By: Olajide Toriola
The Court of Appeal will on Tuesday (today) hear the motion seeking an injunction to stop the use of hijab in Lagos State as earlier delivered by a full court of Appeal.
The motion for stoppage is raised by the Lagos State Government.
The case, CA/L/135/15, is between Lagos State Government, Miss Asiyat AbdulKareem (through her father), Miss Moriam Odebiyi and Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN).
Recall that the LASG appealed to the Supreme Court after being dissatisfied with judgements of the court of appeal delivered on Thursday, July 21, 2016 which gave approval to Muslim students to wear the hijab (veil for females) with their school uniforms.
In a unanimous decision, the court set aside the judgment of a Lagos High Court which banned students in public primary and secondary schools in the state from putting on the hijab with their school uniforms.
A special panel of the court presided over by Justice A.B. Gumel held that the appeal was meritorious and should be allowed.
In his lead judgment, Justice Gumel held that the use of the hijab was an Islamic injunction and also an act of worship hence it would constitute a violation of the appellants’ rights to stop them from wearing the hijab in public schools.
Resolving 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 the ban on hijabs was a policy of the Lagos State Government (respondent).
Other justices in the five-man panel were Justice M. Fasanmi, Justice A. Jauro, Justice J.S. Ikyegh and Justice I. Jombo Ofor.
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 MSSN, Lagos State Area Unit.
Dissatisfied, the appellants urged the appellate court to set aside the judgment and protect their constitutional rights.
The government had banned the use of the 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, 2015, seeking redress and asked the court to declare the ban as a violation of their rights to freedom of thought, religion and education.
In her judgment, Onyeabor held that the prohibition of the wearing of hijabs over school uniforms within and outside the premises of public schools was not discriminatory.
According to her, the ban did not violate Sections 38 and 42 of the 1999 Constitution as claimed by the plaintiffs.
Reacting to the development, Amir (president) of MSSN in Lagos State, Saheed Ashafa, expressed confidence that a favourable judgement would be obtained.
He noted that “Hijab is a constitutional right and all citizens of Nigeria should not be deprived of their rights. Banning hijab is like banning freedom of worship and conscience.”