Following the alleged attacks on Christians and church properties in Ilorin, the Kwara State capital, amid the ongoing crisis over the use of hijab , the Archbishop of Church of Nigeria (Anglican Communion), Kwara State, Most Reverend Israel Amoo, says such attacks may lead to a bigger crisis.
The cleric advised the Kwara State Government to return to the negotiation table with all stakeholders towards finding a lasting solution to the hijab controversy in the state.
Amoo, in a statement titled, ‘Our stand on the ongoing hijab controversy in Kwara State,’ said the Christian Association of Nigeria in Kwara State had made the position of the owners of missionary schools in the state known in clear and unambiguous terms.
He said, “We absolutely align with the position of CAN and restate that we do not allow the use of hijab in our schools as it negates our beliefs and doctrinal principles on which the schools were founded in the first place.
“These schools have been in existence for many years. We even learnt on good authority that the incumbent Governor of Kwara State (AbdulRahman AbdulRazaq) attended one of them. Over the years, Christian and Muslim students have been coexisting therein without acrimony on a religious basis. Why are we now creating these problems to heat up the polity unnecessarily?”
Amoo reminded the governor that the issue was already with the Supreme Court and that all parties needed to maintain the status quo pending the outcome of the matter.
He said, “We, as Christians, are peaceful, law-abiding and God-fearing people. However, we would neither compromise our faith nor trade away our heritage as a result of intimidation or harassment of any magnitude or intensity.
“The resort to attacks on our people and properties will do no one any good but may result in conflagration (sic), the effect of which no one will be able to imagine.”
However, the National Coordinator of the Muslim Media Watch Group of Nigeria, Alhaji Ibrahim Abdullahi, disagreed with the Anglican Church, insisting that the issue of hijab wearing by Muslim female students in state government grant-aided schools was already a settled issue.
According to him, the Kwara State High Court and the Court of Appeal had made it clear in their respective judgments in 2014 and 2019.
Abdullahi , who denied that the Christians in the state were being attacked, said some unknown faces in Christian mission schools were allegedly turning back teachers and pupils from entering the schools.
He listed some of such schools to include Bishop Smith Memorial College, Baptist Secondary School and C&S College adding that by disrupting some school activities, they were violating court orders and breaching the peace which law abiding citizens deserve.”
However, Amoo advised the state government to revisit the original document stating the terms of the partnership which the state government envisaged in 1974.
He said every subsequent legislation and executive orders that gradually withered the original terms be rescinded for the purpose of peace and progress in the state.
Amoo also suggested, among others, “that the exercise of right to attend a school presupposes that the student will abide by existing school rules, regulations and fundamental principles.”
He said, “If every student has to adopt a dress code peculiar to his or her religious belief, then the word ‘uniform’ would have been rubbished and become meaningless.
“Kwara State government should return to the negotiation table with all stakeholders as it is always better to jaw-jaw than to war-war.”
“Nigeria and every part thereof is constitutionally a secular state and any attempt to surreptitiously make Kwara State an Islamic State, as has been erroneously mentioned in some quarters, is unfortunate, insensitive and unlawful,” Amoo stated.
He also appealed to the Kwara State House of Assembly to step in and ensure that peace reigns in the state.
“In conclusion, we appeal to the state government, the Kwara State Commissioner of Police and other security outfits to demonstrate absolute neutrality and ensure that peace and security prevail without favouritism or nepotism,” the cleric said.