By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The new Managing Director of the National Inland Waterways Authority (NIWA), Dr. George Moghalu, has allegedly issued instructions for the stoppage of the construction of a mosque in the agency’s Warri area office. The structure was at roofing level when the order for stoppage was given.
An Islamic human rights organization has however slammed Moghalu for what it described as denial of Allah-given fundamental rights of the Muslim staff in the Warri area office of NIWA. In a message circulated to newsmen on Monday, 2ndDecember, 2019, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) lamented that Moghalu’s action was tantamount to religious persecution. The statement was signed by the group’s director and founder, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
“Moghalu’s stop work order on a mosque in NIMA’s Warri area office should be condemned by all right-thinking Nigerians. It is arbitrary, vengeful and inimical to peaceful coexistence. We understand where Moghalu is coming from. He simply comes across as the typical extremist Christian in office who is determined to use his position to oppress Muslims under him.
“The Moghalu factor in Christian-Muslim relationship vividly illustrates the tragedy of the Nigerian nation. Nigeria is the only country where religious fanatics are allowed to break the law in order to persecute people who do not belong to their faith. It is noteworthy that those who have been responsible for persecuting Muslims over the hijab affair, forceful removal of caps and intimidation over the wearing of beards are all Christians. They continue to oppress Muslims knowing fully well that what they are doing is illegal and that the law permits Muslims to wear their hijab, cap, turban and beards.
“What is disheartening about Moghalu’s action is that he is a well educated man and he knows that what he is doing is wrong. Like many other islamophobic government officials, Moghalu is a metaphor for religious intolerance. Yet the hypocrisy in the persecution of Muslims in this country lies in its limitation to the South only. It is either in the South West or the South East.
“But why is this so when we operate the same constitution in both North and South? Why do state governments and overzealous Christian officials in the South persist in persecuting Muslims? What is happening in Southern Nigeria is that instead of following due process, a Christian in office wants to use his authority to oppress Muslims. This will not promote cordial relationship among the adherents of different faiths in the country. It must stop. Can these officials attempt half of what they are doing to Muslims in the South if they are in the North? Could Moghalu have attempted to stop the construction of a mosque in any Northern area office of NIWA, say Kano or Sokoto?
“There lies the hypocrisy. People like Moghalu are yet to learn how to follow due process and how to act within the law. Unfortunately the Nigerian justice system is so slow that it may take ages if law abiding Muslims approach the courts to assert their Allah-given fundamental human rights. The hijab cases presently in court in the South West are good examples. It is this slow process that our oppressors exploit.
“The danger here (which MURIC does not pray for) lies in the fact that Muslim patience may run out any time soon and a militant group may emerge to hijack the struggle of Southern Muslims to emancipate themselves from the clutches of oppression. But must we fight over virtually everything? Must we kill and maim ourselves before our rights are given to us?
“Moghalu should learn the art of living and letting live. His stop work order is outrageous, provocative and divisive. That order should be withdrawn in the interest of peaceful coexistence. Those Muslims in NIWA Warri area office are not embarking on something illegal by seeking to have a place to worship. So why is Moghalu allergic about the construction of a mosque in NIWA’s Warri area office? Whose interest is he protecting? Why do Nigerians take joy in depriving people of other faith of their rights? Are they unaware that denial of rights is a threat to peace? Justice is the soul of peace. Ceteris paribus, those who deny one cannot enjoy the other.”
The group narrated examples of good neighbourliness cited recently by Vice President Yemi Osinbajo.
“Vice President Yemi Osinbajo on Friday 29th November, 2019 was present at the (NSCIA) Annual General Meeting (AGM) as the Special Guest pof honour and he spoke of his admiration for a Northern Muslim governor who has been renovating churches vandalized by Boko Haram. He also reminded his audience that an Imam in Plateau State has won accolades for protecting more than 200 Christians in his village from being killed by Muslim attackers. He sheltered them in his mosque. Even when the attackers threatened to invade the mosque to kill the Christians, he told them they would have to kill him first.
“Our message to Dr. George Moghalu is this: As the head of the agency, you must belong to all. You cannot be a good neighbor of your Muslim staff by disallowing them from building their mosque. We ask you to emulate the Northern Muslim governor who renovated churches and the Imam who protected Christians. Every Muslim staff of NIWA is under your protection and so are the Christian staff. But in as much as you remain a Christian and in the interest of harmonious coexistence, you must jealously guard the interest of the Muslims and ensure that they have no cause to complain of persecution.
“Nigeria will be a land of peace if all Muslim leaders also follow this golden rule. Protect the interest of your Christian staff if you are the boss and give them no cause to doubt your sincerity. We are not asking you to over-pamper them but at least give them their rights and let due process be due process. Oppress no single Christian and allow the system to run its normal course. Everything will fall in place once the system is respected by management.
“MURIC therefore calls on Dr. Moghalu to lift his stop work order or explain to Nigerians why the mosque should not be completed. Moghalu should explain to Nigerians why Muslims in Warri area office do not deserve a mosque when there is a church and a mosque in his headquarters office in Abuja for Christians and Muslims respectively. Is Moghalu aware that some area offices of NIWA also have mosques? Has he ordered the shutting down or demolition of those? Even Aso Rock has both a church and a mosque. It is the beauty of our great country.”
MURIC explained why Muslims need mosques in their places of work.
“Muslims are not being unnecessarily difficult or fussy by seeking to have mosques in their workplaces. Unlike in Christianity, the religion of Islam demands that Muslims must pray five times daily and two of the five times fall within working hours. These are (Zuhr and ‘Asr). The two are observed daily between 1 pm and 3.30 pm. Although each prayer may not last longer than five or ten minutes at most, Muslims may have to leave the premises to look for a mosque to pray if there is no mosque within. So it is always better to have a mosque at the workplace to avoid waste of man-hour.”
The civil society group also appealed to leaders of the APC to intervene.
“We are not unaware that Moghalu is also the National Auditor of the ruling party (APC). So we are appealing to his party leaders to persuade him to tow the path of reason. It is equally important to let him know that any arbitrary transfer of Muslim staff at this period will be correctly interpreted as vendetta.
“On a final note, we urge the new MD of NIWA, Dr. Moghalu, to allow peace to reign by lifting his stop work order on the Warri area mosque of NIWA.”