The Kwara State branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria has alleged that the failure of the state government to heed the warning and appeals it made earlier to the governor triggered last Thursday’s clash on the wearing of hijab by female Muslim students of the Baptist High School, Ijagbo, in the Oyun Local Government Area of the state.
A parent, identified as Habeeb Idris, was killed during the fracas, which left 11 others injured outside the premises of the school during a protest by Muslim parents.
The state branch of CAN in a statement jointly signed by the acting Chairman and Secretary, Bishop S. T. G. Adewole and Rev Reuben Ibitoye, respectively, said, “The unfortunate saga that occurred at the Oyun Baptist High School, Ijagbo,earlier this month should have been averted if the state government had yielded to CAN’s earlier appeal
“It is noteworthy to mention that the Kwara CAN had written a letter of appeal to the executive governor on January 25, 2022, to urgently look into this matter. The letter was titled, ‘The ongoing hijab crisis at Oyun Baptist High School and other mission schools in Oyun and Offa Local Government Areas: Calling for an urgent intervention’.
“The said letter was delivered and received at the Government House. To the surprise of the Christian community, the appeal was neglected and the matter unattended to by the state government.
“To put the record straight, precisely on February 14, 2022, some Muslim fanatics with some Muslim female students of the OBHS, Ijagbo, staged a protest in Ijagbo town and later came to Ilorin to continue the protest at the Government House chanting slogan like, ‘No school tomorrow except with hjab’ and the following day, they were mobilised with weapons to unleash mayhem on the innocent Christian proprietors; these weapons were freely used by these fundamentalists.
“The report at our disposal indicates that an innocent passerby was also attacked and dealt machete blows by these Muslim fanatics. The individual was not a Christian as wrongfully claimed. The fellow reappeared, reinforced with his fellow thugs and retaliated; this led to serious fracas with the Muslims protesters. It was the timely intervention of security agents that restored normalcy at the school gate.”
CAN said at no time did it agree with the state government that hijab should be worn by students in Christian mission schools in the state.
It added, “Consequently, we reiterate for the umpteenth time that at no time did Kwara CAN and stakeholders sign/concede to any agreement or policy with the Kwara State Government on the use of hijab as it is being claimed by the Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development, Hajia Sa’aadatu Modibo Kawu. The usage of hijab in Christian mission schools in Ilorin metropolis was forcefully implemented and imposed.
“Unfortunately, the Commissioner for Education and Human Capital Development is undiplomatic in her ways of handling the matter at stake. Her action has continued to generate religious tension and she was not proactive enough when an earlier protest was staged on February 14, 2022 by some Muslim fanatics. Perhaps, a prompt response would have rescued this ugly situation.
“The Kwara CAN’s efforts to sit and reason with the government on how to foster lasting peace on the issue have yet to yield any result.”
Speaking at a press conference held on Friday, the Ijagbo branch Chairman of CAN, Rev Samuel Ajayi, said the Memorandum of Understanding submitted by the state branch of the association since June 2021 had yet to be implemented by the state government.
It added, “It has been said times without number that we cannot and will not allow the use of hijab in our mission schools.
“The mission schools were not taken over by the state government in 1974. There was an agreement between the government and the school proprietors. Each has their own part to play in the running of the schools.”
He, however, appealed to the state governor to fulfil his promise of returning all mission schools to their owners and allow their running to be done by the management.
CAN also appealed to the Christian community in the state to be calm and peaceful, stating, “As Christians, you are all urged to remain calm, peaceful and be law-abiding in the face of any provocation, believing that all issues will be resolved soonest. The perpetrators of this heinous crime that occurred at the OBHS, Ijagbo, should be made to face the full wrath of the law.”
However, at a news conference addressed by Muslim Stakeholders’ Forum in Ilorin on Friday, the Chairman, Alhaji Isiaq Abdulkareem, called on the police to investigate the circumstances surrounding the crisis with a view to bringing the perpetrators to justice.
The Legal Adviser of the forum, Ibrahim Agbaje, said CAN lost the two cases it instituted at both at the lower and appellate courts on the issue of hijab wearing by Muslim schoolgirls in the state.
Agbaje said, there was no case instituted at the Supreme Court by CAN on the earlier judgments delivered by a Kwara State High Court and the Court of Appeal.
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