A religious group, the Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, on Monday described the 2018 examinations timetable recently released by the West African Examinations Council, WAEC, as volatile, warning that the timetable is capable of causing a disturbance of public peace if it erodes the Jumat period.

WAEC recently scheduled Chemistry for 2 pm to 4 pm on Friday April 20, 2018. But following criticisms from MURIC, the subject was moved backwards to Tuesday April 10, 2018. However, ceramics (Essay) and Forestry (Essay) will now be held on Friday April 20, 2018 from 2 pm to 4 pm.

While stressing that Muslims all over the world attend Jumat prayer in their mosques from 1 – 2.30 pm on Fridays, MURIC, in a statement by its Director, Prof. Ishaq Akintola, pointed out that educational institutions and offices often leave a two-hour window (from 1 to 3 pm) for the faithful to go and worship.

The Director of Public Affairs, WAEC Nigeria, Mr. Demianus Ojijeogu had confirmed the slight amendment, stating that “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 pm or 3 pm, when the Muslims will return from the mosque”.

But MURIC is not satisfied with Ojijeogu’s explanation, maintaining that it is not convincing enough, and “leaves Muslim candidates at the mercy of WAEC’s ad hoc staff, invigilators and supervisors, some of whom can be overzealous Muslim-haters”.

Akintola said in the statement; “Even if it is true, this amendment still needs clarification from WAEC. For instance, we need to know whether or not some Muslim candidates take these two subjects (Ceramics and Forestry). Yet this may not be the end of our inquiry even if no Muslim candidate has registered for the subjects this year because some Muslim candidates are likely to show interest in them in the near future.

“The ideal thing for WAEC to do, therefore, is to steer clear completely from scheduling any examination during the Jumat period. There is no need to stereotype Muslims and the subjects they are likely to take. Knowledge is a universal thing and candidates are not likely to consider religion as a factor when choosing their subjects.

“The Muslim Rights Concern, MURIC, was shocked by the first timetable released by WAEC. It was unfair, tyrannical and provocative. It was equally myopic, thoughtless and parochial. This ‘amended’ version presupposes that WAEC is confused.

“We were shocked because issues like this had been trashed out with WAEC before. For WAEC to have tried this again, we strongly suspect that the regional examination body is suffering from chronic administrative amnesia.

“WAEC appears confused because there are three other clashes on the ‘amended’ timetable which WAEC did not address at all. Social Studies (Objective) is slated for 1 – 1.50 pm on Friday 4th May, 2018 while Electronics (Objective) is also billed to take place between 1 and 3 pm on Friday 11th May, 2018. Woodwork is equally scheduled for the same day from 12 – 3 pm. So how do we reconcile all these? WAEC is out to slay Muslim candidates.

“Placed pari passu with the ‘amended’ timetable, it is clear that WAEC’s spokesperson seeks to deceive Muslim candidates. He is leading them into a trap. If indeed the timetable has been amended and Chemistry has been moved to morning period on Tuesday 10th April, 2018, why would there be any need for “the exam would be delayed till they come back” since it would no longer be taken on a Friday.

“WAEC spokesperson also spoke of the paper being delayed till “…2.30 pm or 3 pm”. This is supposed to be a policy matter. Is he not so sure? Which one should WAEC ad hoc officials operate? 2.30 pm deadline or 3 pm? WAEC is speaking from both sides of its mouth.

“We recall our press statement dated 26th August, 2015 under the caption “WAEC Examination Timetable is an Invitation to Chaos”. That press statement was issued three years ago when WAEC fixed three different subjects between the hours of 1pm and 3 pm on three consecutive Fridays running from 11th, 18th, and 25th September of that year. MURIC cried foul and WAEC later adjusted its timetable.

“So what has changed since then? Does WAEC intend to bring examination materials to its Muslim candidates in the mosque? Is WAEC asking Muslim candidates to choose between worshipping and their examination just as some religious bigots told Muslim students in the past? Is this not an attempt by WAEC to jeopardize the interest and future of Muslim candidates? Is this also not a deliberate attempt to ease out Muslims from vital degree courses like medicine, pharmacy, nursing, etc?

“Once is happenstance, twice is a coincidence but the third time is enemy action. The 2015 incident was not the first time. Is WAEC targeting Muslim candidates for destabilization? It appears the only language WAEC understands is force. Although Muslims will not resort to the use of force, we will resist WAEC’s illegal, unlawful, illegitimate and unconstitutional manipulation of its timetable to deprive Muslim candidates of their Allah-given fundamental right to worship as enshrined in Section 38 (i) & (ii) of the 2011 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended. Any WAEC timetable which trespasses into the Jumat period (12 – 3 pm on Friday) is therefore ultra vires, null and void.

“By this press statement, we are notifying the Federal Ministry of Education of the volatile nature of WAEC’s timetable. It is capable of causing a disturbance of public peace if it erodes the Jumat period. Nigeria has witnessed enough religious riots and the Ministry must call WAEC to order.

“WAEC’s regional status notwithstanding, the Ministry of Education owes it a duty to ensure that no educational exercise capable of stirring civil disturbance is allowed to take place under its watch. The Ministry of Education should have an input in an exercise of this magnitude. In view of the fact that WAEC keeps repeating the same irritating and illegal time table year after year, we suggest that from now on, WAEC time tables should be scrutinized by the ministry of education to ensure that nothing unlawful creeps into it.

“Muslim candidates and their parents will be left with no choice than to mobilize to WAEC examination centers in peaceful protest if this complaint is ignored.

“We demand a WAEC timetable that leaves the 12 – 3 pm window which Muslims need for Jumat service untouched. An ideal examination timetable for Friday will therefore be 9 am to 12 noon and 3.30 – 6 pm. In fact, heaven will not fall if examinations are limited to morning period on Fridays.

“The WAEC timetable imbroglio has once again brought the Friday Question to focus. We have no iota of doubt that WAEC will have no audacity to fix an examination during the Jumat period if Friday is free like Sunday. Or should we simply ask WAEC to fix one subject for the Jumat period and another one on Sunday morning from 9 am to 12 noon, at least for parity? How does that sound? Who feels it knows it. WAEC should stop oppressing Muslims. All we are saying is: Give Us Jumat period. Respect Allah, our Creator, even if you don’t respect us.

“WAEC is pursuing an aggressive anti-Islam policy. Fixing examinations during Jumat service gives non-Muslims undue advantage over Muslims. This is discriminatory and unjust. WAEC has lost its soul.

“To round up, we charge the Federal Ministry of Education to call WAEC to order. We advise WAEC authorities to consult widely when fixing its timetable because no public institution is an island, entire of itself. WAEC should note that the Jumat period (12 – 3 pm) is not negotiable for any subject. We urge Muslims to remain calm, to eschew violence but to be alert and watchful. Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.”

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