The Muslim Rights Concern has opposed the permission granted by a Federal High Court in Abuja on Wednesday to Shamsudeen, the son of a former Federal Capital Territory, Bala Mohammed, to travel for â€˜Umrah (lesser hajj). Shamsudeen is standing trial on charges of money laundering to the tune of N1.2 billion.
The Muslim Rights Concern denounces the permission granted the accused in a statement by its Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, saying the trial judge has been misled, adding: â€œIt is a miscarriage of justice and undue indulgence. Permission to travel abroad is usually given to accused persons on medical grounds. Religion is not strong enough as reason for granting an accused person leave to travel outside the country.
â€œThis is a flimsy excuse. The accused is not even going for hajj (pilgrimage) but for â€˜Umrah which is lesser hajj. It is rather unfortunate that Nigerians engage in reckless abuse of religion and hide behind it to commit atrocities.
â€œWhereas hajj is the last of the five pillars of Islam, Nigerian Muslims make it their first priority. Whereas hajj is compulsory only once in a life time, Nigerian Muslims compel themselves to go every year. Whereas the Qurâ€™an makes it explicitly clear that hajj is only compulsory on those who have the wherewithal (Glorious Qurâ€™an 3:97), even poverty-stricken Nigerian Muslims bend over backwards to look for money by all means to travel to Makkah. It is only hajj officials who should be permitted to go annually.
â€œThis is an aberration and it is an area the Nigerian authorities should focus on. Efforts should be geared towards proper education of Nigerians about their religions. Inadequate or improper knowledge about oneâ€™s religion is what usually leads to wrong perception, religious extremism, violence and terrorism.
â€œWhereas â€˜Umrah is not compulsory, thousands of Nigerian Muslims throng to Saudi Arabia to perform it every year. Many of them repeat the same exercise on an annual basis even though it costs no less than one million naira for each person. This constitutes serious drain on the nationâ€™s foreign exchange while it boosts Saudi Arabiaâ€™s economy.
MURIC therefore finds no justification whatsoever for somebody who is on trial for money laundering to seek permission to go on â€˜Umrah and for that frivolous request to be granted. It is sheer misplacement of priorities. Although Shamsudeen Bala remains innocent until he is found guilty, it appears the accused is being unduely rewarded for having the temerity to steal Nigeriaâ€™s money.
â€œThat N1.2 billion which is in contention will go a long way in ameliorating the sufferings of thousands of Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) in the North East or pay the tuition fees of hundreds of indigent students in Nigerian universities. N1 billion is N1 million in one thousand places and we are talking of N1.2 billion, not just N1 billion. It is a fabulous amount of money in a country where the minimum wage is a paltry N18,000 and many Nigerians do not know what they will eat tomorrow.
â€œThe average Nigerian lives on less than $1 per day. Our per capita income is less than $300. Nigeria is the 26th hungriest country in the world. We are the 20th poorest nation yet the most â€˜fantastically corruptâ€™.
â€œBala should thank Allah that he is not behind bars. He should stay at home and pray to Allah from here. Allah is everywhere. He is near, not far. He is alive, powerful, wonderful. He does not sleep. He hears the cries of His servants whenever they call Him (Qurâ€™an 2:186, 255) .â€œBefore we round up, we assert that MURIC will not celebrate corrupt Muslims. They should clear themselves in the law courts first. We urge the learned judge to revoke the permission to travel granted Bala. We charge religious leaders to stop idolising people whose sources of income are uncertain, people of doubtful character and those facing corruption charges until they are discharged and acquitted. In the same vein, we should desist from pampering them with chieftaincy and religious titles, protecting them or seeking to extenuate their offences.