Prominent Islamic scholars accuse Sanwo-Olu of marginalising Muslims in Lagos

The criticism trailing the list of commissioners nominated by the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, has further heightened as a group of Islamic clerics and scholars on Tuesday described the composition of the nominees “as a continuation of the governor’s longstanding bias against Muslims in the state.”

They said the list exhibited a “callous insensitivity to diversity, equity, and fairness.”

But the governor has denied the allegation, saying his administration has no preference for one faith over another, and that excellence has been the watchword of his government.

Mr Sanwo-Olu’s Chief Press Secretary (CPS), Gboyega Akosile, in a telephone interview with PREMIUM TIMES’ reporter on Tuesday, said in response to the issues raised, engagements with relevant stakeholders including the Muslim leaders are ongoing for prompt resolutions.

Earlier, legislators in the state House of Assembly had kicked against the list submitted to them for screening by the governor, saying some local government areas were not represented.


Mr Sanwo-Olu had sent 39 names to the Assembly for confirmation as commissioners in his cabinet.

The list, according to his chief press secretary, Gboyega Akosile, has 30 per cent women, youths, technocrats and politicians.

Alleged discrimination

But reacting at a press briefing organised under the aegis of Joint Muslims Forum (JMF), Islamic scholars led by the National Missioner of Ansar-Ud-Deen Society of Nigeria, Abdrahman Ahmad, said Muslims in the state rejected the list as submitted by the governor.

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Mr Ahmad, an imam, said: “Over the past years, we have witnessed several instances of injustice towards Muslims by the Governor Sanwo-Olu-led state government through its unfavourable policies, lopsided appointments, and infringements on our religious and socio-political rights as a community.

“The released list of commissioners is thus a continuation of the old abnormality and a reaffirmation that the state government has no regard whatsoever for the Muslims in the state nor our interest.”

He said the group had at various times engaged the government regarding the grievances but the government has yet to act on them.

Out of the 39 names forwarded to the state assembly, only eight are Muslims, the group said.

“Muslims make up less than 20 per cent of the list, even though they constitute over 60 per cent of not just the state’s population but her voting public. We observed that out of 39 nominees, only eight are Muslims,” Mr Abdul Rahman, said.

He said the Lagos Muslim community rallied around Mr Sanwo-Olu and the APC when most people, especially the Christians, did not as a result of the Muslim-Muslim ticket of the party’s presidential candidate.

“We mobilised our community to not only vote for the return of the governor but also defended the votes under very difficult circumstances. It must be stated that the Muslim community did not collect a dime from either the APC flagbearers or any of their opponents in that election. Rather we acted truthfully and selflessly with the hope for a more prosperous Lagos.

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“We want to emphasise yet again that Muslims of the state are not disposable items to be used and discarded at will. It is time that we insist most emphatically that it cannot and will not be business as usual again,” Mr Ahmad said.

The group, therefore, demanded a review of the appointments to reflect a 60 per cent Muslim population.

“Governor’s act violates Constitutional provisions”

According to the forum, the governor’s act was not only a violation of the provisions of Nigeria’s constitution but also “an affront to the collective sensibilities of the Muslims.”

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Mr Ahmad said Mr Sanwo-Olu’s act violates Section 14(4) of the 1999 Constitution, which he noted stipulates that; “The composition of the Government of the Federation, a state, a local government council, or any of the agencies of such government or council, and the conduct of the affairs of the government or council or such agencies shall be carried out in such manner as to recognise the diversity of the people within its area of authority and the need to promote a sense of belonging and loyalty among all the people of the Federation.”

“We the Muslims of, and in Lagos State wish to categorically state that the entire leadership of the Muslim Community of Lagos State representing various Muslim organisations, unequivocally and unanimously reject the list of the commissioner-designates of Governor Sanwo-Olu and we demand a reversal and review to reflect 60 per cent in favour of Muslims in a fresh list,” the group said.

Also in attendance at the briefing were leaders of the various groups represented including the Grand Mufti of Islamic Organisations of Nigeria (CIO); Dhikrullah Shafii; Isiak Tejidini of Rahmatu Islamiyyah Society of Nigeria; AbdulJaleel Olori-Aje of Association of Muslim Professionals, and Isiaq Akintola, a professor, representing Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC).

Others are Muhammad Basheer of Zumratul Muhmineen Society of Nigeria; Ismail Yusuf of Lagos Mainland Muslim Community; AbdulGafaar Muslideen of Dawah Front of Nigeria; Amina Muhammad representing The Criterion (Al-Furqan), and AbdulRahman Adangba of Adangba Central Mosque, among others.

Mr Akosile, who said his principal and his deputy- Obafemi Hamzat, have built their administration on competence and capacity, noted that everyone across faith, gender, youth, and technocrats will be carried along in the administration of the state.

He said: “Governor Babajide Sanwo Olu did not do anything deliberately to sideline any faith. The administration has been built on competence and capacity because Lagos is known as the Centre of Excellence, and it is that excellence that is driving the duo of Governor Babajide Sanwo-Olu and his deputy, Obafemi Amzat, in everything they’ve been doing.”

He said the government has always encouraged inclusion and that it is what informed the vision for greater Lagos.

He added; “So, what he seeks to achieve is the best for the entirety of Lagosians, not based on political, ethnic sentiment, or whether you are a man or a woman. it’s about delivery and performance that will alleviate the suffering of our people.

“But when these complaints were made the leadership has taken note of it and right about now, they are engaging the religious stakeholders to assuage their concerns. And I believe that we will definitely assuage their concerns and everybody will be happy at the end of the day.”

Qosim Suleiman is a reporter at Premium Times in partnership with Report for the World, which matches local newsrooms with talented emerging journalists to report on under-covered issues around the globe.

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