The anomaly in Kwara (2), By Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

Posted by News Express | 30 March 2021 | 953 times

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•Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN

A lot has happened in rapid succession, since last week when I wrote the first piece on the religious crisis in Kwara State, infamously stoked by the government in power, purely for political expediency. Some new facts have also been made known to me, concerning the mutual agreement between the government of Kwara State and the owners of the mission schools in question. It was said that sometime in or about 1974, there was an agreement between all stakeholders, on limited involvement of government in the funding of the mission schools, without interfering in the day to day management thereof. In that agreement of 1974, it was stated that:

“(b) The names of schools remain the same by proprietors.

(c) Religious orientation and practices in the schools remain generally undisturbed.

(d) The right to nominate Board of Governors with responsibility for the day to day management and welfare of the institution remain unchallenged. The Board of Governors will continue to function normally except in regards to staff matters which responsibility is now taken over by the State Schools Board.

(e) The total tone of the institution remains the responsibility of the Board of Governors as the main organ of the proprietors.”

It then becomes crystal clear, at least from item (d) above, that the purpose of government intervention in the mission schools was to assist in the payment of the salary of their teachers, while the issues of management of the schools and general policy formulation, reside in the Board of Governors. There should have been no issue about this at all except that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria has intervened in respect of policy formulation, orientation and religious practices. The agreement was signed in 1974 whereas the Constitution came into force in 1999 and with its supremacy clause in section 1, the provisions of the Constitution must, of necessity, prevail over private or public agreements. In the same vein however, there is a need for the government to respect agreements, especially as a way of engendering public confidence in governance generally. In this regard, the global concept of uniform in schools will be defeated where different religious establishments work tirelessly to incite their wards to adorn separate outfits. To the extent that the provisions of Chapter Four of the Constitution are unique and equal, it is doubtful if the right to religious practices by non-stakeholders attending private schools can override the right to freedom of association and to own property. However, I verily believe that this is a balance that the Kwara State Government must work out and sustain.

I received some responses to the first piece and I have decided to share them, largely unedited, in the hope that those concerned would take note and adjust themselves accordingly.

“KEMI:

Good morning sir, I think this problem was foreseeable. Government took over these schools because the churches were tired of running the schools without thoughts of future problems like this. Secondly sir, the Churches ought to have given conditions to government before the control took effect. Now the only solution I see here is to return the schools while those who gave out their land to build the schools should seek compensation from the churches.

AYEMORO ADEBAYO:

Kwara State governor should apply wisdom to resolve the issue without being biased, it is only in Nigeria you see people fighting for religions frequently. Can men fight for God? Many people are ignorantly putting themselves into bondage, in the name of religions. God didn’t create human beings to fight for Him but to serve Him, whoever that’s serving Him wholeheartedly will not plan to destroy others.

ADEBAYO AZEEZ:

The fact that the schools are partly funded by government would not make the Churches to allow what they don't believe in the schools they established in their names.

PIUS ISIEKWENE:

Thank you sir, for your fine commentary. Probably as you were posting your article, yet-to-be-denied news spread that the gates of two of the affected schools were forcibly uprooted in the dead of the night and removed under a contrived 30-minute blackout reminiscent of the Lekki Toll Gate fiasco of October 20, 2020. I just wonder, as you do, what could have happened if these blood-thirsty aggressors had been the victims of this government-incited madness.

EDAFE GREAT SAKOKO:

Please sir, what is the position of the law today on this issue. I do remember the Court of Appeal judgement in 2019. You are a rule of law advocate and I do expect you to support the enforcement of court judgements and not our emotions.

AYEH KOOTOH:

The governor of Kwara states seems to be the governor of the adherents of his faith and of Ilorin rather than being neutral and be the governor of a multi ethno-religious Kwara State. He should go by the advice of Hon Abdullahi and handover the missionary founded schools (Islamic and Christian) to their original owners like Lagos State did during Tinubu's tenure or maintain status quo and wait for Supreme Court to give their verdict on the ownership of the schools. Common sense seems not to be common here or is it the fear of the emir or the jihadists that’s affecting him?

HAMEED AWOBIFA:

Ayeh Kootoh, are you aware the CAN has gone to appeal court of law on this matter and lost and now to Supreme Court? Why don't they allow court to come out with the final decision?

AYEH KOOTOH:

Hammed Awobifa, apparently, you read my text in order to respond and not to understand. Read my text again. (The ownership of these missionary founded schools is in contention and it is awaiting adjudication by the Supreme Court and the dress code of these schools hasn't been changed, so why can't your Muslim brother governor wait for the Supreme Court pronouncement before asking Muslim girls to be wearing hijabs in Christian schools?). It seems you hate CAN so much and relish the rubbish being spewed out by Isaq Akinola of MURIC concerning this issue.

HAMEED AWOBIFA:

Ayeh Kootoh, honestly I expect such reaction like yours. But before you start vituperating over what I said I would rather recommend that you go and read the judgement very well. Oga, but let me quickly correct a notion which that court of appeal referred to that the plaintiff  (former owner) willingly gave out the ownership to the state government as back 1974, which the government have been funding and controlled. So I wouldn't have joined this issue if not raised by Big Sam Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa, SAN.

SANNI MOSES JP:

The Kwara State government didn't handle this issue well. I will advise the Kwara State government to learn from the way Osun State government handled a similar case too, during the administration of Rauf Aregbesola.

HAMEED AWOBIFA:

Sanni Moses JP, but CAN in both Lagos and Osun didn't handle it this way. And more so those cases were also settled at the law court.

AYEH KOOTOH:

Hammed Awobifa, you so much believe in these your courts because the justices and judges there are more of a particular religion. Let me shock you, Christian and Islamic Organisations got their schools back without going to court in Lagos. Google is your friend if you doubt this fact.

IYEME VICTOR:

In all of this, the governor and his led government have been silent. It's so sad and barbaric.

Hameed Awobifa:

While I really appreciate your position taking your precious time to educate us readers. I am still confused whether you do this as a pastor or a legal luminary because I know you well to be very objective in your dealings considering the appeal court judgement of 2019 on this same case. Are you now saying the court is wrong legally and we should go by way of our own way of dealing with the issue? I’m not and I will never be in support of any religious crisis because it’s always fueled by the elites in those groups.

ELIZABETH OYENIRAN:

The fall of a man starts with a step, I hope it won't be too late for the governor and his cabinet members to reverse their steps.

OLAYODE FORTUNE:

Thank you for this eye opening. Your position herein is an indication that you took your time to do the findings about the prevalent issue in Kwara State. Truth be told, the governor made a mistake to have allowed himself to be deceived into making pronouncement permitting the use of hijab in these schools. Sadly, the case has been at Supreme Court since 2019 and the status quo should have been maintained. Now for him to reverse his earlier pronouncement has become a thing of shame.

On the other hand, there are too many people in his government who do not understand governance and are fundamentalist, the SSG and CPS are not helping the matter and this can be seen in the way they respond to questions from journalists and their press releases. They are just one sided – this in itself would do a lot of damage to any system.

After a week of attacking and vandalizing a church building, the government has not seen the need to make any comment and this has empowered the Muslim fundamentalists the more, such that yesterday, they went on rampage at Sabo-Oke area of the state, destroying and vandalizing other churches’ properties. Should a reasonable government not acknowledge the reality on ground and make it known to all? But he keeps playing ostrich. Let’s see how far this would take him and his government. Olayode Fortune, Ilorin, Nigeria.”

A major issue for concern as raised in some of the responses posted above is the revelation that the gates of some of the schools were uprooted and taken away allegedly by those campaigning for hijab. Should things go this way? Can any government, elected to protect lives and property, sit in the comfort of a government house while the house is on fire? This is tantamount to lording it over the owners and management of the schools, in unleashing the adversary upon them through inciting pronouncements and press releases and having done that, to sit by and allow them to be cowed and subjugated, through force and violence. The rule of law is meant to protect the weak and the meek and it is not proper, for any government, least of all one that boasts of no viable alternative, to halt the career of these young children through religious bickering, orchestrated purely for political gains. Let the Kwara State government take a cue from the experiences of other States in the resolution of this issue, let the owners of the schools also embrace dialogue and let the agitators refrain from force and violence. As experience has shown the world over, nobody truly has a monopoly of any option; thus, the deliberate choice of peace and engagement should be the primary target of all concerned.

•Ebun-Olu Adegboruwa (SAN) writes from Lekki Lagos.

 


Source: News Express

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