Wednesday, November 13, 2019

REVIEW NYSC CAMP TRAINING NOW


13th November, 2019
          
PRESS RELEASE:
REVIEW NYSC CAMP TRAINING NOW

A female Muslim corper yesterday refused to use the conventional short knicker at the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camp at Iyana Ipaja, Lagos State. NYSC authorities have allegedly initiated the process for decamping her and she may be sent out of the camp today, Wednesday, 13th November, 2019.   
   
It will be recalled that two female Christian youth corpers were also expelled from the NYSC camp in Ebonyi State on Saturday, 9th November, 2019 for the same reason. Both the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) and the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) have since condemned the expulsion.

But MURIC has added a new twist to the NYSC’s short knicker furore. In a press statement circulated to the media by its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola on Wednesday, 13th November, 2019, the civil society organization berated NYSC for sacrificing morality on the altar of militarization. It called for immediate review of the NYSC training camp activities to allow female corpers whose creeds forbid them from wearing short knickers to freely and willingly partake in the activities.

MURIC said, “NYSC has placed military options above moral issues. It is affecting young ones in both Christianity and Islam. This is capable of destroying the moral fabrics of our society. What kind of leadership is NYSC trying to produce for the nation? Is it a God-fearing leadership that will give the nation good governance or one that has no fear of Allah that will embezzle the people’s funds, abuse power while in office and deprive the citizens of basic infrastructural facilities?

“NYSC should go into retrospection. What has it achieved in more than three decades of its existence? What has been the impact of its training on the youth? Our streets have been taken over by an army of jobless graduates. Yahoo Yahoo is the order of the day. Our graduates are heavily militarized. Cultism, kidnapping and ritual killing are their hobbies. Materialism is their religion. They are in a hurry to get rich. Meanwhile Nigeria holds its breath and trembles.

“But NYSC can do better if it pays attention to morality and vocational training instead of concentrating on physical fitness, climbing obstacles, crawling under barbed wires and other military exercises like marching, military parade, etc. Of what use have these activities been to the graduates? Of what use have those activities been to national development?

“What is the purpose of teaching graduates how to march on parade when they are not expected to continue military drills after camp? Why are we training them to cross obstacles and crawl under sharp objects when the training does not include the use of arms? Corpers finish up the one-year ritual without knowing how to cock a rifle or how to halt an advancing target for identification. It is sheer window-dressing.

“NYSC camp modus operandi is as irrelevant as it is distractive. As far as we are concerned, physical training for graduates in present day Nigeria is peripheral. It is their moral training that is tangential. It is a misplacement of priorities. A nation that has been dragged behind by corruption, a nation whose growth has been retarded by immorality cannot afford to ignore warnings coming from the altar and the minbar.

The organization suggested the way forward.

“What does NYSC or the nation as a whole stand to gain from decamping corpers for irrational and flimsy excuses? The effect is counter-productive. It wastes the efforts of serious-minded graduates while Yahoo Yahoo and cultist graduates multiply on our streets. What’s in a short knicker and what’s in a long skirt? NYSC is killing flies with a sledge-hammer.

“The way forward is to de-emphasise physical and pseudo-military exercises. NYSC handlers should turn attention to the reorientation of our young graduates during camping. Many of them are cynical about Nigeria. NYSC can partner with the National Orientation Agency (NOA) in this regard. Lectures and interactive sessions on patriotism will go a long way to give corpers a new mindset. Motivational speakers should be on call.

“Besides, the period should be used for vocational training. This will change our young ones into entrepreneurs and reduce the number of jobless youths. Leadership retreat is another angle that should be considered. Our young graduates need to begin to see leadership as service to humanity. The camping period can also be used for anti-corruption campaigns. Ideologues of the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) may come in handy here.”
MURIC rubbished NYSC’s rationale for choice of short knickers for corpers in camp.

“The argument that corpers need short knickers for military drills does not hold any water at all. We have been able to prove that those drills are unnecessary. Corpers are not soldiers. Neither are they members of uniformed organisations. Their stay in camp is ephemeral, sometimes three or four weeks. 99.999% of them may never put on any uniform again in their lives. What then is the purpose of laying so much emphasis on drills, crossing the obstacle, climbing nets, jumping over heights and ascending walls? Has the Third World War started?  

“Nigerians should shine their eyes. Those military exercises were introduced at the time because NYSC was started by the military. They added all those irrelevant aspects because those are activities best known to soldiers. But we should review the camping activities now that we are in a civilian regime.

“We therefore appeal to the National Assembly (NASS) to take an urgent look at activities in NYSC camps with a view to reviewing them as discussed above. This is a democracy. The NYSC decree should be radically reviewed by the NASS. The Ministry of Internal Affairs is also advised to study the matter and bring it to the attention of the presidency. We call on the leadership of CAN to join us in the call for a review of the modus operandi of NYSC training camp.

“In our closing remarks, we reject NYSC’s excuse for insisting on using short knickers. We assert that corpers do not need any exercise that cannot be done with skirts. We call for the introduction of re-orientation lectures, leadership training talks and anti-corrption campaigns to replace irrelevant military drills. We also advocate vocational training for corpers in order to turn their attention to entrepreneurship rather than remaining wild goose chasers of non-available white-collar jobs.”

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



Monday, November 11, 2019

MURIC SUPPORTS CAN ON EXPELLED CHRISTIAN CORPERS


12th November, 2019
          
PRESS RELEASE:
MURIC SUPPORTS CAN ON EXPELLED CHRISTIAN CORPERS

An Islamic human rights organization has declared its support for the position held by the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on the expulsion of two female Christian youth corpers from the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) camp in Ebonyi State.     
It will be recalled that the two corpers, Okafor Love Obianuju and Odji Oritsetsolaye were expelled from the 2019 Batch C Stream 1 in Ebonyi camp on Saturday, 9th November, 2019 for refusing to wear short knickers and trousers as instructed by NYSC officials. The umbrella Christian association, CAN, immediately condemned the expulsion of the corpers. CAN called on NYSC to be more tolerant.

In an interesting development, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has thrown its weight behind CAN’s position. This was revealed to pressmen in a statement issued by MURIC’s arrowhead, Professor Ishaq Akintola on Tuesday, 12th November, 2019.

According to MURIC, “Those two Christian girls have the right to satisfy their conscience regarding what to wear and what not to wear in public. There is freedom of religion in the Nigerian Constitution and NYSC is flagrantly violating Section 38 (i) and (ii) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. NYSC is behaving like the notorious Gestapo. It is time to liberalise.

“It is not just a religious matter. Morality is involved here. NYSC seeks to destroy our norms and values. Our sons and daughters who were trained in good Christian and Muslim homes are stripped nude when they go for NYSC. This is unacceptable. Something must be done urgently if this is the mission of NYSC.

“It is absolutely wrong to force our daughters to appear in short knickers in public. It is against strict Christian and Islamic teachings. It is also an assault on the dignity of their human persons. They feel humiliated. It is a big shame. NYSC is flagrantly infringing the Nigerian constitution.

Right to the dignity of the human person is entrenched in Section 34 (b) & (c) of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended (2011) which says, ‘Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly…(b) no person shall be held in slavery or servitude and (c) no person shall be required to perform forced or compulsory labour.’

The African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Article 4, Clause 1 & 2 also says, ‘Human beings are inviolable. Every human being shall be entitled to respect for his life and the integrity of his person.’ We must therefore ask why NYSC authorities are turning their facilities to slave camps.
“But it was never meant to be like this. NYSC was introduced to instill patriotism and discipline in Nigerian youth. But what kind of discipline can NYSC instill in corpers if the female members are instructed to wear atrociously short knickers that expose sensitive parts of their anatomy to prying eyes? This is a direct way of encouraging immorality and corruption.

“We have it on good authority that NYSC uniforms were not sexually inducing ab initio. Pictures of youth corpers in the 70s show female members in long skirts that reached below the knees. Parents were proud of this but we are miffed by what we have today. So what has happened between then and now? Why must NYSC display our daughters in the public like prostitutes?”

MURIC invited CAN to join hands with it in fighting corruption and immorality in the country.

“We invite CAN to join us in the fight against corruption and immorality. We can stop moral debauchery in Nigeria if we can all come together. Greed, avarice, massive accumulation of wealth and criminality will reduce drastically if Christian and Muslim leaders speak with one voice against all vices. This is better for Nigeria than being at logger-heads all the time.”

The group also narrated a ‘tale of two girls’, the Christian girl and the Muslim girl.
“We commend CAN leadership for speaking out in support of the two Christian girls who wish to dress decently. Nonetheless, we call CAN’s attention to the plight of Muslim female students who are facing persecution in South Western schools on account of hijab. It is a tale of two girls. The Muslim girl and the Christian girl from good homes. Both of them wish to dress decently. They feel assaulted if they are disallowed from doing so and they are both prepared to face the repercursion for challenging the status quo.

“This is why we find it curious that CAN has joined issues with Muslim parents who have gone to court to challenge tyrannical school authorities in Ibadan, Abeokuta, etc who lock out female Muslim students for using hijab. While the girls’ parents have gone to court to challenge the schools’ illegal, unlawful and unconstitutional decisions, CAN (which was not sued in the case) has approached the courts asking to be joined in the suits as interested parties on the schools’ side.

“We find it paradoxical that the same CAN has asked the Christian girls expelled in Ebonyi to sue NYSC. Now, how would CAN feel if an Islamic organization should also approach the same court stating reasons why the case should be thrown out? It is obvious that Muslims have nothing to do with the Ebonyi case in the first place, so why join issues over it? But why did CAN join schools sued by Muslim parents whose daughters are being persecuted? Is it for Jacob or for Esau?
“To cap the edifice, we call on the new director general of the NYSC to intervene in the issue of the two Christian girls expelled in Ebonyi. Those two girls should be recalled. We also advise the new NYSC leadership to set the machinery in motion for a review of the NYSC dress code in line with the issues raised by religious groups. We advise CAN to retrace its steps in the cases initiated by Muslims against some South West schools. Christian and Muslim organisations should seek ways of moving the nation forward while emphasis should be laid on areas of uniformity at all times. Nigeria needs peace more than anything else at this material time.”

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


Sunday, November 10, 2019

MAOLUD MESSAGE: MURIC URGES NIGERIANS TO EMBRACE FG’S PROGRAMMES


11th November, 2019
          
MAOLUD MESSAGE:
MURIC URGES NIGERIANS TO EMBRACE FG’S PROGRAMMES

As Nigerian Muslims join more than 2.6 billion Muslims around the globe in celebrating the birthday of Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has urged Nigerians from all walks of life to embrace programmes initiated by the Federal Government (FG) instead of searching endlessly for white collar jobs thereby remaining jobless and idle.
This was contained in a Maolud Nabiyy message circulated by the human rights organization on Monday, 11th November, 2019. MURIC felicitated with the head of the Nigerian Muslim community, the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs, Alhaji Muhammad Sa’ad Abubakar on the occasion of 2019 Maolud Nabiyy.
In the message which was issued by the Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, MURIC congratulated President Muhammadu Buhari for witnessing the occasion and for his visionary and exemplary leadership. The group also wished all Nigerians a Happy Maolud Nabiyy.
“We are indeed elated by the purpose driven leadership style of President Muhammadu Buhari. We single out various empowerment programmes initiated by his administration which offer economic opportunities for different classes of Nigerians. Equally laudable is the president’s successful investment drive with foreign countries like Russia, China, Morocco and Saudi Arabia.
“We condemn in very strong terms attempts being made by critics and the opposition to whittle down President Buhari’s achievements particularly cynic’s criticism of the president’s trips to foreign countries. These criticisms are manifestations of kindergarten political mentality. It is quite obvious that the Nigerian opposition groups need to enroll in the institute of forward-looking political ballgame.
“Instead of running round in circles looking for white collar jobs or embarking on suicidal trips across the Sahara Desert and the Mediterranean Sea, we urge Nigerians to embrace FG’s empowerment programmes. The advanced facilities which Nigerians crave in Europe and America were not produced by an indolent citizenry or a cynical labour force. They are products of dogged industry.
Sitting down idly and waiting for manna to fall from heaven via endless visitations to miracle centers and asalatu grounds will not bring the change we need. We must embrace the philosophy of ora et labora by combining work with prayers.  
“Prophet Muhammad whom we are celebrating today hated laziness with a passion. He toiled relentlessly as a youth and worked harder even after marriage. He condemned beggary and encouraged hardwork. This is why Nigerian Muslims in particular and other citizens have no business begging around or remaining idle when the opportunities offered by FG are there just for asking.
“Many Nigerians have been bitten by the lazy citizenry bug. The government initiated several empowerment projects and asked them to register free. Government is giving land free. Government will open the land free. Tractor work is free. They are giving seedlings to plant free and soft loan to every registered Nigerian. The icing on the cake is that there is no interest and no collateral for the loan. This is unprecedented in the history of this country. Yet enemies of progress ignore these golden opportunities. All they do is complain of poverty and hunger. It is our contention that those who refuse to take opportunities deserve whatever befalls them.

“As we round off, we urge Nigerians to emulate Prophet Muhammad’s philosophy of the dignity of labour. In view of FG’s aggressive economic empowerment for citizens and investment partnership with foreign countries, we invite Nigerians from all strata of society to avail themselves of the opportunities. This is the only way to turn the country to a nation of producers after being a consumer state for so long.”
Professor Ishaq Akintola,    
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

IGBO MAN KIDNAPS, RAPES, IMPREGNATES HAUSA GIRL: MURIC KICKS


6th November, 2019
          
PRESS RELEASE:
IGBO MAN KIDNAPS, RAPES, IMPREGNATES HAUSA GIRL: MURIC KICKS

An 18-year-old Hausa girl, Maryam Dauda, who had been missing for several months has been found in the home of an Igbo man, Alex Chukwugo. Maryam went missing in January 2019 and all efforts made by the parents to locate her failed. Although the parents heard news of the missing girl in June 2019 (six months later), they were not allowed to see their daughter until October 2019 when they were invited to Alex Chukwugo’s house to see her with a newly born baby.     
Meanwhile the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has kicked against the circumstances in which the girl was found. The group’s anger was expressed in a press statement issued by its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, on Wednesday, 6th November, 2019.
“This is frivolous, preposterous and unacceptable. Alex Chukwugo has abducted the Hausa girl. There is no other name for it. We insist that it is abduction. Alex as a fellow Nigerian knows the due process when it comes to marriage but he refused to follow that well-known process because of his criminal motive.
“He used deceptive means to get the girl into his house since January 2019. He has kept the girl in his custody against the girl’s will and definitely without the parent’s knowledge. During that period the parents were in severe emotional trauma. Alex Chukwugo has subjected Mr. and Mrs. Dauda to untold hardship, unlimited suffering and unprecedented psychological topsy-turvy.
“The parents went through this pain for six good months while their daughter was raped by Alex Chukwugo on a daily basis until she became pregnant. The suspect did not deem it fit to inform the parents of their daughter’s whereabout until after six months and when he eventually surfaced, he came with two other men only to inform the parents that they had found their daughter.
“Without revealing their true identity, they posed like security men performing their official duty. They exchanged telephone numbers with the parents and told them that they could not be allowed to see their daughter yet. It was only about three weeks ago (four months after the nocturnal visit to the girl’s parents) that they invited them to the house of the abductor of their daughter. The parents were shocked when they discovered that their daughter had just delivered a baby.     
“The parents left in anger and a concerned Hausa man who is educated came to MURIC’s office to lodge a report. We had no option than to go to the police and the suspect was arrested on Sunday, 3rd November, 2019. As we go to press, both the suspect and his abducted victim are in Police headquarters, Ikeja.
“One thing is very clear in this case. Alex Chukwugo gave the parents this shabby treatment because they are simple peasants with no Western education. But we are assuring him that he miscalculated. MURIC will stand by every Muslim against his or her oppressor. We will uphold the rule of law no matter whose ox is gored. Gone are the days when Muslims are treated like dregs of their societies. We are prepared to use every legitimate means to ensure that Muslims get redress from their oppressors.
“The parents have complained that policemen in Ikeja, have disallowed them from speaking with their daughter. We frown at this development. The parents should be allowed to communicate with their daughter. No one expects the police to aggravate the parents suffering after their daughter has been found. We therefore call on the Lagos State Commissioner of Police to call his men to order. It is the height of insensitivity for the police to disallow the parents from speaking with their daughter after suffering for so long. What game is the police playing? Nigerians are waiting.
“MURIC is a ‘watchdog’ in this case and we are going to monitor events from now on. Alex Chukwugo must be arraigned in court. We will not rest until the parents of Maryam get justice.
“Something interesting seems to be going on in this country. Muslim children are being kidnapped on a daily basis since the past ten years particularly from the North. The destination has been the Southern part of Nigeria and now Alex Chukwugo has rubbed it in. Our daughters are now being lured into secret enclaves. They are kept in custody against their will. They are repeatedly raped until they submit to their abductors. Alex Chukwugo must be taught the lesson of his lifetime.
“On a last note, MURIC demands justice for Mr. and Mrs. Dauda. We call on the Lagos State Ministry of Justice to invoke the full powers of the law in this case. Alex Chukwudi and others like him must be made to face the full wrath of the law. Nigerians are watching. MURIC is on 24-7 vigil.    
Professor Ishaq Akintola,    
Director,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)


Monday, November 4, 2019

ARREST KILLER OJO AKINLABI: MURIC TASKS OYO POLICE


5th November, 2019


PRESS RELEASE:
ARREST KILLER OJO AKINLABI: MURIC TASKS OYO POLICE


An Islamic human rights organization has called for the arrest of one Ojo Akinlabi for allegedly killing Pa Taiwo Biliaminu, a septuagenarian. The suspect allegedly attacked the deceased with an axe and dealt him several blows from the weapon on 23rd October, 2019. The victim was rushed to the hospital but he gave up the ghost on 29th October, 2019. The incident occurred at Fiditi, Afijio Local Government of Oyo State.

The call for arrest was made on Tuesday, 5th November, 2019 in a press statement issued by the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC). Professor Ishaq Akintola, who signed the statement, accused Ojo Akinlabi of thuggery, hooliganism, brigandage and premeditated murder.

He added, “Ojo Akinlabi is a Muslim hater and a social nuisance. He is a threat to his community. He attacks Muslims at will. The list of his Muslim victims include Miss Simiat of Abese family, whom he allegedly raped to death in 2008; Alhaji Hamza Adebiyi whom he attacked and whose house he vandalized in 2017 and Rafiu Olaojo whom he attacked with a cutlass in October 2019.


“Furthermore, the suspect attacked Taofeek Oyekola, the Imam of Agbongbon Omodeni Mosque, vandalized his house, hacked down wooden windows and pursued the residents. He also destroyed foodstuff in the shop outside the house (raw rice, beans, gari and oil). However, his attempt to burn down the house failed.


“Ojo Akinlabi has threatened to kill all Muslims in Fiditi. All his victims so far are Muslims. He also insists that he does not want to see any mosque in the town. Muslims in the area live in palpable fear and the mosque has been deserted. The suspect is a notorious cultist who initiates people by force at his shrine which is situated behind the Yehoyeho House.


“As a peace-loving, law-abiding and dialogue-inclined group, we are using this medium to appeal to the Oyo State Police Command to rise to the occasion. The police at Fiditi Police Station had forwarded the report of the murder of Pa Taiwo Biliaminu to Iyaganku Police Headquarters, Ibadan since 1st November, 2019. It appears Fiditi police find it difficult to apprehend the suspect. The responsibility must fall squarely on the state police command.



“For the umpteenth time, MURIC is reporting another case of reckless killing, physical assault, vandalisation of property and harassment of Muslims by traditionalists in South West Nigeria. Yet we are the same Muslims who have been wrongly portrayed in certain quarters as terrorists, fundamentalists, extremists and violent people. There has been no single incident of Muslims hitting back at their traducers in the sub-region. It now appears we are being pushed to the wall.




“We are therefore constrained to request the immediate intervention of the Inspector General of Police (IG), particularly because attacks on Muslims and their properties has spread across all the states in the South West. Muslims have become endangered species. We need protection for ourselves, our mosques and our properties. It is our belief that this and other press statements will be used as evidence in future to show how patient Muslims have been in spite of repeated attacks on us. It will also be used against those who fail to take action.



“Yet contrary to Fidel Castro’s postulate that it is illegal to be law abiding in a lawless society and Nelson Mandela’s submission that when injustice becomes law, resistance becomes a duty, we remain faithful to MURIC’s avowed motto : ‘Dialogue, No Violence’ in the hope that the IG will change the narrative.


“We remind the Nigeria Police of the words of Albert Einstein that the world will not be destroyed by those who do evil but by those who watch them without doing anything. Martin Luther had argued that injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.

“In conclusion, we charge the Oyo State Commissioner of Police to send officers and men who are capable of restoring law and order by bringing Ojo Akinlabi to justice. In addition, we appeal to the IG to investigate the cause of police unwillingness to bring our attackers to book and thereafter, to take such measures that will ensure prompt and proportionate action against anyone who attacks people of other faiths or destroys their properties in future.” 


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



Sunday, November 3, 2019

MURIC APPEALS TO AREGBESOLA TO FREE 54 SOLDIERS


4th November, 2019
          
PRESS RELEASE:
MURIC APPEALS TO AREGBESOLA TO FREE 54 SOLDIERS

The Minister of Internal Affairs, Rauf Aregbesola, recently pledged to decongest Nigeria’s correctional facilities within six months (https://www.tori.ng/news/133383/aregbesola-promises-to-decongest-prisons-in-six-mo.html). The minister spoke at a public hearing organized by the National Assembly Joint Committee on Appropriation.
Although the minister laid emphasis on awaiting trial inmates, an Islamic human rights group, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has appealed to him to extend the reprieve to those serving prison sentences, particularly the 54 soldiers. The civil society group spoke through its arrow-head, Professor Ishaq Akintola, in a statement circulated to the media on Monday, 4th October, 2019.
The group agreed with the minister that Nigeria’s correctional centres are long overdue for decongestion.
“The honourable minister has good intentions and the idea is quite laudable, visionary and humane. Available data indicates that more than 70% of inmates of correctional centres are awaiting trials. This has caused severe congestion forcing inmates to sleep in turn. They queue for hours in front of toilets. This is dehumanising, degrading and inconsiderate.

“Exempli gratia, 1,574 out of 1,761 inmates in Anambra are awaiting trial. Out of the 600 inmates in Aba, only 113 of them are serving full sentences. The rest are awaiting trial and expectedly, 80 of them have gone mad. It is so pathetic, so alarming.   

“Then comes the question of space. Our correctional centres are not large enough, neither do they have necessary facilities to retain a human face. 585 inmates jostle for 400 spaces in Ekiti. The space designed for 1,354 inmates in Rivers is being used by 4,424 inmates. Owerri Correctional Centre contains 2,500 instead of 550. This is why Aregbesola’s move to decongest the prisons could not have come at a better time.”

“With the total number of prisoners in Nigeria standing at 73, 631 as at 18th July, 2018 in a population of roughly 199 million one wonders why Nigeria cannot provide enough facilities in its correctional centres when its prison population rate is just 37 per 100,000. It is noteworthy that the world prison population rate, based on United Nations estimates of national population levels, is 145 per 100,000. The rate for Western African countries is 53 whereas for southern African countries it is 244 per 100,000 (See World Prison Population List https://www.prisonstudies.org/sites/default/files/resources/downloads/wppl_12.pdf).

MURIC appeals to the minister to extend the decongestion exercise to the 54 soldiers.

“But we are asking the minister to extend the kind gesture to other prisoners based on merit. Our main interest lies in the 54 soldiers. These were soldiers arrested in 2014 for daring to complain to their commander that their weapons were too poor to confront better equipped Boko Haram fighters.

“They had earlier lost 23 men and four officers due to poor equipment when they advanced on Damboa on 9thJuly, 2014. This made them to demand better supplies when they were ordered to return to the battle front again without improved weaponry. They were sentenced to death in December 2014 but this was later commuted to ten years imprisonment.

“But Nigerians have since learnt that it was the 54 soldiers affair which exposed the massive corruption in the army with particular reference to armsgate. We therefore contend that the 54 soldiers should be seen as heroes and patriots instead of being treated as criminals who merely deserve to rot in jail.

“It is on these humane and compassionate grounds that we are pleading with the honourable Minister of Internal Affairs to kindly extend the decongestion exercise to the 54 soldiers. It is about our norms and values. Those who have toiled for our country should not be made to regret their sacrifices. It is demoralising.

“Apart from seeking greener pastures, our lopsided sense of justice is another raison d’etre for the migration of Nigerian youth to foreign lands. We castigate excellence and reward mediocrity. We worship indolence and demonise industry. We deride integrity but hail corruption. This kills gallantry in our soldiers and diminishes patriotic instincts in our young ones. Instead of giving them ordinary panadol, Nigeria beheads its citizens for complaining of headache.  

“Or how do we explain the sentencing of a 22 year old man to 30 months in prison for stealing a pair of slippers? Worse still, he was given no option of fine. Why should a poor citizen be jailed two years for stealing just one goat? How do we justify the death sentence handed down to four men for stealing only one phone worth N10,000? What is the rationale behind docking a JSS 2 student for stealing N200 from his classmate?

“These are questions begging for answers and we expect the minister to address this burning issue of gross injustice in the land particularly against the poor jamahiir (masses). The starting point should be the 54 soldiers. We strongly believe that they are victims of ego-massaging by senior officers.”

MURIC also brought the issue of the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy to the front burner.

“We are aware that the Federal Government (FG) on Tuesday 28th August, 2018 inaugurated the Presidential Advisory Committee on Prerogative of Mercy. The Committee is to assist President Muhammadu Buhari in the discharge of his constitutional responsibility of granting state pardon to deserving prisoners and ex-convicts.

“The committee has been going round the states and it is doing a great job. But we are yet to hear what the committee thinks of the 54 soldiers. It is our considered opinion that the 54 soldiers are eminently eligible for presidential mercy. It may be pertinent here to inform the honourable minister that a special appeal for clemency for the 54 soldiers was addressed to the Vice President’s office by MURIC in November 2018.

“Prisoners are being released in large numbers around the world. Former US president Barrack Obama released 6,000 prisoners on 30th October, 2015. Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, released 7,000 prison inmates in October 2016 to make room for corruption offenders. Sheikh Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan ordered the release of 935 prisoners ahead of Ramadan on 14th May, 2018. It is only in Nigeria that governors and chief judges release a paltry 8 or 9 prisoners and leave thousands in jail to waste away.

“We therefore expect Aregbesola to order the release of inmates in their thousands from each correctional centre. The minister had been an uncommon governor for eight good years and he had stunned Nigerians with his record-breaking performance. We are therefore expecting an equally uncommon, unprecedented and revolutionary decongestion of Nigeria’s correctional centres within the next six months. Indeed, we expect the release of at least 50% of the 73, 631 Nigerians who are presently in the correctional centres. This will fall in line with global best practices.

“Before we draw the curtain, we hail Aregbesola for planning to decongest the prisons. We appeal to him to take a compassionate, yet dispassionate look at the the case of the 54 soldiers with a view to setting them free.

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