Army on Sunday, 10th January, 2016 dissociated itself from the action of its men who allegedly removed the veil of a muslim woman in Lagos on Friday., 8th January, 2016.
The incident has sparked protests from the Muslim community, which is calling on the Presidency to make its stand known on the use of hijab.
Governor Akinwunmi Ambode condemned the soldiers’ action, saying hijab is not banned in Lagos State.
Army’s 81 Division 1 Public Relations Officer Col James Samuel said the military did not direct soldiers to harrass women in hijab.
The army, Samuel said, was unaware of the incident.
Two soldiers on Friday, 8th January, 2016 in Meiran, Ojokoro Local Council Development Area of Lagos removed the woman’s veil, claiming that its use had been banned.
Islamic organisations and clerics took to social media to condemn the action.
According to an eyewitness, Adetutu Oluwa, the soldiers allegedly alighted from their vehicle on sighting a woman dressed in veil and started harassing her.
One of them, she claimed, forcefully removed the veil, popularly referred to as Niqab, from the woman’s head and warned her never to use it in public again.
“After removing the veil, one of the soldiers said: ‘This thing is not allowed in our country again. You can use it in your house.’ They both walked back to their vehicle with the veil,” Oluwa alleged.
According to her, it took the intervention of passersby and sympathisers for the woman to get her veil back.
“On sensing cold reaction from the people, the soldiers dropped the veil on the floor, entered their vehicle and zoomed off,” she said.
Oluwa in a programme monitored on Star 101.5 FM on Saturday, 9th January, 2016, said: “I was traumatised by the situation even though I wasn’t the one harassed.”
According to islamic organisations and scholars, the President’s statement on the possibility of banning hijab because many Boko Haram suicide bombers hide under it to wreak havoc, is being used as excuse to harass Islamic women nationwide.
“Everything must be done to balance national security requirements with religious rights and obligations of citizens protected as enshrined in the constitution,” said Mallam Saheed Ashafa, Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Lagos State Area Unit president.
A lawyer, Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, described the soldiers’ action as callous, saying: “It is easy to point fingers if you are not sacrificing or not being inconvenienced. Some sections are easy to clamour for the ban on hijab because they are not using it or they are looking for an excuse not to or they want everyone to be naked like them. Whichever is their wish or thought as the case may be, they need fresh orientation.”
Lagos State University (LASU) lecturer, Mrs Ganiyah Adenle said: “When there is a fire, I don’t see fire fighters killing the smoke, they rather go to the base of the fire. The government should go to the root of Boko Haram, find out those behind it and stop killing the smoke of Boko Haram.”
Dousing tension, Governor Ambode said hijab has not been banned in Lagos State.
He spoke on Saturday, 9th January, 2016, during the inauguration of The Muslim Congress (TMC) Imams at TMC Dawah Centre in Ijeshatedo.
Ambode said the government has not directed security operatives to go on such mission.
The governor said: “I want to assure you that government does not know anything about what happened on Friday at Meiran. Lagos State has not banned hijab. The Federal government has not banned hijab and we are warning all security operatives to desist from all acts that can lead to religious tension.”
Ambode appealed to the crowd to remain law-abiding and not to take the laws into its hands, promising to look into the case.
“Nobody is above the law. Muslims should be free to practise their religion. Christians should feel free to practise their religion,” he said.
Ambode, represented by the state Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr Abdul Abdul Hakeem AbdulLateef, thanked the congress for its support during the last elections.
“Personally, I don’t think that banning hijab is the solution to the menace of terrorism,” AbdulLateef said, adding: “Ever since journalism has been practised as a profession, there are journalists who have come out with articles and information capable of creating tension and derailing the government. No government has because of that banned journalism.
“We cannot because of the excesses of some people begin to trample on the fundamental human rights of others.
“It is good that all religious organisations are taking it on board. They are now using metal detectors to ensure nobody comes in with bomb. This is the message that all churches and mosques are taking on board.”
The governor noted that religious leaders are critical stakeholders in the development of the state and the country.
“We’ll not because of what is happening now violate our own constitution. We recognise the fact that section 38 of the constitution allows the freedom of religion either as individuals on in community with others to observe and propagate their religion. We will never allow any security officials to take the law into its hands. This is our electoral promise to Lagosians,” Ambode said.