The demolition of Trans-Amadi Central Mosque, Port Harcourt Tuesday, the 20th of August by the Rivers State Ministry of Urban Development and Physical Planning on the directive of Governor Nyesom Wike, has generated mixed reactions and divided Nigerians particularly Muslims mainly into three camps.
The first camp believes, the governor, who has recently severally boasted that Rivers is a Christian state, indeed illegally pulled down the mosque.
The second group, who are the supporters of the governor, argued that there was never a mosque in the first instance and that the government only demolished an illegal structure.
As for the third group, they’re the seekers of the truth, who want to know what really happened. At different platforms where the issue was being discussed, the questions on their lips are: Who is lying? What is the truth?
Investigations by Muslim News revealed that the agents of the government indeed demolished a mosque but available evidence showed that the building was still under construction.
We reliably gathered that the mosque building construction had reached a damp-proof course (DPC) level, with several millions of naira already committed to and expended on the project that is expected to include the imam’s residence, and accommodate a congregation (capacity) of well over 10, 000 worshippers since the land was legally acquired in 2009.
The government’s claim that “no mosque existed” on the land was indeed a fallacy and cannot stand the test of time as many residents confirmed that though funding was still being sourced for the completion of the construction of the mosque, the building was already being used for Jumah services.
What is a Mosque?
In Islam, a mosque is a place reserved and dedicated to the worship of Allah. Whether its edifice is completed or under construction, it is still a mosque, and so far the location has been designated as a mosque and whether regular prayers or Jumah (Friday prayers) had already been established, or yet to start, it’s a still mosque.
The Prophet (peace be upon him) said in an authentic hadith, “…the earth has been made sacred and pure, and a mosque for me, so whenever the time of prayer comes for anyone of you, he should pray wherever he is…”
In another narration, he said, “the whole earth is a mosque except the grave and the toilet (part of it).”
From the above analysis, therefore, Muslim News can authoritatively say that the Trans-Amadi building demolished by Gov Wike-led administration fits into the description of a mosque, even though it was under construction and the Muslim faithful only gather on Friday for Jumah.
The media called it “Mosque”
Many media outlets, including Muslim News, Nigeria’s most authoritative Islamic newspaper, who reported the demolition also described it as a “mosque” in their respective headlines.
Interestingly, despite using the term “mosque” in their headlines, the Nigerian press and online media explained in the body of their stories that it was a Mosque under construction. For instance, Daily Trust, August 26, 2019, specifically wrote that “…the officials, who came with armed policemen, pulled down the fence and the foundation of the mosque which had gone up to DPC level.”
Pundits told Muslim News that the blame should be on netizens, who only jumped to an erroneous conclusion, just to cause confusion by reading headlines alone without the body of the stories.
There was a similar example when on December 2015, the Ogun state government demolished an uncompleted building belonging to The Redeemed Christian church of God in Abeokuta, several media reported in their headlines that, “Ogun demolishes Redeemed Church building as worshippers lament” as used by Premium Times.
The media did not say “uncompleted church building” even though the level of the construction as at the time of demolition was established in the body of the story.
Observers, however, argued that even if the media wrote in their headlines that ‘Gov Wike demolishes uncompleted mosque project’, his supporters, including some Muslims, would still deny the existence of a mosque – as claimed by the Governor, in the press statement.
Is the location of the mosque legal?
Having established that the governor indeed demolished a Muslim place of worship (Mosque), whether completed or not, the next argument is to determine if the location of the land is legal or not.
Muslim News’ checks revealed that the governor gathered some journalists and told them that the mosque building was illegal and without approval from the government. But the question is, did the governor show evidence? No!
The mosque management, however, argued that the land was approved by the previous government, with survey plan no: AI/RV2009/D13 and building plan no: PTP/09/617 and the current government is aware since governance is continuous.
Gov Wike also told journalists that the persons that started the mosque foundation already dragged the state government to court on the disputed land, adding that the State won but he did not show proof to back up his claims.
But the mosque, which also claimed the court ruled in its favour in November 2017, presented a three-page court judgement to support the claim.
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