By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The Islamic human rights association, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) which was accused of collecting money from a terrorist group, the Islamic State for West Africa Province (ISWAP), says it has uncovered the source of the fake news. MURIC pointed accusing finger at a retired major in the Nigerian Army, Layo Akinlade Tunde. MURIC has demanded a public apology from the ex-major.
A press statement signed by MURIC’s Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, on Wednesday, 12th August, 2020, described the story as unfounded rumour and fake news triggered by Islamophobia.
“It is Muslim-haters exploiting the gullibility of Nigerians. The fake news came from a retired major in the Nigerian Army, Layo Akinlade Tunde. He sent the post to a social media group known as ‘The Voice of Omo-Oba Onijebu (Progeny of the Owner of All Known Ijebuland)’. This was circulated among the group’s members and it came to the public terrain through them.
“Our investigation reveals that the Sahara Strategy Group (SSG) which allegedly organised the so called conference in Abidjan does not exist. We could not find the name per se on Google. What we found was Sahara Group which is a power generation company, Sahara Foundation at Sahara Group Limited, Sahara Group Talent and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) and Sahara Energy Resource. The only evidence of the existence of a Sahara Strategy Group on Google is the fake story which originated from Major Loye Akinlade Tunde (rtd). To the best of our knowledge, therefore, the group is a phantom.
“Neither could we find evidence of the existence of the so called San Louis Keita, the Malian ex-intelligence chief who was quoted as making the allegation against MURIC. No trace of San Louis Keita on Google. What was prominent in our Google search was a certain Aboubacar Keita, a popular footballer. We are wondering why a whole former intelligence chief of a country will be missing in a global search engine. As far as we are concerned, therefore, San Louis Keita, like the Sahara Strategy Group, exists only in the imagination of Loye Akinlade.
“It is also interesting that no media house published the story of any money received by MURIC before Akinlade posted it to his group. Akinlade is not a journalist. He is a retired soldier. So where did he get the story from? This is important because it shows that he is the origin of the fake news. Announcements on the facebook of Major Loye Akinlade Tunde (rtd) revealed that he is a member and strong ideologue of the Oduduwa ‘nation’.
“We are also amused that Chief Femi Fani-Kayode (FFK) yesterday called on the Federal Government to investigate the link between MURIC and ISWAP. That was immediately after the fake news broke out. FFK is a known hater of Muslims and he recently engaged in bitter altercations with the Director of MURIC. FFK is a major proponent of Oduduwa Republic and MURIC is a major critic of the idea. He therefore has a motive.
“MURIC does not oppose investigations into the allegation of receiving money from a terrorist organisation but the source of the fake news must be the starting point. Where did the retired major get his information? Is there any link between him and FFK? What are the roles being played by FFK and Akinlade in the proposed Oduduwa Republic? The Director of MURIC has received death threats for opposing the idea of the Yoruba breaking away from Nigeria.
“It is on record that FFk personally threatened to deal with opponents of the Oduduwa movement after establishing Oduduwa. Is the attempt to rope MURIC into a terrorist case FFK’s way of getting his pound of flesh? Is Major Akinlade (rtd) an accomplice in this regard?
“MURIC contends that the whole story about collecting money from ISWAP is fake news triggered by Islamophobia. This is an existential threat to the religion of Islam and Muslims in general throughout Nigeria. Muslim-haters have had a field day oppressing Muslims for decades until MURIC came on the scene. We were able to stem the anti-Muslim campaign courtesy of our Muslim rights advocacy. But that made us the target for elimination.
“They threatened to assassinate the Director of MURIC about five months ago. A couple of months ago, they used a fake Islamic organisation to allege that the Director collected N50 million from the Fulanis for the purpose of destabilising Yorubaland. Because this did not work, they now want to link us with ISWAP. It will fail by the grace of Allah.
“We are making wide consultations regarding the way forward. But in the meantime we demand a public apology from Major Loye Akinlade Tunde (rtd) for tarnishing the image of our organisation, causing malicious damage to our reputation and for libellous publication.
“In spite of all these attacks against us, we remain committed to the liberation of Nigerian Muslims from persecution, stigmatisation and Islamophobic attacks. What the enemies of peace want is to get us out of the way by all means, to continue to cause distraction using dirty methods like the ISWAP angle or to isolate us after smearing our reputation. We urge Nigerian Muslims to calm down but remain vigilant. As usual, we will continue to use peaceful and lawful means to resist all attempts to blackmail and silence us. No shaking, no retreat, no surrender. Aluta continua, victoria asserta.”