Court Upholds Lagos Ban Of Hijab Use In Public Schools
A Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja has dismissed a suit filed by the Muslim Student Association of Nigeria against the Lagos State Government over the use of the Muslim headscarf, popularly known as Hijab, by female Muslim students in the state.
Delivering the judgement on the suit on Friday, Justice Grace Onyeabo held that the restriction placed on the use of the Hijab in primary and secondary public schools in the state was not discriminatory and did not breach Sections 38 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as claimed by the students.
Rights violation claims
The Muslim student association had dragged the state government to court over the restriction of the use of the Hijab, on the ground that it ‘violates’ their fundamental human rights.
The Muslim students also argued that banning female students from using Hijab on or outside the premises of any educational institution in Lagos State “is wrongful and unconstitutional”.
The Muslim Students Association and two pupils, Miss Asiyat Abdulkareem and Miss Maryam Oyeniyi, filed the suit against the State Government.
The two under-age pupils, who are students of Atunrashe Junior High School, Surulere, Lagos State, joined the suit as claimants through their fathers – Mr Owolabi Abdulkareem and Mr Suleiman Oyeniyi.
The defendants in the suit are the Lagos State Attorney-General and Commissioner for Justice, Mr Ade Ipaye, the Commissioner for Education, Mrs Olayinka Oladunjoye, and the Commissioner for Home Affairs and Culture, Mr Oyinlomo Danmole.
Justice Onyeabo in her judgement held that “Section 10 of the Constitution makes Nigeria a secular state” and that the government must strive to preserve that secular nature.
The court further noted that public schools were owned and funded by the government which, therefore, had the responsibility of issuing guidelines and dress codes for students.
The judge stressed that the uniformity sought by the government in the issuance of the dress code would be destroyed should the prayers of the plaintiffs be granted.
The counsel to the students, Mr Gani Adetola-kaseem, said that he would appeal the judgement.
“Well the court has spoken but there are still very many issues to be considered which invariably means that we will appeal the judgement. We are simply not satisfied with the court’s decision . The angle through which the court has looked at the issue is quite at variance with the provisions of the constitution. We will definitely appeal,” he said.
Protection For Muslim Students
The students’ lawyer, Mr Adetola-Kaseem, had sought protection for Muslim students from being flogged, embarrassed and victimised for using Hijab within and outside school premises.
In a 24-paragraph counter affidavit, the lawyer had claimed that “the headscarf is fundamental right as fully established in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. We are not demanding for a full lent Hijab, we have exhibited a photograph of a sample of Hijab, which still represents their school identity.
“The colour of the Hijab can conform to the school uniform . All we want is for the students to be allowed to use Hijab. If beret and caps are allowed for female students, Hijab should not be an exception,” he said
But the Lagos State Government had argued while opposing the suit that Hijab could only be used during special occasions such as religious classes and prayers among others.