Many Muslim residents of Mowe-Ibafo and its environs have related how they have been constantly subjected to molestation, harassment and even assault by the security apparatus of The Redeemed Christian Church of God, RCCG.
This is premised on their faith. Anytime they go into the Redemption camp for business transactions, religious sentiments rather than good neighourliness takes precedence.
The victims, who spoke with Muslim News in separate interviews confirmed that they’re being religiously discriminated against by one of the world’s largest Christian denominations.
They added, “It’s difficult for us to enter into the Redemption City to transact business in the banks or register for examinations such as UTME and WASSCE or to register for National Identity Number (NIN) without being subjected to molestation.”
One of Nigeria’s leading Muslim human rights groups, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) had on several occasions raised alarm over the maltreatment of Muslims, especially female students by the Church, thereby calling on examination bodies to relocate centres from the Redemption City.
In a recent press statement, the group’s Director, Prof Lakin Akintola stated, “Our office has been inundated with complaints from Nigerian Muslims who have been denied access into the Lagos-Ibadan expressway camp of the Redeemed Christian Church of God (RCCG).
“Among the complainants are Muslims who registered for JAMB, WASSCE as well as other examinations. Attempts by the candidates to gain access to the RCCG camp to check their examination centres are always rebuffed by the RCCG security men who turn them back at the gates with clear messages that Muslims are persona-non-grata inside the camp.
“The second group of Muslims who are not allowed to enter are those who opened bank accounts in some of the banks located inside the camp like Eco Bank, Unity, Guaranty Trust Bank, FCMB, United Bank for Africa, Zenith and Access Bank. Similar ugly trends have become the order of the day for quite some time as the number has multiplied recently.
“It is even more interesting to note that those behind this obnoxious practice are Yoruba Christians while the victims are Yoruba Muslims. Those who talk about religious tolerance being rampant in Yorubaland have therefore missed the point”, Akintola said.
The Church, through its spokesperson, Pastor Olaotan Olubiyi, however, denied the claim in an interview with a daily newspaper, Daily Trust, insisting the camp remains accessible to anyone who has legitimate businesses to carry out at the camp.
“All I can tell you is that it is a piece of fake news. Those behind it may have a script they are playing out but I can assure you that the Redemption City of God remains accessible to anyone who has a legal and genuine purpose for seeking access.”
But in separate interviews with Muslim News, some of the Muslim residents said it wasn’t fake news as they related their ugly experiences at the hands of the security agents who claimed to be following “orders from above” not to allow anyone with Islamic identity into their holy sanctuary, the Redemption City.
The Redemption City is a settlement that seats about 2,500 hectares of land at the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, Mowe Ogun State, Muslim News findings revealed.
Aside from the main auditorium meant for religious purposes, we gathered that the city houses many institutions and establishments that are essential to the day-to-day life of its inhabitants and residents of the area in its entirety.
It is a major center and beehive of economic, educational and other forms of activities for the people of Mowe and its vicinity, as branches of different commercial banks, schools, examination centres and other commercial activities are situated therein.
“For instance, the only bank in Mowe is First Bank Plc. As a result, the bank is always crowded by customers on a daily basis and it’s becoming a serious challenge for us”, said Alfa Qazeem Adejare, a transporter.
Adejare added, “All other banks, about ten in number, are located inside the redemption city. This is the reason many of us don’t have a choice but to go into the city because it’s near to us and their transactions are faster than First Bank’s.”
Relating his ordeal, Alfa Adejare said despite the proximity of the banks within the Redemption city, he and other Muslims are constantly subjected to harassment, victimisation, denial and other forms of unfair treatment that come to mind in the hands of the overzealous officials.
“To be specific, anytime I try to use the Zenith Bank inside the Redemption City, the security at the gate always harass me because of my turban (Muslim headgear),” Adejare said.
He said, “Each time we go there, we are treated as suspects because we put on a turban. So, they subject us to a series of interrogations until we insist, ‘we’re all Nigerians and we are at liberty to bank with any financial institution of our choice before they let us in.’ They repeat this process each time we go there.”
RCCG Security Men Insisted I Remove Hijab To Carryout Banking Transactions – Hijabite
One of the female victims by the name Hajiah Mariam Jamiu also told Muslim News about her experience and the kind of stress she underwent while trying to transact business with her bank located inside the Redemption Camp.
She said, “Last year, I got a message from my branch of Guaranty Trust Bank, situated in Redemption City that my ATM card had expired and money had been deducted from my account for another one so, l should come for it.
“On that fateful day, I got to the main gate of Redemption City trying to make my way in, but the security personnel would not let me in, they insisted that I remove my hijab if I was to go in. They claimed that I will only implicate them if I did otherwise. They even showed me surveillance cameras and made me understand that it is indeed an order from above and they cannot afford to put their sustenance in jeopardy.
“I understood their plight and didn’t push further, but because I needed to get my ATM card, I decided to use another entrance known as Tree of Life, but was faced with the same ill luck. All efforts proved abortive. Since then, I’ve not been able to access my ATM card. I have, however, moved on with my life and opened an account with First Bank in Mowe despite the fact their customers are too numerous and any transaction could take more time than expected.
“I know how that singular action of theirs affected and almost crippled my business before I moved on. I just don’t know when it became a crime to use my hijab to transact business without infringing on the rights of others”, she told Muslim News.
Banks Are Also Culpable – Civil Servant
Taoheed Idowu, a civil servant, described the maltreatment of Muslims by the Church as barbaric, unwarranted and the highest level of religious intolerance, especially in a multi-religious society like Nigeria. He also blamed the banks who couldn’t find a better place in Mowe to operate other than the Church.
According to him, The problem with these Christian fanatics is simple. They open the gates of their City for commercial activities, to make profits and still want to dictate what customers wear, eat or do, during transactions. If they know that they can’t allow Muslims who use hijab on their premises, why lure in banks?
“I don’t even bother to go there in the first instance. I can’t withstand that kind of assault, asking my wife to remove her hijab. It’s disgusting, barbaric and selfish! Besides, the banks too are also culpable. They could have situated their branches in Mowe instead of the unfriendly church community with constant persecution of Muslims, especially the ladies who adorn the hijab or niqab.
How I Was Forced To Remove My Niqab – Victim
She told Muslim News that on getting there, the security officials insisted that she must remove her niqab if she’d be granted access.
She said; “After the ease of lockdown, I had to change course and it was about closing. The only JAMB Center I could trust in Mowe is the one in Redemption City, so I went there. Unfortunately, the security men at the gate denied me access. They told me I have to remove my niqab if I’d go in. Sadly, I had to comply.
“I was helpless and vulnerable, so they coerced me into what I never wanted to do. I wish I was never in such a situation.”
We Work In Redemption City, Detained For Praying – Bello
Another victim, Mr. Ibrahim Bello, was detained alongside four others when they went to work with an Engr Divine in Redemption City. He told Muslim News how the five of them were treated because they prayed when it was time for Asr.
According to him, “On the 15th of September, this year, we went to Redemption City to work with Engr Divine. It was time for Asr (evening prayer) and we Muslims, went to observe our prayer. As Muslims, whenever it’s time, no matter the place or situation, we organise ourselves and get started, but before we could conclude our prayers on that day, men of the Special Response Unit of RCCG were already standing behind us.”
“Immediately we were done at about 3:50 pm, they ushered us and led us to their office where they held us in detention, interrogating us and telling us we were not supposed to pray in the Redemption City. Later in the day, we pleaded that they let us go home, because our parents will be in devastation if they shouldn’t see us by nightfall, but all our pleas fell on deaf ears.
“We were in detention till some minutes before noon the following day, when our employer, Engr Divine came to our rescue. Our parents were greatly disturbed by our unannounced disappearance,” he narrated.
Relocate Examination Centre In RCCG Camp, Victims Tell JAMB, NIMC
This is not the first time Nigerian Muslims will be demanding the relocation of examination and registration centres, particularly JAMB and NIN from the Redemption City, over religious intolerance.
In January 2021, Muslim News reported how the management of the RCCG instructed its security team not to allow Muslim ladies in hijab enter its camp along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway to register for the NIN exercise.
The news angered concerned Muslims on social media as they demanded an immediate relocation of the RCCG NIMC registration centre to a tolerant location devoid of discrimination and bias to all.
In his reaction, Sakiru Otunda decried the plot to deny Muslims their rights and media bias towards Muslims, saying, “Most times, the plots are done intentionally to deny the easily identifiable Muslims their right. They did similar things to our girls in hijab during other registration exercises such as JAMB or WASSCE.
“And were it to be another way round, the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) would have petitioned UK, USA, UN and the whole world, accusing Muslims of a phantom plan to Islamise Nigeria. Summarily, Muslims should also wake up,” he added.
“We strongly supported this latest call by MURIC, calling on examination bodies to relocate JAMB and WASSCE centres from Redemption City until the RCCG is ready to accommodate Muslims without discrimination. The maltreatment is getting too much”, some of the victims told Muslim News.
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