A memo to the National Conference

I believe by now, many Nigerians should have submitted memoranda on various areas that they believe are most passionate to the development of Nigeria and Nigerians as the National conference called for it. Many organizations, groups, religious bodies, NGOs and individuals who felt they should be part of the National conference but were denied the opportunity for obvious reasons were seen  in and around the Conference location for submission of their Memoranda which I believed closed on April 15, 2014. Many Islamic Organizations led by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, NSCIA, Muslim Right Concern, MURIC, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, MSSN, Abuja Muslim Forum (AMF), The Muslim Solidarity Forum Sokoto and Many other Islamic organizations submitted memoranda.

Although many people are pleading with the leadership of the National Conference to extend the submission date in order to accommodate more memoranda and for those who made some mistakes in their submissions to be availed the opportunity to make amendments based on the earlier Rules set out by the Secretariat of the Conference which were not followed to the latter.

Furthermore, I believe I should add my contribution openly on behalf of many Nigerian Muslims who wish to express and pass their opinions to the Conference but could not do that for obvious reasons. Therefore I wish to make some recommendations on important issues affecting the religion of Islam and Muslims which I summarize as follows:

The total number of delegates to this National Conference is 497 (excluding the Principal Officers). Out of this number, only 184 are Muslims, Christians have 309 while 4 are yet to be nominated (APC & APGA).

By the lopsidedness in the composition of the delegates, the Muslims believe that the Conference was planned to subvert the will of the Nigerian people which has been reposed in the Elected Legislature particularly the National Assembly which has fair representation of the Nigerian people.

The issue of Nigeria being a secular or multi-religious entity has often been misplaced. We believe that Nigeria cannot be rightly treated or described as a secular state, but rather a multi-religious one. This derives from the fact that a secular entity gives no recognition to any spirituality whatsoever, whereas Nigerians are mainly either Muslims or Christians, with a limited number of traditional religious adherents.

In line with the above, it is pertinent to give due recognition to the true multi-religious parameters peculiar to each religion in the country. This is necessary in order to avoid areas of conflict arising from the adherents of one religion trying to decide for the other what should be the standard in areas requiring that peculiarities be respected.

Consequent on the above and in accordance with the spirit of multi-religious nature of Nigeria, we suggest the following:
a)      Muslims in Nigeria are required by their religious ordinances to dress in a prescribed manner, hence, no Muslim in Nigeria forthwith should be discriminated against, molested, oppressed or deprived of his/her rights on account of his/her dressing, as doing so will be tantamount to religious persecution, injustice and intolerance, particularly, considering the fact that whatever dressing standard anyone may have adopted, it must have originated from an individual or group who considered only their narrow world-view, without consulting others.

Most often, Non-Muslims in the country claim that they are adhering to a certain standard or code of dressing in our hospitals, schools, security services, National Youth Service Scheme, banks and certain offices, etc., failing to see the fact that while such unilateral standards may suite them, it could be tantamount to irreligiousness on the part of Muslims who reserve the right to practice their religion as ordained by the Almighty Creator. As a matter of fact, most of those dressing modes regarded as ‘formal’ or ‘official’, could originally be traced to the adherents of borrowed foreign cultures only, hence there is neither balance nor fairness in its enforcement.

Corruption has been the bane of the Nigerian Nation. This has been variously established by reports of different local and international organizations. There is also a general belief that Nigeria is not doing much to curb corruption and financial indiscipline. The culture of impunity is often associated with the way government is run in Nigeria which must be stopped.

The Constitution as the Grundnorm should respect the values of all Nigerians

We therefore recommend that:
Where Islamic Personal Law appears in Sections 237 (2)
b) 244 (1), 262 (2) and 288 (1) and (2) (a) should be replaced with the phrase “Islamic Law”
Sections 174 (1) and 211 (1) (c) of the Constitution be amended. The powers of the Attorney General of the Federation or State to discontinue any criminal prosecution before judgment must be made subject to convincing the Court with vivid explanations that he is acting in the overwhelming interest of the entire public.
The provision of the Constitution and the Land Use Act should be effectively applied to ensure that individuals are adequately compensated for any land acquired, and where such land is for residential development, a percentage should be allocated to the individuals concerned.
The agricultural policy of the nation should be executed to encourage the development of local agricultural industry and mechanized farming.
The Islamic Calendar which is another universally accepted Dating Method should be constitutionally recognized as such and 1st Muharram declared as a Public Holiday.

All Shariah Courts should have power and jurisdiction to apply Islamic law where both parties are Muslims.
The Islamic Criminal Law should be made applicable to Muslims constitutionally.

Section 18 in Chapter 2 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 should be amended to remove the phrase “as at when practicable”.
Section 6 (6) (c) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 should be expunged because the breach of the provisions of Chapter 2 of the Constitution must be made justiciable.

Though the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria guarantees the Right to Freedom of religion as embedded in its Section 38, the reality is that there is a grand design by government institutions in the entire country but especially in the Southern part to limit the right of a Muslim to the practice of his/her religion. In order words, the denial of the rights of female Muslim students to wear Islamic Hijab and even their brutalization by School administrators for wearing same in Government approved educational institutions, non-approval of the place of worship for Muslim Students in the Public tertiary institutions especially the South-South and South-East, non-teaching of Arabic and Islamic Studies and forceful teaching of Christian Religious Studies to Muslim Students particularly in Government approved Institutions in the Southern part of the country are examples of flagrant disregard of the right of Muslims to practice their religion and which should be fundamentally and functionally addressed if there is no deliberate attempt to provoke the Muslims and castigate them thereafter.

In addition the Muslims in the two geo-political zones should be given the opportunity to live as citizens of this country rather than outcasts that must be oppressed and persecuted. This is contrary to the situation in the North where non-Muslims are empowered and presented as if they are in the majority. It is the duty of Government at all levels, particularly the Federal Government to empower these Muslims and remove all the impediments toward exploring their full potentials like their counterparts in the Northern part of the country.

We deplore the manner in which innocent Muslims are being picked up by security agents under the claim that they are members of the so-called Boko Haram insurgents, without required and due preliminary investigations. The security agents mostly treat the Muslims as guilty before trial by a court of competent jurisdiction as far as insurgency is concerned.

While recognizing the daunting challenges involved in controlling the situation, every fair minded person will abhor the manner in which several innocent Muslims mostly in the hotspots of the insurgency; Borno, Yobe and Adamawa are being picked up without any verifiable evidence of being part of the group and detained in terrible subhuman conditions for a long period, resulting in questionable deaths, aside from summary executions.

Reports reaching Islamic Organisations indicate that after the insurgents might have launched an attack and long gone, the soldiers will arrive and make indiscriminate arrests among the victims of the insurgents’ onslaught. The example of the Apo killings is still fresh in the memory of Muslims nationwide, where the Directorate of State Services (DSS), with all the intelligence apparatus at its disposal chose to unleash death on innocent and oppressed class of Nigerians who are struggling to make out a living without using the opportunity it has to arrest and decently interrogate them to confirm the veracity of any boko-haram link. This Conference needs to highlight the dangers of extra-judicial killings, which ab initio is the genesis of the Boko Haram insurgency. The government must be made to understand that shedding the blood of the innocent portends great danger for any society and also for every soul cold bloodedly murdered, the government bears primary responsibility.

We further call for a semblance of balance of military personnel in field operations as well as command for both the Armed Forces, Police and other para-military bodies. This is necessitated by the need to ensure that religious bigotry and unwholesome practices against a particular group does not arise. It is wishful to assume that the Military or Police is immuned against the pervasive negativities abounding in the country now.

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