Use Of Hijab: Appeal Court Sets Aside Ban In Lagos Schools

hijab-Full-VeilA five-man panel of the Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos on Thursday set aside the judgment of a Lagos High Court which banned students in public primary and secondary schools in the State from putting on Hijab (the Muslims headscarf) with their school uniforms.

The panel, which was specially constituted by the President of the Court pf Appeal, Justice Zainab Bulkachuwa, was presided over by Justice Ali Gumel.

In his lead judgement, Justice Gumel held that the use of hijab is an Islamic injunction and also an act of worship and it will therefore constitute a violation of the appellants’ rights to stop them from wearing hijab in public schools.

Justice Modupe Onyeabor of an Ikeja High Court had on October 17, 2014, dismissed the suit instituted against the Lagos State Government by two 12-year-old girls under the aegis of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, Lagos State Area Unit.

Dissatisfied, the appellants approached the appellate court to set aside the judgement and protect their constitutional rights.

The government had banned the use of Hijab on the argument that it was not part of the approved school uniform for pupils.

But in a unanimous judgment, the appeal court resolved all the five issues raised in favour of the appellants.

The appellate court held that the lower court erred in law when it held that ban of hijab is a policy of the Lagos State Government, who was the respondent in the case.

The court noted that no circular was presented before the lower court to show that it was a policy of Lagos State adding that “he who asserts must prove”

The court further held that if there was a policy, such policy ought to have emanated from the State House of Assembly and not the executive arm of government.

Consequently, the court held that the fundamental human rights of female Muslim students as enshrined in section 38 (1) of the 1999 constitution was violated by the Respondent.

The court dismissed the argument of Lagos State that it made an exception by allowing female Muslim students to wear hijab during prayers.

Other Justices on the five-man panel are Justice M. Fasanmi, Justice Adamu Jauro, Justice J.S. Ikyegh and Justice Ifeoma Jombo-Ofor.

Appeal Panel Seeks Full Complement Of Court Over Ban On Hijab In Lagos Schools

hijab-Full-VeilA three-man panel of the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal today adjourned sitting to allow a full five-member panel hear the appeal challenging the ban on the wearing of Hijab in primary and Secondary schools in Lagos State.

Justice Amina Augie, who led the three-man panel told the applicants – two 15-year old girls and the Registered Trustees of the Muslim Society of Nigeria (MSSN) – that the matter was a constitutional one.

Justice Augie, in her response to an observation by the applicant’s counsel, Chief Gani Adetola-Kazeem (SAN) said, it is also “a very sensitive matter that will most likely still get to the Supreme Court.”

According to her “all 3 justices of the panel were Muslims and if they went ahead to hear the appeal, it could raise issues of bias”.

The court then directed the applicants to write to the President of the Court of Appeal for a five-man panel to be appointed to hear it.

On October 17, 2014, Justice Modupe Onyeabor of a Lagos High Court sitting in Ikeja had dismissed the suit instituted against the Lagos State Government by the two applicants (who were then 12-year-olds) under the aegis of the MSSN, Lagos State Area Unit.

The government had banned the use of Hijab arguing that it was not part of the approved school uniform for pupils.

Following the ban, the students filed the suit on May 27, 2013, seeking redress.
They asked the court to declare the ban a violation of their rights to freedom of thought, religion and education.

In her judgment, Justice Onyeabor held that the prohibition of the wearing of Hijab over school uniforms within and outside the premises of public schools was not discriminatory.

According to her, the ban does not violate Sections 38 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as claimed by the plaintiffs.

The Judge also said Section 10 of the Constitution made Nigeria a secular state and that government must maintain neutrality at all times.

Justice Onyeabor held that the government had a duty to preserve the secular nature of the institutions concerned as argued by the then Lagos State Solicitor-General, Mr Lawal Pedro (SAN).

She noted that since the public schools were funded by the government, the government was competent to issue dress codes and other guidelines to the students.

According to her, the use of school uniforms engenders uniformity and encourages students to pursue their mutual academic aspirations without recourse to religious or any other affiliations.

The Judge observed 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.