Suncity Estate Muslim Residents Association (SEMRA), started as a small gathering of few Muslim residents in Suncity Estate who normally spread their mats and observe daily prayers in a car parking lot donated by one of the brothers on Pomona Street. The small group has evolved to become a large community of Muslim residents in Suncity Estate and is subsequently transitioning to a top-notch Islamic Learning Centre in Abuja.
16 years ago, circa 2005; was a period in Nigerian history when the government at the time embarked on large-scale demolition exercises aimed at restoring the “distorted masterplan” of Abuja. The ambition to rebuild the Federal Capital Territory as a center of attraction in Nigeria ushered in swift housing crisis in Abuja metropolis as many structures along marked locations were pulled down. Many lost their shelter, shops, and means of livelihood. Within this time, Suncity Estate was commissioned at Galadimawa, along Airport Road, notwithstanding that only one phase of the Estate was completely developed at that time, the estate was an emerging but promising one. As a newly commissioned Estate amidst a housing crisis in town, the demand for housing was high. Muslim residents in the Estate at that time were also worried as there was no Mosque in Suncity where they could observe their daily prayers. As for water to perform ablution, an overhead water tank was mounted down Pomona Street which mainly served all the residents in Phase One. Later on, a Muslim brother got approval and became the first person to construct a borehole in his house.
Shelter to lay one’s head is a necessity, but a Mosque to observe daily prayers is more important to a Muslim. However, as the only nearest Mosque in the location, those who could, usually drove kilometers to Area One and National Mosque to observe their prayers despite the risk of using such roads surrounded by bushes, especially at wee hours. As for Jumu’ah prayers, many would have the privilege to observe at their workplaces. A few years later, as the number of Muslim residents in the Estate continued to multiply following the expansion of Suncity, this reinforced the necessity to build a Mosque in the estate for the benefit of Muslim residents. At this time, a few members of what was to become SEMRA decided to meet Adkan Services Nigeria Limited, the developers of Suncity, to discuss the need to construct a Masjid in the Estate. The initial negotiations were met with dissatisfaction as the developers, even though originally had in their plan the design for the construction of a Mosque in the estate, as was approved by the Federal Capital Development Authority (FCDA), were not ready to commence the project. Subsequent appeals and negotiations with Adkan from 2005 to 2008 did not yield a positive result. At some point, it appeared that the developers were keener on developing commercial infrastructures such as schools, hospitals, shopping complexes, and gas stations in the estate; and by implication giving consideration to building a Mosque or Church as a charitable cause was not in their priority list.
The Christians had requested earlier from Adkan to build a Church for them even if it is a carcass (skeletal structure up to the roof) and hand it over to them for completion—an idea which was welcomed by the developers. Muslims thought it was a mild option and discussed with the developers to build the same for Suncity Mosque which was agreed upon but wasn’t fulfilled afterward. There was a time Adkan Services Limited advised SEMRA to raise funds and contract them to build the Mosque. SEMRA in response stated that funds for the Mosque project are donated by members while contracts could be awarded through a transparent vetting process, and if Adkan bid for the contract and won, the project could be awarded to the company; notwithstanding that it is the mandate of the Estate Developers to build the Mosque and hand over to SEMRA
For obvious reasons, the Developers were not optimistic about building two Churches in the Estate for Roman Catholics and Protestants but in the case of Islam, one Masjid is enough for all the Muslims in the Estate to observe their prayers. As time went by, deliberate efforts were made by Muslim residents, backed by continued appeal and negotiations with the developers of Suncity, to construct a Mosque in the Estate. Muslims waited patiently with hope in Allah that their request would be granted someday. At some point, Muslim residents also thought it was ideal to officially incorporate SEMRA as an association registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC) to fulfill its legal status, and by 2009 SEMRA became officially registered with CAC number 46877.
Muslims understood that the challenges and delays of securing a place of worship in the Estate were a trial that required Allah’s help, patience, and prayers. Notwithstanding the urgency of the situation, Muslims were particularly interested in maintaining peaceful coexistence with their neighbors. Now with CAC, Adkan realized that the appeal to build a Mosque in the Estate has transcended the involvement of individual Muslims, but now an association with a legal status; SEMRA.
By 2012, following unrelenting efforts by the Muslim community, Adkan advised SEMRA to construct a temporal place of worship at a parking lot of the land allocated for building a Mosque in the Estate as designed in the master plan. In line with this development, SEMRA quickly mobilized labor and raised a temporal structure using aluminum and roofing sheets. At completion, SEMRA relocated from Pomona Street to No 2 Niger Street where Muslims began to pray to date, and subsequently, the first Ramadan fasting was observed in the newly constructed temporal Mosque in 2012. Hajiya Shukrat Akinbiyi, a Muslim sister who lives opposite the Masjid has tremendously supported the Mosque with Ramadan Iftar of 70 packs of meals every day throughout the fasting period since that 2012 to date.
For a period of 13 years, Adkan Services Nigeria Limited didn’t fulfill its promises. They neither constructed a Mosque as proposed nor released the design to SEMRA. In 2019, following continued engagement, the developers finally handed over the architectural design to SEMRA to build a Masjid on the allocated piece of land. As terms were agreed upon by both parties (SEMRA and Adkan), and with the help of Almighty Allah, SEMRA is currently building 850 capacity state-of-the-art Islamic Centre at No. 2 Niger Street Suncity Estate Abuja, supported by a Charity Foundation from Qatar.
At SEMRA, the journey from where we came from to where we are now hasn’t been easy but, importantly we are optimistic about the future. However, Islam means “total submission” hence, Muslims totally submit to the Will of Allah in every situation. Also, the love and unity we share as a community, regardless of our diversity, constantly inspire us to strive for the common good of our esteemed association while preserving the values of our noble religion in the worship of Almighty Allah.
In the coming years, Insha Allah, our vision at SEMRA is to be a renowned Centre for Islamic Excellence in Abuja and beyond; a one-stop shop for all Islamic activities while expanding the scope and reach of SEMRA humanitarian assistance shall be fulfilled.