Prof Ishaq Akintola

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has accused the Vice Chancellor of the Federal University of Petroleum Resources (FUPR), Effurum, Delta State, of not allowing Muslim students and staff in the school to attend Jum’ah prayer on Fridays.

MURIC said efforts to persuade Professor Akaehomen Ibhadode through communications and dialogue have not yielded any tangible result.

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In a press release signed by its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola and sent to Concise News, the organisation said Muslims in the school are being denied their Allah-given fundamental human rights, adding that the first-semester examination timetable was not Jum’ah-compliant as examinations were fixed without any consideration for the Jum’ah period.

The statement read: “We are miffed that the VC claims that he cannot allow Muslims to go to the mosque on Friday ‘because Nigeria is a secular country’. This is a most preposterous claim. It is outrageous. It is incredible. We don’t expect ignorance at the apex of a citadel of learning. Nigeria is not a secular country. It is a multi-religious country. Secular countries do not recognize religion but Nigeria does. Or can the VC show us the word ‘secular’ in the Nigerian constitution?

“No Vice-Chancellor has the right to hide under a phony secular society to stop Muslims from observing Jum’ah prayer. By the way, the VC does not allow Muslims to go to the mosque, but won’t he go to church on Sunday? Won’t the Christian staff and students also go to church on Sunday? What right has the VC to stop the Muslims from attending Jum’ah service on Friday when he and the Christian staff and students go to church on Sunday? Isn’t what is good for the goose also good for the gander? How can secularism mean freedom for Christians to worship on Sunday but oppression and persecution for Muslims on Friday? Are men and women of good conscience listening?

“It beats our imagination that the Vice Chancellor of a federal university will challenge Muslims to present any official document from the federal government that makes provision for Jum’ah services in federal establishments. Universities are expected to be centers of excellence, we are therefore shocked that gymnastic religiosity can manifest at such a level of intellectualism.

“We are constrained to ask, ‘Is this VC aware of the provision for freedom of religion in the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria? If he is not aware, has he cared to consult his university’s legal department?  Is the VC aware of the existence of Muslims in this country? If so, has it not occurred to him that by accepting the post of VC, many of the staff and students under him will be Muslims? Does he want to remain VC of Christian staff and students only to the detriment of the adherents of other faiths? Has he traveled outside Delta State to observe what obtains in other places or is he an armchair vice-chancellor?

“The Vice-Chancellor of FUPR has failed to realize that this is a federal institution. Even if it is a state university, are we supposed to persecute any religious group in an academic environment? Academicians are expected to know better, to pursue objectivity, to lead by example and to shun all sentimentalities.

“All that should be of interest to a Vice-Chancellor is whether or not his staff are performing their official duties and whether his students are learning. He should create an atmosphere conducive to the pursuit of knowledge. No more no less. But things will start going wrong when the head of an institution begins targeting a religious group for oppression”.

Akintola expressed serious concern for the welfare of Muslims under the VC of FUPR. “How can the Federal Government entrust the lives of Muslim staff and students to a biased Christian VC? We have every reason to doubt that Muslims can be safe under this man. We have every reason to doubt that Muslims will receive fair treatment under him.

“MURIC will continue to expose religious bigots in public and private institutions and enterprises who deprive Muslims of their Allah-given fundamental human rights. We will not fold our arms while some religious fundamentalists deny us what Almighty Allah has given us free, more so since such rights are already guaranteed in the constitution of our country.

“There can be no excuse for disallowing Muslims from attending the Jum’ah prayer every Friday since Christians are not faced with such a challenge on Sundays. We will take every necessary lawful measures to resist this oppression of Nigerian Muslims by Christian extremists.

“As we round up, we call on the Vice Chancellor of FUPR, Effurum, to allow peace to reign on his campus. Let the Muslims go. Stop all forms of religious persecution. Allow the Muslims to observe Jum’ah service. We advise him to run an inclusive administration in the interest of peace and harmony. Other heads of public and private institutions in the country are advised to take a cue from this. Let us make our country a land of religious harmony as we all can never belong to the same faith”.