The Rainbow Town Central Mosque located at the Trans-Amadi area of Rivers state was reportedly demolished by the state government on August 20.
Reports of the demolition have stoked controversy as the Muslim community in the area claimed the state government was behind the action. But the Rivers state authorities denied any wrongdoing describing the report as fake news.
Some Nigerians took to social media to express their displeasure over the action, describing it as ”a sacrilege and a violation of their right to worship”.
Some others argued that there was no mosque in the location and that it was a building under construction.
The controversy festered owing to a statement credited to Nyesom Wike, governor of the state, in June that Rivers is a “Christian state and cannot be touched by anyone”.
“I repeat once again without apologies, Rivers is a Christian state. That is why nobody can touch us. When it mattered most, the Christian community prayed and God heard your prayers,” he had said.
Aliu Sadiq, secretary of the mosque, said the fence and foundation of the building under construction was pulled down by government officials.
He condemned the demolition of the property, saying the state government gave no reason for its action.
He said though the mosque had not been completed, prayer sessions were being held on the site.
“There was demolition, that is the correct statement and it was carried out by the state government on August 20. And what they did was they pulled down the fence, the foundation to DPC level, the pillars. If you go there now, you will see things for yourself. A building was ongoing, that is the true situation of things; the building has not been completed, it was ongoing,” he said.
“Since we have been there since 2008, praying there. And this is the second time demolition was done by the Rivers state government. The first one was done by Rotimi Amaechi, and now, Wike. And we have all the approvals.
“In 2010, they brought down the fence and all…The landlord, whom we bought the land from took the matter to court because the land we got was part of the ones he sold to other people too. And the case was decided on November 3, 2017, and which the government of Rivers state did not appeal the judgement. They did not appeal it.
“They have flouted the court’s ruling. It’s just like giving approval to somebody and you are turning back to collect it. That’s the scenario.”
He appealed to the state government to allow them to use the property for worship.
“We are appealing to the governor… what he has done is illegal because you cannot give something to somebody and you turn back and collect it without reason or discussion with the person. He is a governor today, he is a leader. If you want to collect land from anybody, the constitution made it clear that it must be for an overriding public interest and that the person you are collecting land from must be called, informed and duly compensated. And that part of the land you are taking must be gazetted. No reason was given for the action.. We are appealing to the governor not confrontational.”
But while speaking with journalists, Wike debunked the report, saying there was no mosque on the site.
“I received calls from several prominent Nigerians on the fake news being circulated online. I have come here with reporters and you can see there was no mosque here,” he said
“It is most unfortunate that fickle minded persons will claim that a mosque was demolished at this place, when no mosque existed here. The story was concocted by mischief makers to score cheap points.
“The persons who started the foundation had already dragged the state government to court on the disputed land. The Rivers State Government won the case. What they attempted to do was to start the illegal construction to tie the hands of the state government.
“The government gave them notice not to do anything on the land. But they went ahead with the illegal foundation and the relevant agency stopped them.
“Why would we want to bring down any mosque , when there are other mosques across the state? What is the special interest on this one?”