The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has urged the Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) to respect the right to religion of Muslims in its service.
Director of MURIC, Professor Ishaq Akintola, bemoaned the action of LASTMA for allegedly infringing on the religious rights of the agency’s Muslim officers who are currently undergoing training in Idimu, Lagos.
Meanwhile, LASTMA General Manager, Olajide Odunyoye said that the agency’s action was taken in the spirit of unity and camp rule.
Odunyoye said LASTMA was only trying to create an unbroken bound among trained officers through strict adherence to camp rule.
The human rights group insisted that LASTMA authorities breached the fundamental human rights of Muslims by disallowing them from observing congregational prayers in the camp during the recent Induction Course 10 held at the Four Square International Conference Centre, Idimu, Lagos State.
He said: “We are dismayed by what LASTMA authorities are alleged to have done. Can it be true? In the first place, why did a whole government agency pick the premises of a religious group to train its officers? Why were Draconian rules rolled out over the use of the same religious premises for people of another faith. Why pick such a place ab initio if harsh and repressive conditionalities were going to be applied?
“About ten Muslim officers were alleged to have attempted to pray in an open space within the premises. Some Christian colleagues who saw them reported to the commander. They were all summoned and interrogated and in the end LASTMA commander was reported to have threatened to deal seriously with the Muslim officers for daring to observe Muslim prayer in a church premises. There are fears that their appointments may be terminated or they would be dismissed.
“We in MURIC declare that it had better not be. Lagos is the centre of excellence and there is respect for the rule of law. Lagos respects citizens’ rights. The state government has also been propagating and actively promoting peaceful co-existence among the different religious groups in the state. So we do not see how the commander’s alleged threat can become a fait accompli.
“We want to hear from LASTMA. We are keen on knowing their side of the story. We repeat: it had better not be. Nobody has the right to stop Muslims from worshipping Allah just as no one has the right to stop Christians from worshipping Jesus,” he stated.
Akintola added: “This is another moment of truth. The choice of the Four Square Church premises for LASTMA induction course 2019 has exposed the hypocrisy of those who claim that there is religious tolerance in the South West.”
He therefore enjoined the Lagos State Government to quickly intervene in the conflict at the ongoing LASTMA induction programme at the Four Square International Conference Centre before it escalates.
We demand a probe into circumstances surrounding the choice of church premises for the training of LASTMA officials when it is well known that there are non-Christians among them. We charge LASTMA authorities to provide a place within the premises where the Muslims can observe their congregational prayers or move the training venue out of a church premises immediately in the interest of peace,” he stated.