Zaria Local Government branch of Jama’atu Izalatil Bid’a Wa’iqamatis Sunnah (JIBWIS), has sacked an Imam in Zaria for complying with Kaduna State Government ban on congregational prayers.
The affected Imam, Malam Abubakar Sarki-Aminu, has been leading prayers at Sheik Abubakar Mahmood Gumi Juma’at Mosque, Kofar Gayan Low-cost, Zaria for almost 40 years.
Sheik Sani Yakubu, the JIBWIS Chairman, who confirmed the development to the News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) on Friday in Zaria, declined further comment on the issue.
He, however, directed the mosque’s Committee Chairman, Alhaji Shehu Dan-Maikuli to speak on his behalf.
Dan-Maikuli said, prior to the removal of the Imam, there were some issues between the sacked Imam and the mosque committee, which were resolved.
“After the resolution, it was agreed that the Imam should be organising monthly committee meetings to discuss problems and prospects of the Mosque, but after that resolution we spent over four years without a single meeting.
“When this issue of coronavirus came, one day the Imam just stand up after leading Zuhur prayer and announced that as from that day he had suspended congregational prayers until the issue is over.
“When I came for Asr prayer, I was told that the Imam ordered for closure of the Mosque. I called him on phone to enquire and he said yes he had ordered that the Mosque be closed,” he said.
Dan-Maikuli added that the Imam neither consulted him being the chairman, nor other members of the committee before taking the decision.
He said that they reported the case to the Chairman, JIBWIS, Zaria Local Government, who came on Wednesday and led Isha (night) prayer and thereafter announced the sack of the Imam and replaced him with Malam Ahmad Tijjani.
On his part, the sacked Imam said his decision to stop congregational prayers was in deference to government directives and in the interest of public health.
He said; “when this case of coronavirus pandemic surfaced in Nigeria, after a while, Kaduna State Government declared that henceforth Juma’at prayer is banned and any gathering above 50 people should be suspended.
“Our Mosque usually witness a very large crowd of worshippers, as such we have to comply with the directives given by Gov. Nasiru el-Rufa’i to avoid spread of the disease.
“In line with this, I stood up after leading a congregational prayer to tell the people that in view of the order by the state government, I have suspended congregational prayers in the mosque until the ban is lifted,” he said.
According to him, two days later, he learnt that some people reported him to the JIBWIS Chairman, who directed that congregational prayers should continue in the same mosque.
Sarki-Aminu said; “My deputy Imam called me on phone that Sheik Sani Yakuba ordered that we should continue with the congregational prayers, that I should come out for Subhi (dawn) prayer.
“I replied him that, if the chairman wants me to continue with the congregational prayers, let him formally write to me so that I will be convinced that his order supersedes that of government.
“I waited without anything to that effect, later I leant that the chairman came and led a congregational Isha’i prayer and announced my removal and replacement.”
On allegation that he did not consult the Mosque committee before the closure, Sarki-Aminu observed that whenever government gives directives “then who else will give a counter-directive?
“In an ideal situation, Imam is the leader of the Mosque, the committee did not enquire from me but they decided to go straight to Sheik Sani Yakubu and he used his power and reopened the Mosque and subsequently announced my removal.”
On mosque’s monthly committee meeting, Sarki-Aminu, said it was an attempt to shift the attention of people on the current happenings.