Sunday, June 5, 2016


5th June, 2016,

Nigerian Muslims will start the Ramadan fast today, Monday, 6th June, 2016 following the sighting of the crescent as announced by His Eminence, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, the Sultan of Sokoto.       

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) seizes the opportunity of Ramadan being divinely recognized as the month of mercy to appeal to President Muhammadu Buhari to grant presidential pardon to the 54 soldiers who are presently serving ten year jail term ostensibly for refusing to fight Boko Haram insurgents.

It will be recalled that the 54 soldiers were sentenced to death in December 2014 before this was commuted to ten years imprisonment each in December 2015 by the Chief of Army Staff (COAS), Lt. Gen. Tukur Buratai. Nigerians have since learnt that the soldiers merely asked to be properly armed before advancing on the enemy.

The ongoing armsgate trials have revealed that Nigerian soldiers were actually deprived of arms at the time while the top echelon diverted money meant for the procurement of arms to the pockets of politicians. This may have informed the decision of the COAS to commute the death sentence of the 54 soldiers to imprisonment.

Leveraging on the Ramadan season as the divinely acknowledged month of mercy (rahmah), MURIC hereby appeals for presidential pardon for the soldiers. Like Portia in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice (Act IV, Scene I), we remind Mr. President that “The quality of mercy is not strained, it droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven upon the place beneath; it is twice blest; it blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”

According to Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him), “The beginning of Ramadan is a blessing, its middle is forgiveness while its end is freedom”. We appeal to the president to allow these three qualities of Ramadan (blessing, forgiveness and freedom) to reflect fully in his actions and utterances during this Ramadan, particularly regarding the case of the 54 soldiers.

There is no gainsaying that Nigeria is in dire need of prayers today. We are plagued with the problems of insecurity, insurgency, militancy and separatist propensities. Our leaders always ask religious leaders to pray for the country. Our Imams are praying. Our pastors are also praying. But the best assurance that Allah will answer this country’s prayers is for our leaders to show remorse and seek Allah’s forgiveness for our collective trespasses. So what better way is there to seek Allah’s forgiveness than by first forgiving our own perceived offenders?

Mr. President, a nation that seeks divine blessing must first purge itself of its judicial wrongdoings. We contend that the 54 soldiers and many other prisoners are innocent souls. They cry night and day. They may not be cursing Nigeria but they hardly pray for her. Set these innocent souls free and see how the doors of heaven open unto your administration.

We also appeal to state governors and chief justices to seize the opportunity of this month of mercy to visit prisons and set large numbers of prisoners free. In particular, we call for freedom for all female prisoners, no matter their religious leaning. Islam has special regard for the womenfolk. They have no business being in prisons.

This is one of the steps which our leaders must take to secure istijaabah (Allah’s positive response to prayers). It will show that we as Nigerians confess our sins before Allah. We are showing remorse, asking for forgiveness. We are forgiving those who actually offended us collectively as well as our perceived offenders. Perchance Allah will close the doors of our country’s travails and open the doors of peace, blessings and abundant prosperity for our country. Nigeria will be great again. Aamiin.   

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

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