nigerians engage in reckless abuse of religion and hide behind it to commit atrocities.


Whereas hajj is the last of the five pillars of Islam, Nigerian Muslims make it their first priority. Whereas hajj is compulsory only once in a life time, Nigerian Muslims compel themselves to go every year. Whereas the Qur’an makes it explicitly clear that hajj is only compulsory on those who have the wherewithal (Glorious Qur’an 3:97), even poverty-stricken Nigerian Muslims bend over backwards to look for money by all means to travel to Makkah. It is only hajj officials who should be permitted to go annually.


This is an aberration and it is an area the Nigerian authorities should focus on. Efforts should be geared towards proper education of Nigerians about their religions. Inadequate or improper knowledge about one’s religion is what usually leads to wrong perception, religious extremism, violence and terrorism.


Whereas ‘Umrah is not compulsory, thousands of Nigerian Muslims throng to Saudi Arabia to perform it every year. Many of them repeat the same exercise on an annual basis even though it costs no less than one million naira for each person. This constitutes serious drain on the nation’s foreign exchange while it boosts Saudi Arabia’s economy.


MURIC therefore finds no justification whatsoever for somebody who is on trial for money laundering to seek permission to go on ‘Umrah and for that frivolous request to be granted. It is sheer misplacement of priorities. Although Shamsudeen Bala remains innocent until he is found guilty, it appears the accused is being unduely rewarded for having the temerity to steal Nigeria’s money.


That N1.2 billion which is in contention will go a long way in ameliorating the sufferings of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East or pay the tuition fees of hundreds of indigent students in Nigerian universities. N1 billion is N1 million in one thousand places and we are talking of N1.2 billion, not just N1 billion. It is a fabulous amount of money in a country where the minimum wage is a paltry N18,000 and many Nigerians do not know what they will eat tomorrow.


The average Nigerian lives on less than $1 per day. Our per capita income is less than $300. Nigeria is the 26th hungriest country in the world. We are the 20th poorest nation yet the most ‘fantastically corrupt’.


Bala should thank Allah that he is not behind bars. He should stay at home and pray to Allah from here. Allah is everywhere. He is near, not far. He is alive, powerful, wonderful. He does not sleep. He hears the cries of His servants whenever they call Him (Qur’an 2:186, 255) .


Before we round up, we assert that MURIC will not celebrate corrupt Muslims. They should clear themselves in the law courts first. We urge the learned judge to revoke the permission to travel granted Bala. We charge religious leaders to stop idolising people whose sources of income are uncertain, people of doubtful character and those facing corruption charges until they are discharged and acquitted. In the same vein, we should desist from pampering them with chieftaincy and religious titles, protecting them or seeking to extenuate their offences.



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


Tuesday, June 6, 2017

MASQUERADE ATTACK ON MOSQUE: YORUBA MUSLIMS ARE BEING PROVOKED



6th June 2017
PRESS RELEASE:
MASQUERADE ATTACK ON MOSQUE: YORUBA MUSLIMS ARE BEING PROVOKED     


Masquerades attacked Muslims inside the Central Mosque in Ikun Ekiti, Moba Local Government Area of Ekiti state on Tuesday, 30th May, 2017. The incident occurred around 7 pm in the evening when the Muslims had just broken their fast and they were observing the Maghrib prayer. Several worshippers were injured and some of them were hospitalized after the attack. Two cars parked outside the mosque were damaged. The mosque also suffered damage.


The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) strongly condemns this attack on peace-loving and law-abiding Muslims. It is most barbaric, most provocative and highly unacceptable.


This attack cannot be isolated from the hostile and belligerent attitude of the governor of Ekiti State, Ayodele Fayose, towards Muslims in the state as well as their mosques. We are inclined to declare that the masquerades who attacked Muslims inside their mosques in Ikun Ekiti took the cue from the governor’s open hostility towards Ekiti Muslims and his determination to destroy mosques in the state. It is already clear that Fayose has declared Muslims in the state as persona non grata and their mosques legitimate targets for destruction.   


MURIC therefore charges the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to wade into the matter before the total breakdown of law and order in the state. We demand immediate arrest and prosecution of the culprits. This will discourage reprisal attacks by those who feel that they have been victimized.


The fact that the Muslims were attacked inside their mosque is quite instructive. The masqueraders alleged that they had warned the Muslims not to pray during their Egungun festival. They claimed that the adhan (Muslim call to prayer) that was called provoked them.


This is nauseating. When did the Muslims’ adhan turn into a weapon of mass destruction? Who did the adhan injure? How can the prayers being offered by Muslims inside their own mosque become pernicious to the masquerades who were passing by? The worship of one faithful should not deter another from his own worship.


We admit that the masquerades have a right to mark their festival. But their right stops where that of the Muslims starts. Egungun worshippers have no right under the sun to enter the mosque in the first place, talk less of going there to attack those inside with dangerous weapons. Their right to hold a rally and go round the city of Ikun Ekiti stops at the doorsteps of the mosque. They can pass by but they should not enter the mosque.


Every Nigerian knows the times that Muslims observe prayers. Those masquerades or their sponsors have no right to ask Muslims to suspend their prayer because they want to pass. We Muslims love our neighbours and we are prepared to coexist peacefully but on equal terms. We are not second class citizens and we will not accept intimidation of any kind.


We assert the right of Muslims to call the adhan and pray at the scheduled times. No homo sapien should deprive them of this Allah-given fundamental human right. Freedom of religion is firmly entrenched in the Nigerian constitution, not freedom for one religion to laud it over the other. Section 38 (i) & (ii) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is very clear about this.  


This attack has blown the lid off the myth of religious tolerance in the South West. There is nothing like it. Muslims are facing persecution in Yorubaland. The wind has blown. We have seen the ruff of the hen. The reality is that religious tolerance in the South West is restricted to relations, colleagues at work and known faces.


This is why Muslims and Christians may live together in the same house without fighting. It does not extend to unknown faces. It does not accommodate the institution of religion itself. Religious tolerance in the South West is therefore a farce, a mirage. Unless something is done urgently to address this ugly phenomenon, religious crisis in the South West hangs above our heads like the sword of Damocles.


For instance, none of the masquerades who attacked the Muslims inside their mosque on that day will fight any of his siblings at home for being a Muslim. Neither will he attack his Muslim colleague at work. But he will be among the first to cry foul if Muslims make any demand as a corporate body. There is no genuine love, no real tolerance. This is the bitter truth.


It is therefore high time the wings of traditional worshippers were clipped. They arrogate illegitimate powers to themselves, e.g. by unilaterally declaring curfews for the purpose of rituals. No followers of one religion should have the power to restrict the movements of adherents of another religion. Yet this is what traditional religionists have been doing over the years. The police often ignore this breach of the law and allow traditionalists to unleash reign of terror on law-abiding citizens.


Yet again we have a lesson to draw here. This kind of incident is what often leads to terrorism. Muslims are often accused of being violent. Our contention is that violence or terrorism is ordinary smoke and there can never be smoke without fire. The fire of terrorism is provocation. Those who deride Muslims, those who stigmatise them and those who encroach on Allah-given and fundamental human rights of Muslims are the real terrorists. Worse still, law enforcement agents who refuse to take action against those who provoke Muslims are equally culpable. What action has the Ekiti Police Command taken after the brutalization of Muslims by masquerades in Ikun Ekiti mosque?


As we round up, we call on the IGP to quickly wade into the furore. Masquerades who attacked Muslims inside the mosque in Ikun Ekiti must be arrested and prosecuted for, breaking and entering, willful damage, thuggery, hooliganism, attempted murder and breach of the peace. The Nigerian Police must nip illegal curfews in the bud by making a strong statement banning unauthorised curfew anywhere in Nigeria.


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