Muslims have criticised the West African Examinations Council (WAEC) for allowing part of its examination clash with the Friday Jummat prayer.
In the timetable for 2018 May/June Senior Secondary School Certificate Examination (SSCE), candidates will write Chemistry paper from 2pm to 5pm on Friday, April 20.
The Muslim Friday prayers usually hold between 1:30 pm to 3pm.
The council released the timetable a week ago to principals of various schools to make it available to the students.
According to the timetable, the examination is scheduled to start on March 27 and end on May 15,2018.
Speaking on the Chemistry exam, Ishaq Akintola, president of the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), said the timetable was an “injustice” against Muslims, whom he claimed had become “endangered species”.
“When there is no justice, there can never be peace and everyone is clamouring for peace,” said Mr. Akintola, a professor.
According to him, WAEC had fixed examinations during Jummat sessions for some years and Muslim leaders discussed with the council in 2016 and 2017.
“Until something starts happening, until the Muslims start disrupting WAEC examination, until Muslims start tearing WAEC examination materials, that is when government will start paying attention.
“WAEC is playing games and they want the Muslims to make noise every year, the council is deliberately provoking Muslims and it has continued to show itself as a consistent anti-Muslim institution,” he said.
“Section 38 subsection 1 and 2 of the Federal Republic of Nigeria’s constitution stipulates that there must be freedom of worship and WAEC fixing an examination for 2pm simply means that WAEC does not want Muslims to worship, therefore WAEC is an oppressor and we are ready for them,” he said.
“The Muslims in every vicinity of the exam can mobilise on the day of the examination and go to the schools which the exams will be written, we are sending this warning to WAEC not to dare it,” he said.
He said fixing a major subject at Jummat time is “illegal, unconstitutional and unlawful”.
Similarly, AbdulRazaq Kilani, who is the chief Imam of the University of Port Harcourt, said it had become a normal narrative in Nigeria that Muslims have to protest before simple rights can be given to them.
“WAEC is an international organization, one would have expected that they take due diligence by identifying subjects that they could put on Friday which are not core subjects like carpentry, textiles among others that are not offered by large number of candidates. So putting Chemistry there is wrong,” he said.
Mr. Kilani, a professor said Muslims may demand for work-free Friday if the “oppression” continues.
“If the seventh day Adventist have Saturday and the other Christians have Sunday and the two hours the Muslims are asking for on Friday is being taken away from them, then the Muslim can ask (for) work free Friday which will cause a constitutional problem for Nigeria, it is better to grant the Muslims their right to worship,” he said.
Mutiat Orolu-Balogun, a lawyer, said Nigeria is a multi -cultural religious society, in which everyone must have a sense belonging and justice.
“We are not all the same and trying to let the same thing apply to everybody will only result in chaos and unrest. We all know that Muslims from time memorial always go for their Jummat prayer on Friday; I don’t think it will be fair to fix an exam during the time,” she said.
She said the council should have made the period free noting that students may not make it in time to the examination hall and settle for the paper even if the prayer time is between 1pm and 2pm.
“I don’t know what emergency it is that the Chemistry must hold that day; are they saying something bad will happen if they add one extra day to WAEC timetable, I don’t get the rationale. What about the staff, invigilators and supervisors that have the rights to be at the Jummat prayer. I know it has never happened in history and it can never happen for WAEC exam to be fixed on Sunday morning when most people will be in church,” she said.
She said it is unjust to have people to choose between their religion, faith and their examination.
“I have seen the timetable of the student and it is annoying that a body like WAEC will fix such exam during a time when muslim students are expected to go and perform a fundamental religious function and act,” says Saheed Ashafa, the Amir of Muslim Students Society of Nigeria.
He said the act by the board signifies hatred for the peaceful co-existent of the Muslims.
“For us as Muslim students, we condemn the act in totality and we call on WAEC to reschedule the examination and the Muslim will not go along with it because it is highly unacceptable, we will make some moves before the exam starts if they refuse to change it when we expect, we believe there is still time for WAEC to adjust so we can have a peaceful situation on the matter”,
When contacted, the director of public affairs WAEC Nigeria, Demianus Ojijeogu, confirmed to PREMIUM TIMES in a phone conversation that chemistry 1 and 2 was fixed for 2pm to 5pm on Friday April 20, 2018 by the council.
He said the council has devised a way in which the subject will not clash with the prayer time.
According to him, for the sake of the people who will go to the mosque, the exam will be delayed till they come back.
“The paper will be delayed till 2:30 p.m. or 3 p.m. till the Muslims are back (from) mosque,” he concluded.