Daily Trust (Abuja)

24 November 2007

Nigeria: Riot in Unimaid Over Alleged Sacrilege

Maiduguri — The University of Maiduguri in Borno State was yesterday closed down mid way into semester examinations, following rampaging protests by students over alleged "blasphemy" against Islam.

The protests, sources said, followsallegation that a non Muslim student had used pages of the Holy Quran to clean himself up after excretion.

Students of the university who spoke to Weekly Trust on anonymity noted that at about 5.00 pm the previous day, Thursday, the attention of some Muslim students was drawn to the alleged defiance of the Quran. On that Thursday evening, the source said series of meetings were held by some Muslim brothers, and by Friday morning, perhaps, outcome of their meeting, crisis erupted at the Titanic Hall of the university.

Eye witness told Weekly Trust that students numbering about 100 marched and sang "Allahu Akbar" in unanimity, chasing students across the school premises.

When Weekly Trust visited the male hostel, there was relative calm as policemen were stationed at strategic areas to forestall possible destruction of property. Students were seen struggling with their luggage to meet up with the yesterday 12.00 noon deadline given by the school authority for students to leave the school premises.

At the female hostel, the story was however pathetic, as many female students were seen crying wondering where to go. One of them who gave her name to Weekly Trust as Joyce Moses, a student of the Faculty of Law said, she had no place to go and had no money.

"I have no place to go now, because I don't know anybody in Maiduguri; I have no money to eat let alone go to book for a hotel. I am supposed to be writing my last paper this evening before this incident occurred, please can someone help me"? Joyce asked as she wept furiously.

Although no casualty was recorded as at the time of going to press, the situation according to the students was indeed unfortunate. "This thing is happening at a time when the university is almost rounding up this year's academic programme and as you can see I am just from exam hall," Usman Yakubu, a 300 level student of Mass Communication Department lamented.

However, the story of the Quran for which tension grew at the campus has two sides: the first held that the student who was allegedly involved in the blasphemy, confided in his colleagues that he mistakenly used a page of the Quran when he went to toilet in the night and that he never knew the paper he used were pages from the Quran.

The Muslim brothers on other hand, insisted that, it was deliberate, and that such anti-Islamic actions, have been characteristics of some students in the university. "We want to make it clear to everyone that, Muslim brothers would not tolerate any situation whereby some infidels would come and molest our religion", one of the students declared.

Weekly Trust gathered that the Vice-Chancellor of the University, Professor J.D. Amin was away on an official trip to Abuja along with the Registrar, during the rampage.

The Dean, Students Affairs, Dr. Kundiri who happens to be among the few people left in the campus refused to comment on the matter when approached, maintaining that he had not been officially briefed by the Chief Security Officer on the crisis. "No one is around for us to put heads together, so I am afraid, I can't grant press interview at the moment, I am sure you will understand", the Dean explained.

Meanwhile sources told our correspondent that the closure may last for only two weeks, after authorities may have taken decisions on the matter.

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