A call has gone to the Nigerian Universities Commission (NUC) to take necessary steps to checkmate oppression of Muslim students in Christian-owned private universities.
Muslim Rights Concern made the call on Tuesday in a statement signed by its Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
The statement alleged that Christian proprietors of private universities have consistently subjected Muslim students to forceful conversion via compulsory attendance of church services and denial of personal identity by disallowing use of hijab.
Akintola said: “Private universities owned by Christians in the country have become torture chambers for Muslim students. The Muslim students cannot form any association on the basis of their own faith in those schools. They have no spaces for their prayers. They are forced to attend the church on campus as attendance is marked by the authorities. Muslim students who fail to go to church are sanctioned. This smirks of religious apartheid. It is therefore unacceptable.
“It is noteworthy that such private universities do not bear Christian names. Therefore Muslim students have no foreknowledge that they are seeking admission into Christian-owned universities. They are deceived into applying, paying acceptance fees and the school fees proper without being told that the institutions are owned by Christians or that they would be run according to Christian teachings.
“It is after they have packed into the hostel and started attending classes that the school authorities start issuing odd rules. We see this as unfair, deceitful, fraudulent and non-transparent.
“MURIC calls on the National Universities Commission (NUC) to intervene in this issue. Private universities should be true to the conditions of their approval by the Federal Government and their registration by the NUC. They should not be allowed to change the goal post after the game has started.
“They must be compelled to follow due process and to obey the rules of the land. No private university should make rules that will subject students to inhuman conditions. Forceful conversion by forcing Muslim students to attend church services is a gross violation of the letter and spirit of the Nigerian constitution.
“They get away with this pernicious, degrading and dehumanising practice by claiming that they are private institutions. But the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria makes the Nigerian Constitution the font et origo of all laws, rules, regulations, directives, memoranda, etc to the effect that no rule emanating from any other source shall override its provisions.
“Chapter 1, Part 1, Section 1(1) & (3) of the 1999 Constitution stipulates: ‘This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’
“In particular, Section 1(3) says, ‘If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall to the extent of the inconsistency be void.’
“If this is so and if Nigeria is not paying ordinary lip service to its own laws, the provisions of Section 38 (i) & (ii) which provides that ‘every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance’ should be made to apply to Christian-owned private universities which have turned their institutions to religious apartheid enclaves for Muslim students.
“Muslim students need NUC’s protection from the feudalistic spiritual slave masters of contemporary time which Christian private universities have turned out to be. Compliance with religious freedom and religious tolerance rules are some of the conditions which NUC should consider before issuing certificates of approval to private universities.
“Every individual or group, whether Muslim or Christian seeking to establish a private university should be made to sign an undertaking guaranteeing religious freedom. In addition, NUC should review the approval clauses of all existing private institutions in the country with a view to making them sign the same undertaking. This is necessary because Christian-owned private institutions are behaving as if they have the power to change the faith of their students as they wish.”