A crisis is brewing in Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) over the emergence of a splinter group in the school’s chapter of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN).
The splinter group been accused of harbouring girls and carrying out irregular activities in mosques located in Fajuyi and Awolowo halls.
G. O. Akinola, doctor and acting dean, in a statement alleged that a faction of the MSSN had seceded from the main body of Muslim organisation in the school and this faction was going against Islamic religious doctrines and school laws.
The management of OAU got wind of this and has taken steps to shut down the mosques in two of the halls of residence.
The mosques were shut down on Friday and circulars were pasted in all the halls of residence for proper dissemination of the seal off.
Akinola in a statement released on Saturday said the splinter group was invited by the division of student affairs for several meetings, and in the last one held, blatantly refused to subject itself to the laws of the institution.
The acting dean further noted that the national body of MSSN recently paid the institution a courtesy visit and raised some grave concerns about the splinter group.
The delegation reportedly complained about “strange doctrinal principles and procedures” of the splinter group in question.
They expressed worries that the development could materialise into the emergence of an extremist group similar to Boko Haram.
One of the students told the TheCable LifeStyle that: “I really go with the decision that the management has taken, because I can’t keep treading the campus with the fear of living amidst mini terrorists; and for crying out loud, why should they split in the first place?”
It was also learnt that students in Fajuyi and Awolowo halls live in trepidation over the acts of the splinter group.
The circular reads in part: “It was agreed that a period of one (1) week be given to permit the group interact with the mainstream MSSN and settle their disagreement amicably failing which the two ‘mosques’ at Fajuyi and Awolowo Halls would be closed down for peace to reign.
“Note that this splinter group of the MSSN had begun to use the two ‘mosques’ in these Halls as a base for their anti-mainstream MSSN rhetorics and doctrinal disagreement on campus, including recruitment of students for their separate teachings. Note also, that these two ‘mosques’, converted as such were originally Cafeteria buildings meant for the respective halls under the University’s master plan.
“On Friday 26th August, the MSSN National body paid a courtesy visit to the DSA to discuss the furore over the recognized MSSN on campus. The visitation team led by the President of the National MSSN, Muhammad Jameel Muhammad came in company of the campus mainstream MSSN and some of his officials. The thrust of their visit was to make a passionate appeal to the DSA on their fear for the possibility of “emergence on the OAU campus of an extremist group of Muslim students in a fashion similar to the current Boko Haram insurgency besetting Nigeria”.
“They expressed some fears and strongly felt that the splinter MSSN group in OAU and what they referred to as “their strange doctrinal principles and procedures” could lead to the materialization of such fears. The visitation team pleaded with the University through the DSA to do all that was lawful and needful to see that such fears were allayed.
“The visitation team also reiterated their support for the recognized MSSN mainstream organization and its president. In addition, the team gave a copy of the MSSN Constitution and 5 copies of the articles of faith of the MSSN titled “MSSN at a Glance” to the DSA
“However, on the night preceding the expiration of the ultimatum given to the Splinter MSSN group, to make peace with the mainstream MSSN and reconcile accordingly, a text message was sent to the Vice Dean, DSA, from the Splinter MSSN group that they had contacted someone who would help broker the reconciliation talks and that the person said he would see the Chief Imam of the Central mosque later. The DSA quickly apprehended this as delay tactics as the text could have been sent earlier. Otherwise, why the night preceding the expiration of the ultimatum to reconcile? In any case, on the agreed date when the ultimatum expired (Tuesday 30th August, 2016), the DSA expected them to come for a meeting at the DSA’s office, but to our chagrin they refused to show up.
“Meanwhile, acting upon the invitation earlier extended to the DSA by this splinter MSSN group, the Acting Dean and Vice Dean at about 10.45am on 31st August, 2016, visited the Fajuyi and Awolowo Halls with a view to seeing for themselves samples of the activities of the splinter MSSN group. We told them of many irregular and outright illegal things we have heard them do at the ‘mosques’.
“We made them realise that they had been holding unauthorized religious programmes in these ‘mosques’ and several other places on campus without approval from the DSA. They, however, argued that they had not been violent but law abiding and that they had never done anything illegal or irregular in any of their religious meetings.
“But on this our visit to Awolowo ‘mosque’, we discovered a door leading to one of the rooms in the ‘mosque’ was securely locked from inside and the occupants refused to open. We threatened to force the door open if they refused any further, and after much persuasion, the door was opened and we discovered to our utter amazement that a group of girls numbering about a dozen were locked inside the room either fully or partially veiled.
“Our amazement was that the room in which they were locked or locked themselves was in a male hall, we wondered to no end why purported female students would be locked up in a male hall during lecture hours, no matter the excuse. Before we could interrogate them, some escaped through the backdoor of the room but we were able to apprehend three of them from whom we collected their identity cards.
“At the Fajuyi Hall, we also discovered to utter shock that a group of girls who purported themselves to be students were locked in a room in the ‘mosque’. We interrogated them and they claimed that they were kept there by their leaders who happen to be the leaders of MSSN splinter group.
“They, in addition claimed that they were praying in the room. Our dilemma was why a group of female students would claim to be praying during lecture hours in an exclusive male hall at around 11am! There were five girls in this room and we collected the identity cards from four of them. The fifth one who was fully veiled said she had not her identity card on her. However, a male student who vouched for this fully veiled girl volunteered to stand in for her until she produced her identity card. We collected this male student’s identity card.
“Having observed the seeming obstinacy of the splinter MSSN group to interact with the DSA and to fulfill the requirements of the agreement reached on 23rd August, we again were forced to send a follow-up invitation to them stating that they should come to the DSA for a meeting on Wednesday, 31st August for a serious interaction at the DSA’s office.
“But to our utter dismay they sent a text message to the DSA that all of them in the group would be having Continuous Assessment tests from 10am to 5pm on 31st August, 2016. We replied that text message that no test of any kind could possibly last from 10am to 5pm in this University and that in their own interest they needed to show up for the meeting on or before 2.00pm on 31st August to discuss the issue of reconciliation as agreed in our last meeting with them.
“The splinter MSSN group eventually came in the afternoon of 31st August at about 1.15pm. We intimated them with our findings and told them they had to put a stop to their practice of harbouring girls in rooms within the ‘mosques’. Their leaders insisted that they could not abide by that demand and that they reserved the right to keep any of their female members in the rooms in the ‘mosque’!
“We explained to them that what they were doing was contrary to the laws of the University and the regulations guiding religious worship and students’ conduct. But they held their ground that since the ‘mosque’ was a place of worship they could not abide by the rules and the need to desist from keeping female students within its rooms at any time. The meeting ended in a stalemate.
“We thereafter pleaded with the Chief Imam of the University to take full charge of the ‘mosques’ and prevent forthwith any breach of the University’s rules within its walls. He declined flatly and said he would rather not be held responsible for what ever happened in those ‘mosques’ as he had since dissociated himself from the practices and doctrines of the splinter MSSN who controlled it.
“It should be noted that the Federal Government, of Nigeria of which Obafemi Awolowo University is an integral part, has not legalized prostitution in Universities. It is pertinent to note also that no female should be camped in a male facility under the guise of religion, as this is tantamount to running a brothel which will breed prostitution; and this is illegal. It is only fit, proper and responsible that any grossly abused university facility be closed down.
“Consequently, acting within its powers to prevent any breakdown of law and order and to ensure freedom of movement of persons within the respective halls of residence, especially at this time of dire security concern in the country, the DSA has therefore acted this 2nd day of September, 2016 to seal off and close down henceforth, the two ‘mosques’ in Awolowo and Fajuyi Halls until such a time that orderliness and the rule of the University would be respected within its walls.”
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