Nigerian Twitter is on fire after reports, which some now claim is fake news, of the demolition of Trans-Amadi Central Mosque in Port Harcourt, the Rivers State capital.
Observers say they hope the current social media rage and inferno on the matter does not spill into real life.
What’s going on?
Daily Trust is reporting that the mosque was demolished on Tuesday, August 20, apparently based on a press release by Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) which attacked Governor Nyesom Wike for “ordering the demolition”.
“Both the Chief Imam of Trans-Amadi Central Mosque, Alhaji Haroon Muhammed and the Secretary, Alhaji Aliyu Sadiq have provided evidence proving that due process was followed in purchasing the land,” MURIC said.
“Yet the state government has been harassing the mosque management for years. The mosque has been demolished twice in the past.
“A mosque is demolished while there is a case on it at an appellate court.
“The level of impunity manifested by Governor Nyesom Wike has confirmed the fear expressed by Lord Acton in his 1887 letter addressed to Bishop Mandell Creighton that ‘Power corrupts, absolute power corrupts absolutely’.
“Or how do we explain a situation whereby a state governor ignores all legal process and proceeds to send thugs and fake mobile policemen to destroy a mosque?
“This (August 20) demolition was executed without any formal notice despite the fact that the mosque has an approved building plan.
“The only thing that was heard was that the papers had not been revalidated whereas the mosque management made several moves to revalidate ownership.
“They even paid a visit to the permanent secretary to complain when officials in the Ministry of Lands and Housing refused to attend to them.
“This illegal demolition has deprived more than 10,000 worshippers of a place of worship. Members of the armed forces, oil company workers and other residents who are Muslims attend the mosque.
“This exercise smirks of religious fanaticism, intolerance and administrative impunity.
“Wike does not want any mosque in the state. Neither does he want to see any Muslim around him.
“Paradoxically, Rivers State citizens are everywhere in the country, particularly in Muslim-controlled parts of Northern Nigeria as well as Muslim-majority parts of the South West.
“Wike’s ability for independent and logical reasoning is highly in doubt.
“He is a threat to peaceful coexistence anywhere in this country.
“This man must never be allowed to go beyond Rivers State in his political career. Neither should any president give him a federal appointment.
“Nigerian Muslims will definitely rise against him if he ever aspires for a federal position anytime in the future or if any presidential candidate picks him as his running mate.
“Wike is bad news. Muslims are not safe in his hands. He is not capable of rational thinking. Neither can he ever dispense justice with fairness.
“We appeal to the National Assembly to call Wike to order.
“His actions are capable of setting Nigeria on fire,” the statement read in part.
How Twitter fire was ignited
After news of the reported demolition hit the airwaves, Nigerians took to social media to express disappointment in Governor Wike who recently declared Rivers a “Christian State”.
Gimba Kakanda, who has a huge following on Twitter, was among the many who condemned the reported demolition.
He later apologised for his tweet after “discovering” that news of the demolition could be untrue.
But, after apparently seeing Daily Trust’s report, the verified social media influencer questioned why anyone would call the reported demolition fake news. He also defended himself against criticisms of spreading falsehood.
Meanwhile, some social media users are reportedly already planning to demolish churches in Kano and other parts of northern Nigeria.
But what actually happened?
MURIC claims the mosque had been demolished two times in the past following court orders that were been appealed by the Muslim community.
Sources told The Realm News, Monday morning, there “is currently no sign any recent demolition took place at the site”. A video recently shared on social media confirmed our sources’ claim.
But this, if Daily Trust’s report can be trusted, is still no concrete proof that the mosque was not recently demolished. Images and videos of government agencies demolishing the mosque on August 20, if they did demolish it on that day, could dispel the ongoing rancour.
Twitter went into overdrive after a video of Muslims expressing dissatisfaction over the state of the mosque was shared online (it is not clear if they were protesting their ongoing tussle with the government or an August 20 demolition).
It was this video that Gimba Kakanda and other social media users initially retweeted.
There are claims that the mosque has not been rebuilt in recent time as worshippers are still raising funds to do so. The place currently holds Friday Jumat prayers, reports say.