There was tension in Ado Ekiti, Ekiti State, on Tuesday as Muslims in the state took to the streets to protest against moves by Governor Ayodele Fayose to demolish mosques built on the premises of petrol stations.
Government officials on Monday marked a mosque in NIPCO Filling Station in the Adebayo area of the state for demolition.
A petroleum dealer, Alhaji Suleman Akinbami, built the mosque and donated it to the Muslim community.
It was gathered that the Commissioner for Lands and Housing, Mr. Tae Otitoju, had visited the mosque at about 5pm on Monday and marked it for demolition, saying worshipers could contract cancer from the radioactive emission from the petrol station.
The action sparked outrage among worshippers, who took to the streets on Tuesday to protest the action.
The youths marched from the central mosque at Oja Oba to Odo Ado area to brief the Chief Imam of Ekiti State, Alhaji Jamiu Kewulere, before moving to the palace of Ewi of Ado Ekiti, Oba Rufus Adejugbe.
The Muslims, under the aegis of the National Council of Muslim Youth Organisations, described the proposed demolition as an attempt to further oppress Muslims by Fayose.
Addressing the protesters, Kewulere assured that he would liaise with the government for a peaceful resolution of the issue.
“Islam is a religion of peace and we have respect for leadership. So, I beg that you allow the Muslim leaders to look into this matter. We don’t want you to take laws into your own hands because this state belongs to all of us.
“We are going to meet with the governor to actually get the true position of things and we will do all that we need to do for a peaceful resolution of this issue,” he said.
The Coordinator of NACOMYO in Ekiti, Tajudeen Ahmed, a lawyer, wondered why the government wanted to demolish mosques after allegedly short-changing Muslims in government appointments.
Ahmed accused Fayose of taking the action for political reasons, urging him to have a rethink in the interest of peace.
He said, “The proposed demolition is curious and we see it as an attempt to further oppress us. Governor Fayose made appointments and he put very abysmal numbers of Muslims into his government despite that we constitute 35 per cent of the population in Ekiti.
“We are not violent and we believe in leadership. We want to plead with Governor Fayose to reverse this action. How can a mosque located behind a petrol station constitute a health hazard to worshipers? Besides, it has been in existence for over a decade and if it can affect the worshippers, what would then happen to those selling the product?”
Akinbami, who is the Secretary of the Independent Petroleum Marketers Association of Nigeria, recently addressed journalists over the government’s plot to demolish some petrol stations built in residential areas in the state.
But reacting, Otitoju said the government took the step in the interest of the people.
He said, “The Ekiti State Government wants to make whoever comes to a fuel station safe. What the government is saying is that it is not safe to have a place of worship inside a filling station, whether a church, a mosque or even a shrine.
“The reason behind the move is the recent fire incident at a petrol station in Ado Ekiti, and we want to ensure that there are as few people converging at or around petrol stations as possible.
“With a church or a mosque at a station, the tendency is for people to gather there from time to time and it is not safe. So, it is for the safety and security of the people of the state.
“We have to notify the people affected and we have done that. It is also noteworthy that these people applied for the construction of petrol filling stations and building a place of worship there may not be necessary. Yes, there could be offices to service the station and a few other concerns, but not a worship place.”