The management of the Obafemi Awolowo Railway Station in Moniya, Ibadan, has come under fire from the Islamic human rights advocacy group Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) for allegedly preventing visitors from entering the station’s mosque for Salat (obligatory prayer). The group argued that religious motivations drove the decision. Thus, it demanded that the government cease imposing additional restrictions on mosque visitors.

The group’s executive director, professor Ishaq Akintola, made the demand in a press statement on Monday, January 29, 2024.

The statement fully read, “The authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo Railway Station, Moniya, Ibadan, have been disallowing travellers from accessing the station’s mosque for Salat (obligatory prayer) for the past three months.

“Reports reaching us from Muslim travellers who passed through Moniya train station indicate that only staff of the Nigerian Railway Corporation (NRC) are being allowed to pray there while travellers for whom the station was actually built are not allowed to pray there since the past three months, particularly the Friday Jumu’ah prayer.

“The station manager allegedly gave orders that no traveller should be allowed to observe prayer there since an incident involving a Muslim female traveller who returned to the mosque to pick her forgotten rosary during boarding period.

“This is not good enough. It appears religiously motivated. Someone somewhere is allergic to seeing Muslims around in large numbers worshipping their Lord and Creator. He wants to stop them. He wants to isolate Muslim staff of the station from the rest of their Nigerian brothers and sisters. We will not allow that to happen.

“MURIC appeals to the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo Railway Station, Moniya, Ibadan, to stop restricting the use of the station mosque. The incident involving the Muslim lady who forgot her rosary is an isolated case. It is a flimsy excuse. It should not be used to deprive other Muslim travellers their Allah-given fundamental human right to worship their Creator at the appointed time of Salat.

“Apart from the Friday Jumu’ah prayer which is observed once weekly, Muslims must pray five times daily (Subh, Zuhr, ‘Asr, Magrib and ‘Ishai) and those five times are fixed and well known. The Glorious Qur’an says, ‘Verily indeed, the times for Salat are well fixed’ (Qur’an 4:103).

“Incidentally two of those five times (Zuhr and ‘Asr) fall within working period in Nigeria (approximately around 2 and 4 pm). This is why Muslims must have mosques around them every time. It explains why Muslims demand for the provision of prayer facilities in their workplaces. It is not for spiritual flamboyance. Rather, it is a religious necessity.

“Man is body, soul and spirit. We can use our bodies to serve our employers, whether government or private. But we must be allowed to use our souls to serve our Almighty Creator, Allah. That is one thing nobody should seek to control.

“Any attempt to do this is an infringement on our right to worship and a violation of Section 38 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended 2011). Disallowing Muslim travellers from accessing the station mosque at any point in time constitutes a violation of the above provision. This is where the station authorities erred. They should not have prevented Muslim travellers from using the mosque.

“A Muslim is not complete if after satisfying matter (body), his or her soul is left unattended to. Muslims prefer to be soul-satisfied, even if they remain matter-dissatisfied. For matter will perish, no matter how long. The soul lives forever, for it is from Allah and unto Allah it will return for accountability. This is why Muslims do not joke with times of obligatory prayer (salat).

“We therefore implore the authorities of the Obafemi Awolowo Railway Station, Moniya, Ibadan, to lift all forms of restrictions in and around the station’s mosque in order to allow Muslim worshipers to pray”