Wednesday, June 28, 2017


28th June 2017

The National Assembly (NASS) reportedly reduced money allocated to some key projects and reallocated the money to their own constituency projects. 

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) condemns this development in strong terms. It amounts to sabotage and an act of impunity. It is outrageous. It is legislative terrorism.

We note in particular that although the budget was presented as far back as December 14, 2016, NASS did not approve it until May 11, 2017 (six months later). The budget of year 2000 was approved on January 20, 2000. That of 2001 was approved in November 2000 while 2004 budget was approved in November 2003. In 2013, the budget was approved on November 20 of the previous year.

The six month delay in the 2017 budget is therefore curious. Such procrastination further cements the suspicion in the minds of Nigerians that the NASS is out to frustrate the good efforts of the present administration to make life more abundant for the jamaheer (masses). It tantamounts to armtwisting the executive.  We recall the hostile disposition of the NASS to the interests of the executive since the inception of this administration. Nominees were rejected without tangible casus belli. Nerves were frayed. It has been a cat and mouse game ab initio to date.      

While we are not opposed to the idea of members of the NASS pursuing their constituency projects, we find it disturbing that they will go as far as reducing money allocated to key projects to meet this objective. It should be the other way round if indeed members of the NASS have the interest of Nigeria at heart.

It beats us hollow to find lawmakers tampering with a project of momentous national significance like the Lagos-Ibadan expressway knowing fully well that this is the only and most important link road between the South West, the South East and the North. It is shocking, unbelievable and nauseating.

Equally unnerving is the reduction of money allocated to Bodo-Bonny road and Kano-Maiduguri road. Considering the fact that these projects had suffered long neglect by previous administration, we wonder if the NASS wants this administration to perform at all. NASS seems more interested in portraying the Federal Government as indolent as the immediate past administration.

By the way, isn’t the insertion of items not under the exclusive or concurrent list interesting afterthoughts? Ministers defended all the items listed under their ministries, who defends items inserted by members of the NASS? Is it a committee of the NASS? How transparent is such a process? Does it not look like rub my back I rub your back? How truly accountable can that be? These insertions are very suspicious.

It is our considered opinion that NASS should make its constituency projects or any such items public even before budget presentation so that it would have been known to the executive as well as the general public. Every member of the NASS who has a constituency project should also defend it before a neutral committee set up by the NASS but made up of credible public figures.

Before rounding up, MURIC charges members of the civil society to show keen interest in NASS’s constituency projects, particularly the items inserted in the 2017 budget with a view to monitoring them and holding the authors accountable at the appropriate time.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Friday, June 23, 2017


23rd June 2017

The month of Ramadan is gradually grinding to a halt and Nigerian Muslims are warming up to join fellow faithfuls across the globe in marking Id al-Fitr.    

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) felicitates with the head of all Nigerian Muslims, the Sultan of Sokoto and President General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), Alhaji Muhammad Sa‘ad Abubakar III, all heads of   Islamic organizations in the country and the Nigerian people in general.

We seize the opportunity of the successful completion of Ramadan to show our appreciation to the Federal Government (FG) for identifying with the Nigerian people in their hour of need. In particular, we note with pleasure that FG has kept its promise on the provision of jobs and stipends for the youths through the introduction of N-Power from which about 200,000 youths have benefitted and are receiving N30,000 monthly.

Equally gratifying is the revelation that about 1,051,000 pupils are now benefitting from the Home Grown School Feeding programme (HGSFP) in 8,587 schools in seven states across the country. No less reassuring is the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) programme from which 26,942 poor Nigerians have been receiving N5,000 monthly stipend.

While we applaud these humanitarian and welfaristic programmes, we call FG’s attention to the plight of senior citizens throughout Nigeria. These are elderly and retired men and women who have devoted the most productive part of their lives to serve this country. They should not be treated like ordinary oranges whose delicious juice is squeezed and sucked while the useless peel is thrown away.

We call for a special welfare package for senior citizens from the age of sixty (60) and above in the following areas:

1.  One free meal per day;
2.  Special free buses at designated places and times and
3.  Free medical care.  

MURIC is sending a special appeal to the Acting President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo to set the 54 soldiers free. These were soldiers whose insistence on the supply of effective weapons to fight Boko Haram insurgents sparked off the $2.1 billion arms investigation. They have been languishing in jail for the past two years for exposing a fraud of monumental proportion in the army.  

They are different from the twelve (12) soldiers who fired shots at their commander. FG must separate the wheat from the chaff. We must not treat heroes like rebels and mutineers.

Finally, we appeal to Nigerians, particularly those who have just completed the Ramadan fasting, to continue to pray for the quick recovery of President Muhammadu Buhari and our dear country Nigeria with peace, unity and prosperity as prayer points.  

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Wednesday, June 14, 2017


14th June 2017

This year’s hajj fare of N1.5 million announced by the National Hajj Commission of Nigeria (NAHCON) has been generating ripples. Prospective pilgrims have wondered why the fare is higher than that of 2016. They have therefore called for a reduction. Other stakeholders have called on the Federal Government (FG) to subsidise hajj fare.        

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) considers the ensuing controversy unnecessary, uncalled for and a sheer waste of saliva and misuse of calories. The suspicion, distrust and allegations leveled at NAHCON are equally products of misinformation.

Our investigations reveal that 98% of the services rendered by NAHCON in Saudi Arabia are determined in US dollars. Although 2016 official exchange rate was N197, recession and the attendant fall of the naira forced 2017 official exchange rate to N305. Whereas a pilgrim needed just $4,003 in 2016, his need in 2017 has risen to $4,805.

Now, if we multiply $4,805 by N305, what we will get is N1,465,525 (approximately N1.5m). This is why NAHCON has pegged the 2017 hajj fare at N1.5 million. Further investigation has also revealed that air ticket from the North is $1,600 while that of the South is $1,700. Furthermore, the cost of accommodation in Makkah is $933 while that of Madina is $430. These are easily verifiable.

MURIC opposes further subsidy for hajj this year for three reasons. Firstly, FG has already subsidized 2017 hajj because the official exchange rate is N368 whereas FG allowed N305. Pilgrims would have had to pay N1,768,240 (approximately N1.8m) at the prevailing bank rate of N368 per dollar if FG had not subsidized at all.

Secondly, Nigeria is in recession and Nigerian Muslims must be prepared to make sacrifices as government cannot afford to play the prodigal son at a time like this. About N34b would be needed to subsidise if pilgrims were to enjoy the 2016 rate of N197 per dollar but this cannot be rationalized in the face of the current recession.

Thirdly, every special concession granted to Muslims is most likely to become a subject of controversy as Christian groups are most likely to challenge FG for taking such an action. We must take the diverse character of our country into consideration at all times.

It is clear from the above details that it is highly naïve to blame NAHCON for the increase in hajj fare. Neither can FG or the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) be blamed. The major correlate which determines hajj fare is the exchange rate.

The options before us, therefore, are: one, to ask the National Assembly (NASS) to wade in and lobby for more concession; two, to appeal to Acting President Yemi Osinbajo to intervene executively and secure a reduction for Muslim pilgrims and, three, to enlighten prospective Muslim pilgrims and face the reality. The state of the nation’s economy has automatically knocked off the first two options and unless we want to rely on primordial sentiments, option number three seems the best in the present circumstance.

MURIC is therefore constrained to drum the doctrine of manistata‘a ilayhis-sabiil into the medulla oblongata of 2017 intending pilgrims in particular and all Muslim faithfuls in general (manistata‘a ilayhis-sabiil means hajj is for Muslims who have the means). This means hajj is not mandatory on those who do not have the money to perform it but it becomes compulsory once a Muslim has the means. But does a Muslim who has the money to perform hajj need government’s subsidy or sponsorship? The answer is capital ‘NO’.

A radical interpretation of the doctrine of manistata‘a ilayhis-sabiil will render borrowing from other sources to perform hajj or compelling government to subsidise the cost of hajj absolutely unnecessary. However, subsidies and outright sponsorship of citizens on hajj may be rationalized in an Islamic Republic but Nigeria is not one.

Nigeria has always been among countries with the largest number of pilgrims in Saudi Arabia every year. Of more than 2 million Muslims from 183 countries who performed hajj in 2016, Nigeria had 76,000. But how many out of this number contribute anything to the growth, development and welfare of the Ummah back home?

That is why we want FG to hands off hajj affairs in Nigeria. FG must allow the Muslim Ummah to determine its own destiny. If Muslims are to succeed in becoming owners of Islamic schools, universities, hospitals, libraries, halal hotels and other halal investments, every intending pilgrim must be compelled to pay a particular amount to the coffers of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) before they leave for hajj. Those going for ‘Umrah should pay something higher.

MURIC reiterates the need for FG and state governments to stop sponsoring Muslims on hajj. It is counterproductive because it has been abused severally. Politicians have hijacked it. They sponsor political thugs, hoodlums, riffraffs, mistresses and prostitutes who may not even be Muslims. This category of ‘pilgrims’ become recalcitrant in Saudi Arabia. Some members of the National Assembly also abuse it by seizing those priviledges meant for hajj officials. This practice should cease forthwith as MURIC is poised to monitor the procedure with the aim of identifying NASS members who engage in this immodest behavior. Enough is enough.

As we round up, we reaffirm our belief that it is time to correct misconceptions about hajj among Muslims. Hajj is once in a lifetime but we ignore this principle and rush to Saudi Arabia almost every year. ‘Umrah (lesser hajj) is not compulsory but we force it on ourselves as an annual ritual. We must open a new leaf. Gone are the days when anything goes. We must do what is right at all times.

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)

Tuesday, June 13, 2017


13th June 2017

There has been palpable tension in Nigeria in the past week as regional separatist groups issue threats and eviction orders. Reacting to vituperations, insults, abuses and hate speeches emanating from the Nnamdi Kanu group particularly on Radio Biafra, Arewa youths issued a 90-day quit notice to Igbos residing in the North.

Although Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State quickly issued an arrest order on the leaders of the Arewa youths, IPOB leaders reacted by ordering Igbo people to immediately embark on an exodus out of the North. A similar quit notice issued by a Yoruba group to the Igbos was quickly countered by another Yoruba group.

The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) regards these ugly developments as ominous signs. We condemn all quit notices issued by separatist groups to their fellow Nigerians of other ethnic groups. It is rash, parochial and unpatriotic.

However, we commend Governor Nasir El-Rufai of Kaduna State for his proactive directive issued to protect Igbos living in his domain. Also worthy of commendation is the Inspector General of Police who issued orders for the arrest of Arewa youths behind the issuance of quit notice to Igbos in the North. In the same vein, the Emir of Katsina, Alhaji Abdul Mumin Kabir who pledged to protect Igbos with the last drop of his blood, deserves encomiums not only from Nigerians but also from the international community.

We appeal to other emirs in the North to follow the example of the Emir of Katsina. Other efforts aimed at dousing tension should also be embarked upon. Imams throughout Nigeria but with emphasis on the North should preach the golden ideals of peace and unity on the minbar every Friday while Christian clerics do the same on the pulpits every Sunday.

While the visit of the leader of the Movement for the Actualisation of the Sovereign State of Biafra (MASSOB), Ralph Uwazuruke, to Kaduna for a dialogue with Northern leaders facilitated by Al-Mustapha is heartwarming, the silence of governors of the Eastern states is disturbing. We expect governors and traditional rulers from that axis to be more proactive. Statements similar to those issued by the governor of Kaduna State and the Emir of Katsina will go a long way in dousing tension nationwide. Governors and traditional rulers in the South West should do the same thing.

We invite Nigerians to be wary of being used by looters and disgruntled politicians who, having been frustrated by the altruistic, business-like and result-oriented actions of the present administration, are bent on plunging the nation into war. We remind discerning citizens of the serial threats publicly issued by certain people to the effect that they would destroy Nigeria if ex-President Goodluck Jonathan did not win the 2015 presidential election. Only a people suffering from collective amnesia will allow such threats to become a reality.

While we acknowledge the progress being made by the Federal Government (FG) in ensuring the security of lives and properties (e.g. Boko Haram has been technically defeated); creating jobs for the teeming army of unemployed youths (e.g. N-Power programme); plugging loopholes through which looters steal our common patrimony (e.g. introduction of the Single Treasury Account and the ongoing war against corruption) and addressing the complaints of regions and ethnic groups (e.g. the commencement of the dredging of the Niger and the cleaning of environmentally devastated Ogoniland) we urge FG to accelerate its social welfare packages some of which are already manifesting encouraging results and address other perceived cases of marginalization of certain sections.

The above efforts being made by FG speak eloquently of its acceptance of the ideals of restructuring. In our opinion, restructuring is synonymous with good governance. We are restructuring if projects long abandoned in certain sections of the country are given attention, if new reform bills are being introduced and signed into law and if the general welfare of the Nigerian people is being addressed.

MURIC appeals to the Fouth Estate of the realm to play a proactive, mature and responsible role in ensuring peace and unity in the country. We advise both the print and electronic media to downplay divisive utterances and hate messages. The press should not forget that as a crucial partner in governance, it has a duty to join hands with the government in building a stable, secure and progressive society.

We appeal to Nigerians generally to have a change of mindset. We must think positively about our great country. Balkanisation is not the answer. Neither is war a better alternative. War does not determine who is right, it only reveals who is left at the end. Those who started it can never be sure how it will end. Nigeria lost one million people in the Civil War of 1967 – 1970.

We should remember Rwanda, Sierra Leone and Liberia. 800,000 people died in Rwanda.  Sierra Leone lost 500,000. The toll in Liberia’s first war was 600,000. The second war recorded a casualty figure of 200,000. Those are small countries with limited population. Nigeria’s population hit 193 million by December 2016. Which country can contain us if we turn ourselves into refugees?  

Finally, we call on the security agencies nationwide to be on alert and to nip in the bud any attempt at disturbing the peace. We all need each other.  

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC)