By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
Traditional worshippers of Olosha Oba and Oro Cult invaded Umar Bin Khattab Mosque in Idi-Iroko in the Ipokia Local Government Area of Ogun State on Saturday, 27thJuly, 2019 during the afternoon Zuhr prayer.
According to the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), an Islamic human rights advocacy group, the attackers attempted to kill the Imam, Alhaji Abdul Waliy Abdul Azeez Abata but the latter escaped. They therefore pelted him and his congregation with stones as they took to their heels. Thereafter, they invaded the mosque and damaged equipment worth millions of naira.
MURIC has condemned the invasion in a statement circulated to the media early on Friday, 2ndAugust, 2019. The group described the attack as audacious, provocative and barbaric. The statement was signed by the group’s Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
“We are confounded by this invasion. Places of worship should be held sacred. This attack is audacious, provocative and barbaric. It is impunity on the highest pedestal. We denounce it in the strongest terms and we demand justice. The culprits must be fished out and dealt with according to the laws of the land.
“Not only that, Umar Bin Khattab Mosque must be repaired, all vandalized equipment must be replaced and the hospital bills of all injured Muslims must be fully paid or refunded. We want the perpetrators arraigned in court. Somebody must be held accountable for this if Ogun State Government (OGSG) truly desires peaceful coexistence.
“This is about the third time within one year that Muslims are targeted for attacks in Ogun State alone. Masquerade worshippers publicly removed the hijab from a Muslim woman’s head and beat her up in Abeokuta just two months ago, on 18th June, 2019 to be precise. What is happening in Ogun State? Who declared Muslims persona non grata? Why must Muslims become endangered species in a state where they are in a comfortable majority?
On 16th September, 2016, Oro worshippers truncated the Id al-Kabir prayers in twenty communities of Ipokia Local Government. The attackers ensured that no Salah prayer was held anywhere in the local government, including Ifoyintedo, Atan-ota, Ita-ege, Iledu, Imule, Iropo, Akopin, Madoga, Ilagbe, Kajola, Osooro, Asipa, Ikorodu/Bola, Idologun, Araromi, Idomogun, Igbo-Atan, Oke – Iwo, Ajelende and Akinde Elepo-Temu/ Kusika.
MURIC blamed the police for failing to protect Muslims and their properties in Ogun State.
“Ogun State Police Command has not impressed us. Somebody somewhere has been condoning criminality. The police should have known from experience that Oro worshippers often attack mosques whenever they declare their illegal curfews.
“So what happened to intelligence gathering? What is the state command’s Central Intelligence Department (CID) doing? What happened to police pre-emptive action? Isn’t the police expected to be proactive? We are curious to know how many arrests have been made in the mosque invasion case. We insist that the culprits must be prosecuted. That is the only way to stop Muslims in the state from taking the law into their own hands. Justice must not be delayed.
“The police must also take such actions that will make a repetition too costly for traditionalists. We are tired of being sitting ducks for criminally minded religious fanatics. Mosques must be protected by the police anytime illegal curfews are declared.
“Curfews are the prerogative of state governors and chairmen of local government councils. Declaration of curfews by Oro cultists is therefore illegal, illegitimate, unlawful and unconstitutional. The leaders of the Oro cult must therefore be invited and cautioned by the police to desist from declaring illegal curfews.
“MURIC calls the attention of the Inspector General of Police (IG) to the nonchalant attitude of his officers to the criminal activities of Oro worshippers and other traditionalists in the South West. Enough is enough.
“Yoruba Muslims are tax-payers and they deserve protection by the law enforcement agencies. Muslims in Yorubaland have been extremely tolerant and there has not been a single violent reaction from any Muslim group or individual in the zone for several decades. But now their patience is overstretched. Their patience should not be mistaken for cowardice. It is bourne out of a passionate desire to be good ambassadors of Islam, a religion of peace.
MURIC also complained of similar attacks on mosques in other places in the South West and charged the police to protect Muslims in the sub-region.
“We remind Ogun State Police Command and all police formations in Yorubaland that Nigeria already has enough security challenges. Revenge attacks from Muslims will definitely compound the security challenges. This is what must be avoided. Muslims are being attacked and humiliated at will. We appeal to the police to protect Muslims in Yorubaland in order to forestall any breakdown of law and order.
“Attacks on mosques by Oro worshippers and other traditionalists have become a recurring decimal in Yoruba cities. On May 30th, 2017, Masquerades attacked a mosque in Ikun-Ekiti, Moba Local Government, Ekiti State during Ramadan as Muslims gathered to break the fast.
“Five Muslims were seriously injured in the attack and they were hospitalized for days. The mosque and several equipment were damaged. Two cars parked in front of the mosque were vandalized. But neither the state governor (Fayose) nor the State Police Command could be bothered. Was this because Muslims in Yorubaland will take anything without complaining?
“Oro worshippers also attacked Muslims in Iseyin, Oyo State on 20th September, 2018. Many Muslims received deep cuts from cutlasses. These incidents are just some of the most recent of such attacks.
“We remind state governments in the South West that attacks by Oro cultists and traditionalists is not limited to Muslims alone as Christians have also fallen victims in the past. They should therefore stop snoring while the roof is on fire.
“To conclude this advocacy, we demand justice first and foremost regarding the attack on Umar Bin Khattab mosque in Idi-Iroko, Ogun State. We call on state governments in the South West to stop Oro cultists from declaring illegal curfews. We charge the police to be more proactive, to enforce the rule of law and to give mosques, churches, Muslims and Christians adequate protection anytime Oro worshippers declare their illegal curfews. Finally, we appeal to Muslims to remain calm and law abiding and to allow the security agents to handle the situation.