By; JACOB ONJEWU DICKSON
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has cried out to the Lagos State government (LASG) in particular and other state goverments in Yorubaland (Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti) to avert the looming religious crisis in the sub-region.
According to the human rights organization, traditional worshippers are set to observe Monday 20th August, 2018 as Isheshe Day.
The traditionalists have, therefore, declared a general curfew to restrict the movements of people. The organization forsees trouble as the curfew declared for Isheshe Day is most likely to cause serious friction because Muslims throughout the federation will be marking Id al-Kabiir on Tuesday, 21st August, 2018 and millions of Muslims are already moving from one part of the country to the other.
In a press statement issued on Sunday evening, the director of MURIC, Ishaq Akintola, described the curfew imposed by Oro worshippers as illegal, unlawful, illegitimate and unconstitutional. It is calculated to cause a breach of the peace. Oro worshippers are deliberately looking for trouble.
“Chapter 4 Section 41 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended) says, ‘Every citizen of Nigeria is entitled to move freely throughout Nigeria and to reside in any part thereof, and no citizen of Nigeria shall be expelled from Nigeria or refused entry thereby or exit therefrom.’
“Besides, only the state government on the advice of the state commissioner of police can impose curfew on a town. Even then, such imposition must be based on adverse security report.
“Traditionalists are taking the law into their hands. They have become another government on their own. This is unacceptable. Traditionalists have frequently usurped this power without being challenged. It is very unfortunate that state governments in the region lack the political will to enforce the law. They are afraid of the traditionalists. Worse still, the police and other law enforcement agents appear to be complicit as they adopt a lackadaisical attitude towards the excesses of traditional worshippers.
“It is not only cowardly but hypocritical to look the other way when one lawless group takes actions that are indubitably ultra vires while the same governments threaten hell and brimstone when other groups attempt to claim their Allah-given fundamental rights. Are we to assume that the only language which our state governments understand is force?
“We assert the right of Muslims to freely move around anywhere in this country. Tuesday 21st August, 2018 is Id al-Kabiir day and the Federal Government (FG) has declared Tuesday and Wednesday as holidays. Nobody has the right or the power to take those days from us. Neither does anybody have the right to make it impossible for Muslims heading towards their various towns to reach their various destinations.
“For the avoidance of doubts, MURIC is not averse to the declaration of a day for traditionalists. We made this clear in our statement issued on 10th May, 2018. We believe in equal rights. What we oppose is a situation whereby one religious group lords it over another. Traditionalists must respect the law.
“Traditional worshippers need to be told that they have limits. Christians and Muslims have never restricted the movements of adherents of other faiths. So why must traditionalists always compel others to remain indoors whenever they want to worship? Why must God be worshipped in secret? Their curfews have affected church and mosque goers in the past. It has also affected candidates writing critical examinations like WAEC and that means their curfews are counter-productive. This must not be allowed to continue.
“We therefore call on the governors of Lagos, Ogun, Oyo, Osun and Ekiti states to call traditional worshippers to order. The traditional rulers of all Yoruba towns can be easily reached. They will pass the message to the leaders of traditional worshippers. Muslims will not surrender their Allah-given fundamental rights at this crucial moment.
“As we draw the curtain, we charge law enforcement agents in the region to perform their duties. Muslims traveling during this period need protection. Traditionalists must be held responsible for any breakdown of law and order if any Muslim is attacked by those who want to illegally restrict his or her movement. We appeal to traditional rulers in Yorubaland to prevail on leaders of traditional worshippers to immediately lift the illegal curfew in the interest of peace, law and order”.