Thirty-eight professors have accused the University of Ibadan (UI) of excluding Muslims from decision making on key issues by fixing meetings and other academic and administrative engagements at hours dedicated to Friday prayer (Jumu'ah).
In a letter written under the umbrella of University of Ibadan Muslim Community and addressed to the institution's vice-chancellor, Idowu Olayinka, the professors said the Senate meeting held on August 30 was so fixed to deny Muslim members participation.
The signatories to the letter, which was dated August 30, include the school's chief imam, Oloyede Abdulrahman; Musiliu Onilude, A. Bankole, Mohammed Yahaya, Sulaiman Yusuf, Kamil Oloso, Lateef Abass, Bolatito Lanre-Abbass, Sulaiman Gbadegesin, Yahaya Mijinyewa, Tajudeen Akanji, Rashid Aderinoye, Ademola Aremu and Akin Alada, among others.
The dons said the tradition since the tenure of a former vice-chancellor, A.B Odediran, was that the hours of 12 noon to 3 p.m should be free of any statutory academic and administrative activities on the campus.
They said this tradition was backed by a university's special release of August 23, 2010, they claimed banned lectures, meetings, and other statutory engagements.
But the lecturers in their letter claimed that by scheduling the senate meeting during Muslim prayer on Friday, the university was setting a bad precedent.
According to the group, the vice-chancellor's alleged poor handling of its earlier correspondences on the controversies surrounding the use of hijab by the pupils of the university's international school had allowed the matter to degenerate.
It, therefore, advised Mr Olayinka to handle the matter well to avoid it escalating.
The letter reads in part; "It shall be much appreciated, sir, if management and, by extension, other units in the university respect and uphold management's approval of 12noon to 3 p.m for Muslims to observe Jumuat service and desist from fixing meetings that clash with Jumuat service period on Fridays.
"We use this medium to appeal to Mr Vice-Chancellor to address this matter with the urgency it deserves to avert further harm to members of the University of Ibadan Muslim community, considering his handling of numerous correspondences to management to allow Muslim pupils in the International School of the University of Ibadan to use hijab that has been allowed to degenerate into unwanted litigation, harassment and oppression of young Muslim pupils, and infringements on their fundamental human rights as enshrined in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
"We call on the vice-chancellor to call all parties to order and allow the young Muslim girls to use hijab as may be approved by the school with reference to size and colour."
But the university's vice-chancellor has denied the group's claim. He said the quoted Senate meeting was rounded off at 1 p.m and that it did not clash with the Muslim prayer.
He, however, commended PREMIUM TIMES for reaching out, saying the matter would be addressed using internal mechanism.
In his response to the group, a copy of which was made available to our reporter, Mr Olayinka promised to look into the issues for appropriate action.
He, however, said the issue of the hijab raised by the professors cannot be addressed by the university management, saying the matter was already before the court and that it would amount to sub judice to intervene in it.
"Please note for the records that the said meeting of Senate was not fixed during the prayer meeting of our Muslim brothers and sisters," he said.
"Rather, the meeting started at 10 a.m. The agenda was rather slim and the expectation was that the meeting would have ended before the Friday prayers. The Chairman of Senate was conscious of that fact and he guided Senate that the meeting should be concluded in good time.
"Invariably the meeting ended about 1 pm. Nonetheless, the petition by the 38 Professors is noted for action. Thank you."