Lagos Govt. Goes to Supreme Court over Hijab

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Adeniji Kazeem

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The Lagos state government goes to the Supreme to seek the annulment of the appellate court judgement upholding the use of hijab in its schools

By Anayo Ezugwu  |  Oct 3, 2016 @ 01:00 GMT  |

THE Lagos state government is asking the Supreme Court to annul the judgment of the appeal court approving the use of hijab by Moslems in its public schools. The government took the action to prevent a breakdown of law and order in the primary and secondary schools in the state.

Adeniji Kazeem, Lagos state commissioner for justice, who filed the appeal on behalf of the government wants the Supreme Court to uphold an earlier judgment by the high court against the use of hijab which was set aside by the appellate court. He argued that the appellate court erred in law when it raised issue of secularity of the country as it related to section 10 of the 1999 Constitution. It further argued that the appeal court erred when it said that the high court does not have the jurisdiction to restrict the use of Hijab in Lagos schools. He also said that the appellate court misdirected itself when it relied on Quran chapter 24 Vs 31 and Chapter 33 Vs 59 in interpretation of hijab before delivering its judgment.

However, the Lagos State Area Unit of Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria, MSSN, on Sunday, September 18, warned tutor-generals/permanent secretaries, principals and teachers to adhere to the appeal court judgement granting the right to wear hijab in public schools in the state. Saheed Ashafa, leader of the MSSN, Lagos State, who gave the warning in a statement, insisted that students should neither be punished, harassed nor victimised for wearing hijab within and outside the school premises.

“Though we do not expect any teacher to act to the contrary, if they do, we urge our members to ensure that they resist removing the hijab with their own hands. They should ensure that the teacher or overzealous principal do it themselves. And after any of the education stakeholders does that, he or she should be prepared for legal and mass actions.

“It will not be fair for any tutor-general, principal or teacher to order any student to remove their hijab; such action amount to committing contempt of court. A situation where a principal or teacher will be seen punishing, threatening, assaulting or harassing a student for wearing hijab, after the judiciary has granted it, will amount to not only contempt of court but a betrayal of literacy, ridiculing of education and an abuse of reasoning.

“We plead that all the stakeholders in education should be law abiding and practicalise what they have been teaching us as students. We commend our teachers for their efforts from inception and hope that as students’ resume, they will not demonstrate to us how to disobey the constitution and judiciary.”

Similarly, the All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools, ANCOPSS, has asked members not to direct students to remove, or seize their hijab. The directive was stated in a circular sent to principals of secondary schools in the state. The principals were directed to concentrate on their primary responsibilities of teaching and effective supervision of the students and leave religion issues.

Realnews recalls that the Court of Appeal in Lagos had on Thursday, July 21, set aside the judgment of a Lagos High Court that banned students in public primary and secondary schools in the state from wearing hijab with their school uniforms in a unanimous decision. The special panel which was presided over by Justice A B Gumel held that the appeal is meritorious and same should be allowed.

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

The court also noted that no circular was presented before the lower court to show that it was a policy of Lagos State, stating that ‘he who asserts must prove.’ The Judge further held that if there was a policy, such policy would have emanated from the state House of Assembly and not the executive arm of government. 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 exception by allowing female Muslim students to wear hijab during prayers.

The High Court of Lagos judgement which dismissed the suit instituted against the Lagos state government by two 12-year-old girls Asiyat Kareem and Mariam Oyeniyi, who are students of Aturase Junior High School in Surelere under the aegis of the MSSN, Lagos State Area Unit was given on October 17, 2014.

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