The Management of the Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta, FUNAAB led by the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Olusola Kehinde, has reportedly stopped Muslim students from attending a lecture in the school.
The incident has caused chaos in the school premises following a series of protests from the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN).
According to an eyewitness who spoke on the development, the MSSN had set Saturday, September 9 to commence one of their routine program known as Jihad Week. It was learnt, however, that the school management instructed the Chief Security Officer (CSO) to stop Muslim students from attending the event.
It was also gathered that the leadership of MSSN in the university had prior to the event requested the approval of the university management to make use of one of the school’s auditoriums. The request was said to have been approved under the condition that the Muslim organisation signs an undertaken.
According to the MSSN Amir, Fadullah Shittu, the school management asked him to sign an undertaken that Muslim sisters adorning the niqab (veils) will not attend the program. “A laughable proposal that was sternly rejected by the MSSN,” he said in a statement.
In further explanation, the MSSN noted that aside from the public knowledge that the niqab is part of Islam, attendees of the event will not only be students of the school but also members of Muslim Communities from all parts of the country.
After rejecting the school’s demand to sign an undertaken against members of his organisation, the MSSN noted that the venue for the program was changed to the university mosque.
The MSSN Jihad Week program commenced at the University Mosque as rescheduled after failed plea to utilize one of the university’s auditoriums. According to Live Facebook video updates from MSSN FUNAAB, the event started as scheduled but was however truncated after reports reached them that sisters on Niqob are being sent away by the university security men at the gate.
According to events seen in the video, an Alumnus of the school was on his way to attend the Jihad week program alongside his sister who is wearing the Niqob. Despite agreeing to open her face for identification, the security men noted that they are obeying instructions from the CSO not to allow anybody with niqob into the school and has nothing to do with identification.
The Alumnus argued that if identification is not the reason for stopping his sister at the gate, then it is an open attack on the niqob as a mode of dressing and consequently an attack on Islam in its entirety. He was filmed demanding the speak with the CSO but was denied access by the security men.
Shortly after, the Muslim students were seen marching in large numbers to protest against what was described as an open confrontation on Islam.
The protest which led to blockage of the school gate generated series of altercations between the Alumnus, the CSO and the students. The Alumnus however maintained that as long as the university is a public institution, no injunction stops his mother, sister or family from accessing the university just for wearing a niqob, especially when she has been duly identified.
The protesting students were later addressed by the University Librarian who pleaded with them to vacate the gate as the sisters in niqob would be allowed in with them and the issue will be unfailingly resolved.
The Jihad Week event of the MSSN continued at the school mosque. But despite the protest that happened on Saturday, eyewitness reported that the security men at the FUNAAB gate stopped Muslim students from accessing the school in the early hours of Sunday.
It was gathered that the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Olusola Kehinde, had on Saturday issued out verbal invitations to the Amir of MSSN as well as stakeholders in the university including members of the FUNAAB Muslim Community.
The meeting which was said to have held at 10am on Sunday had all invitees in attendance. Sources confirmed the occurrence of the meeting but stated that the VC insisted that he is the only one that will speak and no other observation or comments will be entertained by any of the stakeholder present.
According to the Muslim students on campus, it was alleged that the VC threatened to rusticate all Muslim students as well as asking Muslims in the institution to seek his approval before organising any religious activity at the school mosque, which can include the 5 daily prayers.
Unpleased by the alleged threats of the VC, the Muslim students continued their demonstration by observing Morning prayers (Subhi) at the school gate on Monday September 11, 2023.
FUNNAB war on Niqab started in 2017 when a big billboard, which had an image of a veiled Muslim sister alongside some girls in crazy Jeans, miniskirts and semi-nude wear was erected at the school main entrance, tagging it immoral and lousy.
Some muslim students of the university said the use of niqab (veil) has been challenging for them on campus.
According to them, on several occasions they have thought of giving up due to the incessant embarrassments.
In a memo released, the university Senate reiterated the fact that its decision on the Dress Code was taken without prejudice to any religion, race or creed, but for the peace and security of every member of the University Community and to promote teaching and learning in a conducive atmosphere.
It reminded all members of the University Community, particularly students, that no change has been approved to the Dress Code put in place since 2017 by the Senate and should be strictly adhered to at all times.
But the Amir, Mr. Olaiya argued that the Muslim students’ body has no issue with facial identification, and insisted that the institution should recruit female personnel to identify the students under niqab.
“When it comes to facial identification, all we are requesting for is female personnel, who are always on the ground. They can’t tell us that during examinations, female students will be searched by male staff, just as male personnel do search male students always. Why can’t they do that for our sisters? Why embarass them?”he said.
Findings revealed that the wave of reactions in the media, especially from different Islamic organisations seems to have forced the authorities of the University to relax the dress code which didn’t only ban niqab but also categorised it as a security threat on campus.