. Transport Management Agency takes compulsory induction to church
. It’s a violation of our rights to worship – victims
. Choice of venue irrelevant, Muslim cadet officers, others should abide by the rule – LASTMA insists
The Lagos State Traffic Management Agency (LASTMA) has threatened to sanction Muslim cadet officers for observing Solat, a compulsory prayer within the premises of the ongoing induction Course 10 holding at the Foursquare International Conference Centre, Idimu, Lagos.
Congregation Salat is a key aspect of Islamic religion.
Muslim News gathered that the problem started yesterday (Monday) morning when ten Muslim faithful from the second batch who got to camp on Sunday, observe solatul Subh (early morning prayers) at one end of the expansive premises.
Some of their colleagues, we learnt, saw and reported them to the commander, who has since apprehended and threatened to sanction them for contravening the arbitrary rule.
If sanctioned, their appointment will be terminated and they will be dismissed from the second batch camp, which is expected to end on December 22.
Muslim News investigations further confirmed that the Lagos traffic agency had warned the qualified officers attending the induction programmes not to gather for prayer in an open space, insisting that the entire premises remains a church meant for Foursquare religious activities alone.
In a circular, which served as a notice to all campers, the management of the church in collaboration with LASTMA stated, among others, that praying in congregation within the premises is prohibited.
Is this training a church programme? – Muslim campers asked
Speaking with Muslim News, a Muslim officer (name withheld) said, “This isn’t fair to us as Muslims. We haven’t violated any rules. Is this training a church programme? Why did LASTMA, a govt agency take it to a church’s premises in the first instance knowing fully well that members of other religious groups will be participating?”
He described the threat of sanctions as a violation of their fundamental right to practise their religion without let or hindrance. According to him, “It is a denial of the constitutional right to freedom of religion of Muslims who enrolled in the course. We must neither be fired nor sanctioned for this.”
The victims revealed that they nurse fears to exercise their constitutional given right in a public forum, adding that most of them sneak to pray.
What many do not understand is why a State of Excellence take a public program to a private religious center. Once they decide to hold the programme there, it has ultimately changed the status of the church to a public utility. “If you don’t want the heat, you don’t approach the kitchen,” a cadet said.
He pleaded with the Lagos State Government to, as a matter of urgency, intervene and order the LASTMA authorities to either change the venue of the induction course or designate a more convenient and conducive place for them to observe their prayers.
According to a source, a senior LASTMA official said many of them actually wished the venue was not used but ‘the power from the above’ insisted.
Multiple sources disclosed to Muslim News that the size of the rooms where campers are told to observe prayers are rather too small. According to a source, “The rooms are not even convenient for us to sleep not to talk of observing five daily Solat.”
A cadet officer from the 1st batch of the induction held between December 7 and 14 related the incident to Muslim News, saying it violates right to freedom of worship as entrenched in the Nigerian constitution.
According to the officer, name withheld, “They said we can’t pray anywhere within the premises except in our rooms. How do they except at least, 22 adults to sleep and pray in a 13″ by 16” room apartment, among which are Christians and Muslims, when we can conveniently observe our solat elsewhere within the expansive premises?
“I didn’t have a choice than to abide and obviously, it affected my Ibadah (Salat). I missed praying in congregation throughout the 7-day programme. My individual prayers too weren’t regular because of the sizes of our rooms. It’s just unfortunate that this is happening to us (Muslims) in a Muslim majority state and country,” he added.
‘The choice of venue is irrelevant. They should abide by the rule’ – LASTMA GM
Speaking with Muslim News, the agency’s General Manager, Mr Olajide Oduyoye stressed the importance for all campers to abide by the rule of the training.
He said, “It is a okay for a peaceful co-existence among the all the participants, since they are advised to observe their prayers in their rooms but are not allowed to congregate to avert any unforeseen breakdown of law and order or breach of peace on the camp.”
Mr Oduyoye, in a press statement signed by him, argued that the choice of church as a venue or location for the induction is irrelevant, adding that the purpose and welfare of participants are germane to the successful hosting of the camping exercise.
According to him, basically, the training camp is non partisan and a non religious platform meant to expose the official to thorough training and widen their scope of knowledge on latest scientific traffic management techniques adaptable to our environment to ensure discipline and sanity on Lagos highways.
Nobody has been sanctioned – High ranking official
A high-ranking officer of the LASTMA, who sought anonymity, however, assured Muslim News that the ten Muslim faithful apprehended would no longer be sanctioned, noting that the issue has been resolved amicably.
The source told our correspondent on Monday evening that the Muslim cadets caught were only warned to limit the prayers to their rooms in compliance with the management directive.
The officer pleaded with them to bear with the agency as the induction course would only last a week.
When asked about the choice of a church conference center for a public function, the officer responded that the effort to secure a previous venue by the agency for the event proved abortive.
According to him, “We are highly sorry for the inconveniences. Our previous choice was Igando Resettlement Center, but we couldn’t secure the place. It was in the last minute we got the new venue, and this is because the GMO was a familiar person. The venue is very conducive and the rooms are okay. I want to categorically state that nobody has been sanctioned for whatever, and nobody would be sanctioned.”
They never spoke about it again – victims react
Muslim News later reached out to some of the affected participants who confirmed sanction against them have been lifted, adding that, “they’re not talking about it again.”
Speaking with our correspondent this morning, one of the affected campers said, “We have been freed and going about our regular training programme. In fact, a few of us still prayed Magrib and Ishai in congregation within the premises last night without harassment even though others were scared to join because of the first threat. I just finished my tahajud (midnight prayers) outside.”
Muslim News also confirmed that the management of the camp are making arrangements for the Muslim campers to observe Jumah (Friday prayer) in one of the Hostels.
“The first batch didn’t have the privilege. They went outside the camp to observe jumah at a nearby central mosque. Now, they’re seeking our consent to designate an Hostel for the Jumah prayer and have appointed one of us to lead the jumah though under supervision. They assured us that it will be included in the camp programme. There will be no activities during the jumah period. We shall surely inform you if there is any update. Thank you Muslim News Nigeria.”
– By Our Reporters
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