So, we all woke today to the news that a Mosque in Port Harcourt was demolished by the State Governor Nyesom Wike for non-compliance with urban developmental laws. The chief Imam of the Mosque Alhaji Haroon Mohammed claimed they have been harassed at least three times in the course of the past few weeks.
The outrage of course was swift, with many including the Muslim rights concern MURIC condemning the State Governor Nyesom Wike for religious intolerance- As quoted
I also believed Nyesom Wike was being power drunk, but diving into the story I realized…wait a minute- there are no before and after pictures of this Mosque. I could see falling Zincs and fences, but not an actual building- so digging in a bit on the story we found out that
At the heart of the matter is a disputed piece of land that been the subject of many years of Legal battle between the Rivers State Government and the Muslim community in PH. A court battle that is dated back to the administration of the previous Governor Rotimi Amaechi
It all started when the Muslim group in Portharcourt decided to erect an elaborate Mosque at the heart of the city – Trans-Amadi
Trans-Amadi is one of the most strategic and central locations in PH, home to many Industrial and residential areas of the State.
Muslim group in port Harcourt bought a land in this area in 2008 to erect a mosque that would serve Islamic worshipers within the area, but were unable to secure the necessary permits needed to erect their structure. The State Government (Rotimi Amaechi) at the time rejected the idea
According to “unconfirmed” reports, the reason for denying building permits to the Muslim group was because Trans- Amadi is the face of a Christian dominated oil city, hence a mosque cannot be allowed to stand there
In 2010, after being unable to secure the necessary permits to erect a mosque in the said location, they decided to start building a mosque illegally, but Rotimi Amaechi ordered the foundation to be knocked down setting the stage for a prolonged legal tussle now inherited by a new State Governor Nyesom Wike (Don’t forge Wike was Amaechi’s Chief Staff at the time so he was well aware of the story trail)
After a long judicial tussle, both sides are claiming to have won the legal battle- The chairman of the mosque, Alhaji Abdullahi Musa Tabaco, told daily trust a judgement was delivered in their favor in November of 2017, hence they continued building.
But in Nyesom Wike’s rebuttal denying the allegation he knocked down a Mosque, He claimed that Rivers State Government has won the case and that the Muslim group were trying to set up an illegal structure on a disputed piece of land. According to him, the idea was to blackmail the government into a standoff by erecting a Mosque on the land.
Due to the Legal standoff between the government and the Muslim leaders, worshipers attended Jumat within the said piece of land, walled off with no structure.
Am sure they must have felt persecuted for their faith in a Christian dominated State. Am also sure they looked forward to a day when they can move into a properly erected Mosque to attend Jumat rather than an open space.
Even though a claim that Nyesom Wike brought down a mosque is a dangerous exaggeration, he knocked down the foundation to a mosque and killed a dream that one day a mosque will stand in that location. Imagine how over 1000 worshipers would have felt- just saying.