Vanguard (Lagos)

5 February 2013

Nigeria: How Murder of Islamic Cleric By Masquerades Sparked Off Angry Reactions

Abeokuta — If Alfa Lateef Amusa, a popular Islamic cleric in the Ijaye area of Abeokuta had known that the Egungun masquerade's threat would lead to his death, he would have avoided them A minor altercation between the deceased and the masked but armed masquerades who had blocked the road that fateful Sunday, led to the death of Lateef. He was killed when one of the masquerades popularly called 'Leyin Aponle,' allegedly shot him at close range.

Before his demise, Lateef, 25, was planning to get married to his heartthrob before the end of the year.

He was described by neighbours and friends as a very gentle, popular and morally upright person who did not discriminate against other religions.

Ijaye where this popular Muslim scholar was gunned down, occupies a strategic place in Egba land. It is the headquarters of some traditional activities which includes Egungun and Olomolu. Vanguard Metro gathered that the cleric who was on a motorcycle with his friend was coming from Maulud Nabiy ceremony. He was said to be heading to Oke-Ijigbo before he ran into the procession of the Egungun worshippers who had blocked the road.

Dressed in his Islamic regalia which included the turban and rosary, Vanguard Metro learnt that the deceased was easily identified by the Egungun worshipers.

Trouble however started when one of the masquerades allegedly insulted him. According to sources, the masquerade ordered him to disembark from the bike or face their wrath. This threat was said to have infuriated the deceased who refused to alight from the bike. Pissed by this apparent insubordination, the masquerade allegedly pulled the trigger and fired the cleric who slumped and died on the spot.

The killing of late Lateef who has been buried according to Islamic rites, infuriated members of his religious group who stormed the family house of the notorious masquerade in Ijaye. Armed with kegs of petrol and other dangerous weapons, they burnt down the masquerade's house .

The irate youths reportedly searched the house popularly called Chief Dada's House and removed the costumes which they dragged to the street before setting them ablaze.

When Vanguard Metro visited the scene, charred remains of the burnt costumes and paraphernalia littered the surroundings .

There was palpable tension in the area as a detachment of heavily armed regular and anti-riot policemen drawn from the different divisions in the state, kept vigil .

Meanwhile, the Muslim Community in the area is now spoiling for war over the death of their member. They are insisting that justice must be done. A source told VM that the person behind the masquerade has been identified as Jasper . The youths are angry because the said Jasper is still moving freely in the town.

The Chief Imam of Ijaye land, Sheik Musa Musbau-Olomu told Vanguard Metro that, the community has held a meeting with the Alake of Egbaland,Oba Adedotun Aremu Gbadebo who ordered the indefinite suspension of Egungun festival.

Meanwhile, the President of Islamic Humanitarian Services of Nigeria, Alhaji Rasheed Okenla has given the state government three days to bring the perpetrators to book. According to him, failure to make the perpetrator face the music might lead to a reaction by the community.

The State Police Public Relations Officer, Muyiwa Adejobi told Vanguard Metro that the perpetrators of the crime have been arrested . " Investigation revealed that others in the masquerade camp ran and abandoned the masquerade after one of them shot and killed Lateef at the scene of the fracas," he said.

Adejobi, an Assistant Superintended of Police added that the state Commissioner of Police, Ikemefuna Okoye, has already ordered a thorough investigation into the matter. "The CP has also ordered that all masquerade outings and festivals in the state be put on hold till further notice, " he said.

The police spokesman said that the masquerade and the other suspects would be charged to court as soon as investigations into the matter were concluded.

Meanwhile, the Ogun State Chapter of the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC has described the incident as disheartening and callous. The group blamed the government for not heeding persistent calls to check the activities of the traditionalists. In a statement signed by its Chairman, Soliu Luqman, the Islamic body called on the state government to urgently prosecute those arrested in connection with the incident "to prevent a reprisal attack from the aggrieved youths."

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