The President of the Baptist Conference in Kwara State, Victor Dada, says more than 20 people, including four pastors, were wounded during the clash between Muslim and Christian parents at Baptist Secondary School, Surulere, Ilorin on Wednesday.
The clash was a fall out of the hijab controversy that led to the closure of 10 schools in Ilorin last month.
The school where the violence erupted on Wednesday was one of the 10 shut down last month by the state government over the controversy and reopened only on Wednesday.
The state government had waded into the controversy and ordered the closure of the schools to avert violent clashes by Christian and Muslim groups.
On Tuesday, it announced that the schools had been told to reopen but must respect its policy that allows the use of the hijab in all public schools.
However, PREMIUM TIMES gathered that Christian parents at the school barred female Muslim students from entering the school on Wednesday.
This led to a clash with their Muslim counterparts, which later escalated with the rival groups throwing stones and plastic chairs at themselves.
Some of the people were injured before security agents arrived to disperse the fighters.
Mr Dada, in a statement issued Wednesday evening, said the christians, “who were on peaceful demonstration with drums and trumpets, came under serious attack by ‘Muslim fundamentalists’ “who mobilised themselves and touts in large number to attack us.”
He alleged they overpowered the police, forcefully removed the gate and signpost of the school, and threw stones at the protesters for over an hour.
“Only the gallant resistance of members and eventual security reinforcements saved the church from being burnt. More than 20 people (including four pastors) were wounded with three hospitalised.
“The fundamentalist in the presence of security officials vehemently attempted to burn the Church and when repelled threatened to burn the Church either during the day or at night. They threw ‘petrol fire’ to the Church gate and vandilised the auditorium.”
According to the Baptist leader, the Muslim fundamentalists “went ahead to vandalise The Apostolic Church, Eruda Ilorin, a Church without any Grant Aided School.
“It is surprising that the government has become a government of the Muslim by the Muslim for the Muslim in his (sic) policies, pronouncements and attitude.”
He also restated that the affected schools are grant aided schools and not public schools.
“At no time since the grant aiding policy started in 1974 has any government designed uniform for schools. This has always been the responsibility of the proprietors, be it community or mission. It should be noted that Christians have always complied with Islamic guidelines in grant aided Muslim school as Muslims do not allow any Christian practice in their schools.
“The Muslim and government should not take our gentleness for weakness. The government has not employed Christian Religion Knowledge in the last fifteen years but kept employing and posting Imam and Islamic religious teachers in large numbers (even in Mission Schools).
“We shall not allow Hijab in our schools. We will defend our faith and defend our inheritance. We demand that the government should return back our schools.”
Premium Times reached out to some of the Muslim ‘stakeholders’ in the school but they said since they were not present at the venue of the protest, they could not comment on the claims by the Christian cleric.
The spokesperson of the police, Ajayi Okasanmi, was yet to respond to PREMIUM TIMES’s telephone calls as of the time of filing this report.
But the government has maintained its stance on the issue, stating that the use of the head covering is the constitutional right of any female student who choose to use it.
READ ALSO: UPDATED: Hijab controversy turns bloody as Muslim, Christian parents clash in Kwara school
“It is important to clarify that the government is not imposing the hijab. It is not mandatory for all our schoolgirls to wear hijab. Rather, the state government approves hjab for any Muslim schoolgirl who wishes to use it. The government is only respecting a fundamental human right of those schoolgirls. Nothing more. This has been communicated to all school heads via a circular of the Ministry of Education and Human Capital Development,” the Secretary to the State Government, Mamman Jubril, stated on Wednesday.
It should be noted that the military government, in the 1970s, took over these schools from the missions who founded the schools.
The schools, now grant aided by the government, had their names changed, but some, like those in Kwara, retained their names.
The missions in Kwara had twice challenged the government take-over of the schools in court but lost the suit at the high court and appellate court.
The missions, comprising different Christian denominations, have taken the case to the Supreme Court.
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