Kwara renewed hijab crisis: Govt seeks peace as one is killed, 11 injured | Dailytrust

Kwara renewed hijab crisis: Govt seeks peace as one is killed, 11 injured

A victim of the attack
A victim of the attack

Less than a year after the hijab crisis that rocked the education sector in Kwara State to its foundation in 2021, the ‘state of harmony’ as Kwara’s soubriquet goes, has found itself in a worse scenario. 

The fresh incident which has left in its wake a more deadly and bloody narrative from that of last year, has elicited differing responses from the Muslim society and the leadership of the Kwara State chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN). 

However, despite the attempt of the government to stem the escalation of the crisis, it has found itself at the centre of accusations by both parties. 

The fresh incident started last month when the Oyun Baptist High School (OBHS), Ijagbo, reportedly turned back some female Muslim students over their refusal to remove their hijab on Monday, January 17. 

The action, which continued for three weeks, led the affected students and their parents to embark on a peaceful protest to the Government House in Ilorin to demand what they described as their constitutional right to education. 

Speaking during the protest, a parent from Ijagbo, Taofiq Mustapha, said the situation was worrisome despite the directive to allow willing students to use hijab or beret. 

“The worst part is that they pasted the picture of female students using hijab with an X sign, at the school gate. 

“The affected students have been deprived of their constitutional right to education despite the circular of the government to allow hijab in all grant-aided schools in Kwara.

“It is absurd that some people will openly disobey the government despite a subsisting court order,” he added. 

However, in its response to the Muslims’ demand, the state CAN said it viewed the OBHS incident with concern. The body, which recalled the episode of March/April 2021 in Ilorin, said “most of the resolutions and understanding reached then have been kept in abeyance and unimplemented. 

“Kwara CAN and Mission Schools owners are saying NO to the imposition of hijab wearing in her schools”, it added in the statement signed by its acting chairman, Bishop Adewole and secretary, Rev Reuben Ibitoye.  

But the state government appealed to the leadership of CAN to allow peace to reign and the policy statement of government to be implemented. 

The Special Adviser on Religious Matters (Muslims), Alhaji Ibrahim Danmegoro, who corroborated the Commissioner of Education, Hajia Sa’adat Modibbo Kawu, said: 

“The Government did not impose hijab on any school but followed due consultations with the various stakeholders in conformity with the judicial pronouncements of the courts and the constitution”. 

But despite the government’s position, CAN has maintained its stand. 

Following the ‘stalemate’, the issue took a violent and bloody turn when the affected Muslim students and parents embarked on another peaceful protest to OBHS over the issue last month. 

A parent of one of the affected students, Habeeb Idris was killed in the fracas that ensued when some hoodlums, who the Muslims alleged were hired by CAN, opened fire on the protesters injuring 11 persons. 

The deceased has since been buried in Lafiagi, Edu Local Government Area.    

The chairman of the Kwara State Muslims Stakeholders, Alhaji Ishiaq Abdulkareem, gave the names of those who sustained bullet injuries as Ajani Abdulazeez, Abdulkareem Abdulwasiu (pellet removed from upper limb), Muftahudeen Luqman (pellet removed from forehead), Abdulwahab Abdulhafeez (machete cut in right ear) and Taofeeq Mustapha (machete cut in eyebrow). 

Others are Tajudeen Nurudeen (pellet removed from lower limb), Mustapha, who went brain dead because of the bullet lodged in his skull, Kareem Ibrahim and Rafiu Garba, who sustained back cuts and Mashood Adeshina whose palm nerve was affected because of a deep machete cut.  

He added that the victims were being treated at Kojusola Medical Centre and Ali Giwa Hospital in Oyun. 

At a news conference that was later addressed by the Muslims, Abdulkareem described the “gruesome killing of Habeeb and maiming of other innocent Muslims at ljagbo over hijab” as very sad. 

“The parents of the affected students made entreaties to the school authority, who are employees of the state government and paid with taxpayers money, to stop the barbaric act but the authority appeared to be an accomplice working for the church, thus recognised the authority of the church over it than that of its employer.  

“The parent took further civil steps by reporting the incident to Kwara State Teaching Service Commission which convened a meeting of the school management, the affected parents and CAN against starting another religious crisis. 

“Having failed in the courts, CAN has taken to firearms to continue its hegemonic colonial heritage of suppressing Islam and the Muslims. 

“They opened fire on the unarmed citizens and killed Habeeb ldris while many others sustained bullet injuries and some in critical conditions,” it added.  

The Muslims demanded the “constitution of a commission of enquiry to unravel the role of different players including Kwara CAN and the police; police investigation of the incident, arrest and prosecution of perpetrators of the mayhem, among others. 

The body, however, vowed to follow all constitutional means to arrive at not only peace but justice on the matter.  

But in a counter-press statement signed by Rev Olanrewaju Samuel Ajayi on behalf of Kwara CAN, the body which was silent about the shootings and killing of Habeeb in Ijagbo said “There was a promise to return the schools to them. 

“But … our schools are yet to be returned to us. We are aware that some Muslims are going round other local governments in the state to instigate the Muslims there to be asking for the use of hijab in mission schools. 

“We maintain that we cannot and will not allow the use of hijab in our mission schools, and have since asked the government to return our schools to us. There was an agreement between the government and the school proprietors. Each has its own part to play in the running of the schools”, CAN added. 

The body, however, demanded that the ‘hoodlums’ be fished out and appropriately prosecuted. “We will follow all legal means to claim our right…”, it added. CAN, however, did not refer to the subsisting court judgments on the matter.  

The Kwara State Commissioner of Police, Tuesday Assayomo, in a statement by the command’s spokesman, Ajayi Okasanmi, appealed for calm and advised both parties to shun any act that could jeopardize the current peace in the area. 

The Kwara State government has, however, shut down the OBHS pending resolution of the issue. 

According to Kawu, the government “unreservedly condemn the flagrant act of discrimination against anyone, especially children, on religious grounds in any public-owned institution in the state.”

She called on the security agencies to bring to book anyone linked to the violence as a deterrent to others.  

It was gathered that some police officers from the state command led by one Inspector Eniola went to the embattled community at the weekend and visited the Muslim victims still in hospitals and those already discharged. 

Meanwhile, the government has sent a delegation to Ijagbo to persuade both parties to embrace peace and “respect government’s lawful directive”, a statement by the Chief Press Secretary (CPS) to the Governor, Rafiu Ajakaiye, said.  

The delegation, led by the Secretary to the State Government, Prof Mamman Saba Jibril, which comprised Muslim and Christian officials, advised against reprisals which would only lead to a cycle of violence and damage to the economy of the area.  

Jibril added that the crisis would have been averted if those involved had obeyed the rules and regulations in Kwara State public schools on the use of hijab for willing Muslim students. 

They visited the Muslim and Christian communities; families of the deceased and the other injured at hospital. 

Similarly, the government on Friday, constituted a 12-member Inter-Religious Council (IREC) chaired by the Emir of Shonga, Dr. Haliru Yahya Ndanusa, to serve as an advisory body to promote religious interaction, understanding and harmony between the two principal faiths in the state. 

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