Wednesday, May 16, 2018

RAMADAN MESSAGE: DECLARE EMERGENCY IN THE PRISON SECTOR


16th May, 2018
RAMADAN MESSAGE:
DECLARE EMERGENCY IN THE PRISON SECTOR 

Nigerian Muslims will join their counterparts in other parts of the world as they start the annual Ramadan fasting within the next 48 hours. The Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs       (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammadu Sa’ad Abubakar III, has directed Nigerian Muslims to look out for the Ramadan crescent after sunset on Wednesday, 16th May, 2018.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) thanks Almighty Allah for preserving the lives of President Muhammadu Buhari, the Sultan of Sokoto and all Nigerians to enable them witness this year’s Ramadan.

The Holy Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said, “The beginning of Ramadan is for special care, its middle is forgiveness while its end is freedom”.

MURIC calls on President Buhari, all state governors, the Chief Justice of the Federation and all state Chief Judges to reflect on the above statement in relation to the condition of inmates of Nigerian prisons nationwide during this Ramadan. We must think of how they too can benefit from the special qualities of Ramadan.

Buhari must borrow a leaf from his United Arab Emirate (UAE) counterpart, Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan, who ordered the release of 935 prisoners ahead of the upcoming holy fasting month of Ramadan. He issued the order on Monday 14th May, 2018. We urge Mr. President to declare an emergency in the prison sector and use his prerogative of mercy to release thousands of prison inmates. This is in view of the terrible condition of the nations’ prisons where inmates sleep in turns, diseases spread like wild fire on a daily basis.

This will not be a strange development and Buhari will not be the first president of an African nation to release a large number of prison inmates. Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, released 7,000 prison inmates in October 2016 to make room for corruption offenders.

We charge Mr. President to walk his talk on the predicament of Nigerian prisoners and people who are awaiting trial. It will be recalled that Buhari on October 5, 2017 described the situation in Nigeria’s prisons as a ‘national scandal’. Buhari must muster the political will to turn around this horrible situation. The time for the ‘change’ he has been brandishing is now.

MURIC makes a special case for the 54 soldiers serving a ten year jail term for refusing to fight Boko Haram with poor weapons. We regard those 54 soldiers as heroes in the present war against corruption because their action exposed the massive corruption in the armed forces. Their present predicament is a miscarriage of justice.

We also request that Shaykh Al-Zakzaky be set free if the following conditions can be met, namely, dialogue involving the Nigerian Muslim leadership, leaders of Al-Zakyzaky group and the Minister of Interior, an assurance of respect for peace, law and order by the Al-Zakzaky group, a written commitment that members of the group will stop intimidating their neighbours and a halt to the group’s endless long-distance walks on express ways which cause hardship to innocent citizens.

The Minister of Interior, Abdul Rahman Danbazau, said in June 2017 that 70 percent of Nigerian prisoners are awaiting trial. Many of these awaiting trial inmates have stayed beyond the likely jail term for their alleged offences. For instance, 34 years old Kazeem Sani, a motorcyclist was arrested and detained in 2006 for stealing a mobile phone. He could not have bagged more than six months for petty stealing but he spent ten years in the Kirikiri Medium Prison without trial before he was set free in July 2016. Emeka Arum who was accused of armed robbery spent eight years awaiting trial in an Enugu prison. Chukwujekwu Ifejika, spent seven years in Onitsha prison also without trial.


The presence of awaiting trial inmates has caused a general congestion of prisons nationwide. Enugu prison which was built for 638 inmates holds 1,800. 1,574 inmates out of 1,761 prisoners in Anambra are awaiting trial. In Aba, only 113 inmates are prisoners serving full sentences out of 600 and expectedly, 80 of them are now insane.

Owerri Prison houses 2,500 instead of 550. Even the Minister of Interior confirmed that Port-Harcourt Prison which was built for 804 prisoners accommodates 4204 inmates. Lagos prisons which have a capacity for 3,927 prisoners contain 7,396. There are 2,116 inmates in Kano prison instead of 4,183. In Rivers the space designed for 1,354 prisoners is being used by 4,424 inmates. In Ekiti, 585 prisoners jostle for 400 spaces. Bayelsa’s 200 inmate capacity is being used by 444.

Overcongestion must also be blamed on arbitrary and ridiculous judgements. Exempli gratia, the Kano Senior Magisterate Court sentenced 22 years old Rabiu Sani to 30 months for stealing just a pair of slippers. Worse still, there was no option of fine. A Magistrates’ Court in Evbouriaria , Benin City, sentenced Sylvester Livinus, 22, to four months imprisonment for stealing 10 cat fish. A Pankshin Magistrates’ Court in Plateau jailed a man for two years for stealing one goat. An Ibadan court sentenced 4 men to death for stealing  a phone worth N10,000 while a JSS 2 student was docked for stealing his classmate’s N200 only!

In summary, we appeal to President Buhari to declare an emergency in the prison sector, free the 54 soldiers, Shaykh Al-Zakzaky (with conditions), all awaiting trial inmates in Nigerian prisons whose offences are not related to violent crime in the spirit of ‘special care, forgiveness and freedom’ which the period of Ramadan stands for. We urge the Chief Justice of Nigeria, state governors and State Chief Judges to free hundreds of inmates within their states. We also call for the establishment of special courts inside prison premises all over the country to ease prison congestion.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

SENATE SHOULD LEAVE POLICE IG ALONE


15th May, 2018

PRESS RELEASE:
SENATE SHOULD LEAVE POLICE IG ALONE
The Nigerian Senate recently declared the Inspector General of Police, Ibrahim Idris Kpotum, ‘an enemy of democracy’ over the latter’s refusal to honour its invitation.    

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) is not a little disturbed by Senate’s attitude in recent times. It is combative, reckless and lawless.

What, in Allah’s name, do we call the list of violent killings in the country which was allegedly published yesterday by Senate? It is nauseating and that is to say the least. Is Senate making a case of inefficiency against the IG? Has Senate forgotten that no country is free of crime? Is Senate unaware of horror killings and massacres even in advanced countries like the United States of America, Germany and Britain?

Senate could have done better if it had balanced it objectively by supplying a list of achievements of the Nigerian Police. What if the police now decide to draw its own list of achievements? Nigerians will then have two public agencies working at cross-purposes courtesy of an overbearing Senate. Is that responsible? Is it wise? Is it patriotic? Does it portray Senate members as a serious bunch?

Let us jog Senate’s memory with a few achievements of the Nigerian Police in recent times. The arrest of big time criminals like Evans the kidnap kingpin; the Offa dare-devil armed robbers who killed 17 people in a single operation; Ibrahim Umar who confessed that he used to drink the blood of kidnapped victims and Niger State kidnap specialist Matarari Saidu.

Just yesterday, 14th May, 2018, police nabbed Barau Ibrahim a.k.a. Rambo, touted to be one of the most wanted kidnappers who also dabbles into armed robbery and assassination. Rambo was notorious for terrorizing Birnin Gwari axis of Kaduna State, Abuja-Kaduna-Kano expressway and Zamfara State. But what do the police get from Senate for all these? Disdain, humiliation, intimidation and even more. How do you expect the citizens to respect the police and repose confidence in them if you, our lawmakers, treat them like errand boys?

Even if we did not see all the above achievements of the police, at least one case was reported by MURIC headquarters in 2017 and we still marvel at the speed with which the police handled the matter. A luxurious bus in which a female youth corper and member of MURIC serving in the North was ordered to stop by hoodlums between Abuja and Kogi states. The driver was shot dead for refusing to stop. The spare driver took over the wheels and was able to park safely at a distance.

The occupants spilled into the bush and from there our member put a call to us at 12 midnight. We called a commissioner of police who requested for the corper’s number. Within 30 minutes, police had surrounded the location and we soon received a call from the Abuja Police Commissioner who assured us that the corper was now safe in a police van.  

The Nigerian Police is a reliable police force. Give them modern weapons, vehicles, communication gadgets, a good salary, a motivative welfare package and they will perform wonders. The Nigerian Police which has just a little over 317,000 men is protecting more than 193 million Nigerians when global best practices is one policeman to every 500 civilians. Some of them buy their own shoes and uniforms. They are poorly equipped, overwhelmed, overworked but underpaid. At least they do not enjoy the luxury of taking home N13.5 million every month (or is it really N29 million?).

Senate should be promoting the interest of policemen if indeed our senators know their duties. They should fight for police welfare. Every Egyptian policeman had a pistol and a walkie-talkie even as far back as 1975 whereas it is a whole police station that manages a single walkie-talkie in the Nigeria of 2018. This is a big shame but our lawmakers care less. Yet it is the same policemen they want to ridicule who are guarding them day and night. Can’t our lawmakers be grateful for once?
Senate should leave the IG of police alone. Let the man concentrate on his job. Respect begets respect but Senate has no modicum of respect for other arms of government. What happened to the principle of separation of powers? Senate appears to be harbouring overambitious elements in the red chamber.

MURIC gives kudos to the IG of police for resisting Senate’s impetuous maneuvers. He has proved that he is a seasoned professional. Nigeria needs men like him who will not start shivering because lawmakers are barking orders at them. It is true that uniformed men should submit to civilian authority in a democracy but that is when the civilian authority issues legitimate orders. Our uniformed men should always resist ego-induced, illegitimate and unlawful directives.

This Senate is in the habit of intimidating public figures with its irrational invitations. Yet some of those invitations are not in the interest of the tax-payer. Customs’ boss Ahmadu Ali was similarly harassed. He attended Senate but was ordered to appear in customs uniform which he rightly challenged and to date Senate has not been able to do anything about it. Of what benefit was Senate’s order to the hoi polloi?

All these boil down to the fact that Senate does not know its limits. Senate is overreaching its powers. The red chamber is overbearing, arrogant. Nigerians are witnessing parliamentary tyranny. It is nothing short of the dictatorship of an oligarchy.

Instead of facing its work squarely, Senate is obstructing the executive arm of government. About seven months after receiving the budget, Senate is yet to pass it. Is the red chamber just a place for taking naps? With all sense of responsibility, we fully endorse Professor Sagay’s description of Senate as the worst in the history of Nigeria.

If members of Senate are not on jolly rides to the tribunal for an hocus pocus, they are in the National Hospital, Abuja, for a comedy. Is this why we voted for you? Is this how you are representing us? Who did this to Nigeria? Who gave us court jesters? If we had known, we would have gone to Nollywood to pick the best actors and actresses as our lawmakers. At least then we would know what to expect.

To add salt to injury, our senators acted scene V of the Mother of All Mockeries when the Senate President donned his stethoscope to dramatise a checkup of Senator Dino Milaye on hospital bed. Is Saraki telling us that the doctors attending to Dino Melaye are unqualified or inexperienced? Our humble suggestion is that Saraki should move to the National Hospital, Abuja, to take over the duties of the Chief Medical Officer in order to personally attend to his anointed senator with whom he is well pleased. Senate has been turned into a huge theater where the senate president is the major dramatis personae.

To cut a long story short, Senate should leave the IG alone, stop playing the enfant terrible with the executive arm, desist from obstructing the cause of justice, migrate from Nollywood and face its real duty of legislating.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Monday, May 14, 2018

IGNORE ADEBOYE’S FORECAST ON 2019


14th May, 2018

PRESS RELEASE:
IGNORE ADEBOYE’S FORECAST ON 2019 

The General Overseer of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG), Pastor Enoch Adeboye last week warned that Nigeria as it is presently constituted may cease to exist if killings continue. He also added that 2019 elections may not hold.   

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) rejects this message of doom. Nations are not run on prophesies and divisive messages but on industry, love, fortitude, unity, honesty and determination.   

We recall that killings and cattle rustling did not begin yesterday. These attacks have been there since the early 60s. It was not Nigerians who were attacking themselves but cattle thieves and criminals from neighbouring countries like Niger, Chad and Mali. These invasions from other countries have continued till today due to Nigeria’s porous borders. But Nigerians exploit religious rivalry and acrobatic religiousity instead of engaging in diligent investigations. We are blaming ourselves for nothing.

Still going along the lanes of history, a few years back Nigerian Christian leaders initially accused Muslims in the country of sponsoring Boko Haram to kill Christians. All denials fell on deaf ears. Foul language was used. Provocative statements were issued. Nigerian Muslim leaders exhibited patience throughout those terrible days. Today the picture has become clearer to the Christian leaders as Boko Haram has killed more Muslims than Christians (including an Emir) and destroyed more mosques than churches.

The truth is that both Christians and Muslims are victims of killings, though Christians may have the advantage of media support to use killings on its side as a propaganda tool. The Nigerian media hardly hypes reports of Muslim deaths, nor do they report them correctly with their religious affiliation. Meanwhile Muslims do not use their dead victims for propaganda because, as a rule, Muslims bury their dead speedily whereas Christians delay the burial of their dead and openly display them. But the fact is that the monkey is also sweating but the hair on its skin may not allow people to see it.

Nigeria has become a land where Shakespearean lines must be actualized: “When beggars die, there are no comets seen. The heavens themselves blow forth the death of princes.”  

Thus when Muslims are killed, the Nigerian media uses captions like “85 killed in Maiduguri Explosion” or “76 Die as Hoodlums Invade Zamfara Village”. But when Christians are killed, the language and style change. The caption is “Fulani Herdsmen Murder 22 Christians”. It is for this reason that Pastor Adeboye needs to direct his warnings at the Nigerian press, not at the government. Government is not escalating the crisis, but the press is. Their assymetrical reportage poses great danger to peaceful coexistence in a multi-religious Nigeria.

Pastor Adeboye should also note that things are not usually what they look like from a distance. Benue militias have been caught disguised as Fulani herdsmen. None of the hoodlums caught by the military in the ongoing operation in Benue could speak Fulani language, yet they dressed like Fulani herdsmen and carried AK47 rifles.

Fake military camps have also been exposed in the same Middle Belt. Militiamen arrested have confessed that the Christian state governors are their sponsors. So why does Adeboye refuse to acknowledge the killing of Muslims? Who are the Benue and Taraba militiamen killing?
  
We appeal to Pastor Adeboye to refrain from making inflammatory statements. The Redeemed Church Overseer should also persuade his junior priests to water down their firebrand proselytisation. There is a world of difference between prayers, threats and illwill. Let us concentrate on prayers when we organize assemblies ostensibly for prayers. Let us not use such occasions to incite followers in any manner. That is criminal digression. Preachers should not just be playing to the gallery.

As religious leaders, our influence on our followers is immense and they take our admonitions as commandments, we must therefore lead responsibly. Let Christian and Muslim leaders preach love, tolerance, forgiveness and, most especially, unity. We all stand to lose if there is war or if Nigeria breaks.

Statements accusing government of lukewarm attitude to the ‘killing of Christians’ mislead the outside world. It paints the wrong picture and robs the Nigerian authorities of friends and allies who are willing to supply sophisticated weapons needed to stop the killings. In essence, we are cutting our noses to spite our faces. We are simply helping Boko Haram to sustain its propaganda.

Let us therefore stop making sectarian, parochial and myopic public speeches. Let us support government’s efforts at stopping the killings. Let us appeal to foreign governments to assist our own government at home in combating terrorists and insurgents.


On a last note, we contend that the current noise about the killing of Christians is diversionary, hypocritical and counterproductive. Both Muslims and Christians are being killed and the solution lies in uniting men and women of all faiths to face the reality on ground. We must all resolve to expose our killers. We must support our government and pray for our gallant securitymen who are battling the killers day and night. We must also appeal in unison to foreign powers to come to our government’s aid in the war against insurgency. The Federal Government should also strengthen the borders, particularly in the North West and North East and recruit more soldiers and policemen.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Friday, May 11, 2018

MURIC MOURNS CAN SECRETARY MUSA ASAKE


11th May, 2018

PRESS RELEASE:
MURIC MOURNS CAN SECRETARY
MUSA ASAKE 

The National Secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Rev. Musa Asake, died today after a brief illness. He was 66 years old.  

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) expresses immense shock. We commiserate with CAN President, Dr. Adebayo Oladeji, members of his executive as well as the entire body of Christ in Nigeria. We also condole with the nuclear and extended family of the deceased.

We share the grief of his immediate friends and admirers. We are with his mourners in spirit at this trying period. Our hearts are heavy with sadness. In particular, our hearts go to his widow, Mrs. Asake, the biological and spiritual children he left behind, his brothers and sisters. We pray that Almighty Allah will give them all the strength to bear this great loss.

We invite Christian youths to emulate Rev. Musa Asake. He was a great man. He was passionate about discipline and hardwork. He worked tirelessly for a better and more secure Nigeria. He was deeply committed to what he believed in and he left behind a legacy of activism, industry and patriotism. His sudden demise has left a yawning gap which will be difficult to fill.

We remind Nigerians that death is a necessary end and nobody knows when it will be his or her turn. But what matters is what we leave behind. Let us therefore seek a better and more secure life for our country, our children and generations yet unborn

As we round up, we charge religious leaders to learn from the lessons which the late Rev. Musa Asake left behind. These include forging love between Christians, Muslims and traditionalists in Nigeria. Our children must not grow up to hate one another. Our children must not grow into a world of rancor and animosity. Despite our differences, Musa Asake was an epitome of love, goodwill, humility, forgiveness and tolerance. We disagreed on matters of faith but we always agreed on issues affecting our dear country, Nigeria and humanity.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)