The management of Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife, Osun State has shut down mosques located in the school hostels over some allegations raised against a group called Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN).
A statement by the Department of Student Affairs (DSA) said the mosques, located in Fajuyi and Awolowo halls of the school allegedly harbors female students for prostitution and teaching of an alien doctrine with a fashion similar to the current Boko Haram insurgency.
Dr. G. O. Akinola, head, Division of Students Affairs gives further details on the closure.
Below is full statement:
The Division of Students Affairs (DSA) acting upon the Statutes and Regulations of Obafemi Awolowo University hereby declares closed until further notice, the two purported mosques in Awolowo and Fajuyi Halls for the reasons of peace, free movement of students and staff within the Halls and the overriding need for the security of all persons, assets and installation in the Halls.
The reasons for this closure are as set out below:
1. On Friday 12th August, 2016 when the current executive members of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU), Ife Branch were to be inaugurated at the Central Mosque, the Division of Students Affairs (DSA) was invited and was duly represented by the Vice Dean of the Division. There were issues at the inauguration when we were told of another group of Muslim students who wanted to impose themselves and their doctrines which are not consistent with the Constitution of the MSSN members. At that point the Vice-Dean was asked to interact with this group with a view to finding out what their arguments and positions were;
2. After the Vice-Dean’s interaction with the group (which is yet to give a name to itself, although they insisted that they should be called MSSN too), we decided to call members of the group to a meeting at the DSA.
They came on Tuesday, 23rd August 2016 at 6.15pm. After several attempts at making them attend the parley failed, we eventually held a meeting with them on this 23rd August. We stressed at the meeting the point that the DSA is only aware of the existence of only one MSSN as a registered Muslim students’ group on the campus of the Obafemi Awolowo University, Ile-Ife.
We impressed it on the group that even the DSA is also aware that the National body of the MSSN recognises only one MSSN group here on campus. We therefore advised the group to, if they have any issue of disagreement between them and the mainstream MSSN, please for sake of peace on campus and interest of their members take steps to sort them out with the Executive of the MSSN on campus.
3. The meeting deliberated extensively on how to bring this settlement about and at the end of it, it was agreed that a period of one (1) week be given to permit the group interact with the mainstream MSSN and settle their disagreement amicably failing which the two ‘mosques’ at Fajuyi and Awolowo Halls would be closed down for peace to reign.
Note that this splinter group of the MSSN had begun to use the two ‘mosques’ in these Halls as a base for their anti-mainstream MSSN rhetorics and doctrinal disagreement on campus, including recruitment of students for their separate teachings. Note also, that these two ‘mosques’, converted as such were originally Cafeteria buildings meant for the respective halls under the University’s master plan.
We also agreed at the meeting that if the DSA found that they were able to make progress on the reconciliation, even if they have not completely reached an agreement on doctrinal or worship issues, the suggestive closure of the ‘mosque’ would be suspended to permit for more room for rapport and deeper reconciliation. We agreed that we were going to meet again on the very day that the one-week ultimatum to reconcile expired, that is Tuesday 30th August, 2016.
Meanwhile, desirous of a way to convince the DSA that the splinter group meant well, they invited the to visit the two ‘mosques’ in Fajuyi and Awolowo Halls to see that there was nothing sinister in the activities of the splinter group and that if anything at all, they have been peaceful and law-abiding.
4. However, on Thursday 25th August, a meeting was held with the University recognized MSSN Executive members. This same MSSN Executive is also recognised by the OAU Muslim Community and by the National body of MSSN in Nigeria. That meeting was called to hear the complaints of the splinter MSSN members and their grievances. The recognized MSSN was informed of the University’s plan to close the ‘mosques’ in Fajuyi and Awolowo Halls if the splinter group of the MSSN failed to make peace with the mainstream MSSN and reconcile accordingly;
5. On Friday 26th August, the MSSN National body paid a courtesy visit to the DSA to discuss the furore over the recognized MSSN on campus. The visitation team led by the President of the National MSSN, Muhammad Jameel Muhammad came in company of the campus mainstream MSSN and some of his officials. The thrust of their visit was to make a passionate appeal to the DSA on their fear for the possibility of “Emergence on the OAU campus of an extremist group of Muslim students in a fashion similar to the current Boko Haram insurgency besetting Nigeria”.
They expressed some fears and strongly felt that the splinter MSSN group in OAU and what they referred to as “their strange doctrinal principles and procedures” could lead to the materialization of such fears. The visitation team pleaded with the University through the DSA to do all that was lawful and needful to see that such fears were allayed.
The visitation team also reiterated their support for the recognized MSSN mainstream organization and its president. In addition, the team gave a copy of the MSSN Constitution and 5 copies of the articles of faith of the MSSN titled “MSSN at a Glance” to the DSA;
6. On the night of 27th August, 2016 reports came to the Acting Dean, DSA, that the splinter MSSN group were planning to hold a religious programme in Awolowo Hall Cafeteria the following day (i.e. 28th August, 2016), for which they had not sought or obtained permission.
The Acting Dean reported to the University Chief Security Officer who immediately sent a group of his men to see how things would go with a view to apprehending any illegality or untoward behaviours and report forthwith. Report came that the religious programme held and that the leaders of the splinter MSSN presided at that programme. The point here is that the group failed to seek or secure approval for this religious activity in the Cafeteria.
7. However, on the night preceding the expiration of the ultimatum given to the Splinter MSSN group, to make peace with the mainstream MSSN and reconcile accordingly, a text message was sent to the Vice Dean, DSA, from the Splinter MSSN group that they had contacted someone who would help broker the reconciliation talks and that the person said he would see the Chief Imam of the Central mosque later. The DSA quickly apprehended this as delay tactics as the text could have been sent earlier.
Otherwise, why the night preceding the expiration of the ultimatum to reconcile? In any case, on the agreed date when the ultimatum expired (Tuesday 30th August, 2016), the DSA expected them to come for a meeting at the DSA’s office, but to our chagrin they refused to show up.
8. Meanwhile, acting upon the invitation earlier extended to the DSA by this splinter MSSN group, the Acting Dean and Vice Dean at about 10.45am on 31st August, 2016, visited the Fajuyi and Awolowo Halls with a view to seeing for themselves samples of the activities of the splinter MSSN group.
We told them of many irregular and outright illegal things we have heard them do at the ‘mosques’. We made them realise that they had been holding unauthorized religious programmes in these ‘mosques’ and several other places on campus without approval from the DSA. They, however, argued
that they had not been violent but law abiding and that they had never done anything illegal or irregular in any of their religious meetings.
9. But on this our visit to Awolowo ‘mosque’, we discovered a door leading to one of the rooms in the ‘mosque’ was securely locked from inside and the occupants refused to open. We threatened to force the door open if they refused any further, and after much persuasion, the door was opened and we discovered to our utter amazement that a group of girls numbering about a dozen were locked inside the room either fully or partially veiled. Our amazement was that the room in which they were locked or locked themselves was in a male hall, we wondered to no end why purported female students would be locked up in a male hall during lecture hours, no matter the excuse. Before we could interrogate them, some escaped through the backdoor of the room but we were able to apprehend three of them from whom we collected their identity cards.
10. At the Fajuyi Hall, we also discovered to utter shock that a group of girls who purported themselves to be students were locked in a room in the ‘mosque’. We interrogated them and they claimed that they were kept there by their leaders who happen to be the leaders of MSSN splinter group. They, in addition claimed that they were praying in the room. Our dilemma was why a group of female students would claim to be praying during lecture hours in an exclusive male hall at around 11am! There were five girls in this room and we collected the identity cards from four of them. The fifth one who was fully veiled said she had not her identity card on her. However, a male student who vouched for this fully veiled girl volunteered to stand in for her until she produced her identity card. We collected this male student’s identity card.
11. Having observed the seeming obstinacy of the splinter MSSN group to interact with the DSA and to fulfill the requirements of the agreement reached on 23rd August, we again were forced to send a follow-up invitation to them stating that they should come to the DSA for a meeting on Wednesday, 31st August for a serious interaction at the DSA’s office. But to our utter dismay they sent a text message to the DSA that all of them in the group would be having Continuous Assessment tests from 10am to 5pm on 31st August, 2016. We replied that text message that no test of any kind could possibly last from 10am to 5pm in this University and that in their own interest they needed to show up for the meeting on or before 2.00pm on 31st August to discuss the issue of reconciliation as agreed in our last meeting with them.
12. The splinter MSSN group eventually came in the afternoon of 31st August at about 1.15pm. We intimated them with our findings and told them they had to put a stop to their practice of harbouring girls in rooms within the ‘mosques’. Their leaders insisted that they could not abide by that demand and that they reserved the right to keep any of their female members in the rooms in the ‘mosque’! We explained to them that what they were doing was contrary to the laws of the University and the regulations guiding religious worship and students’ conduct. But they held their ground that since the ‘mosque’ was a place of worship they could not abide by the rules and the need to desist from keeping female students within its rooms at any time. The meeting ended in a stalemate.
13. We thereafter pleaded with the Chief Imam of the University to take full charge of the ‘mosques’ and prevent forthwith any breach of the University’s rules within its walls. He declined flatly and said he would rather not be held responsible for what ever happened in those ‘mosques’ as he had since dissociated himself from the practices and doctrines of the splinter MSSN who controlled it.
14. It should be noted that the Federal Government, of Nigeria of which Obafemi Awolowo University is an integral part, has not legalized prostitution in Universities. It is pertinent to note also that no female should be camped in a male facility under the guise of religion, as this is tantamount to running a brothel which will breed prostitution; and this is illegal. It is only fit, proper and responsible that any grossly abused university facility be closed down.
15. Consequently, acting within its powers to prevent any breakdown of law and order and to ensure freedom of movement of persons within the respective halls of residence, especially at this time of dire security concern in the country, the DSA has therefore acted this 2nd day of September, 2016 to seal off and close down henceforth, the two ‘mosques’ in Awolowo and Fajuyi Halls until such a time that orderliness and the rule of the University would be respected.