The High Court sitting in Ikeja, Lagos, has upheld the ban
on the hijab, a head scarf worn by Muslim women, in
public primary and secondary schools in Lagos. This
judgement was made on Friday by Justice Modupe
Onyeabor who maintained that although the
Constitution respects citizens’ rights to religion and
association, Section 10 of the Constitution made Nigeria
a secular state and that government must maintain
neutrality at all times. The suit was filed by two 12-year-
old girls with the help of the Muslim Students of Nigeria,
MSSN, Lagos State Area Unit.
According to Justice Onyeabor, since the Lagos state
government funds the schools, it reserves the right to
dictate the dress code acceptable in public education in
the state. She also maintained that such action cannot
be seen as a form of discrimination.
“The non-hijab wearing students will feel inferior to those
who are putting on hijab,” Justice Onyeabor ruled, “The
values of plurality and the respect for the rights of others
who have subscribed to a non-faith based educational
system cannot be breached. In that effect, the issue is
resolved in favour of the respondents and the suit is
The plaintiffs’ lawyer, Gani Adetola-Kazeem, reacted to
the ruling saying his clients would file an appeal to
challenge 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,” Adetola-Kazeem said, “We
are simply not satisfied with the court 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.”
The students had taken the Lagos State government to
court in May 2013 after the latter banned the use of the
hijab saying the outfit is not part of the approved
uniform for pupils.
Trouble started in February last year when Mrs. E.C
Ukpaka, the principal of Kadara Junior Grammar School,
Ebute-Meta, a suburb of Lagos, flogged one of her
students, Aisha Alabi, 14, for stubbornly wearing the hijab
against the rule of education in the state. Following that
flogging, students under the umbrella of the MSSN,
barricaded the main entrance of Lagos House, the office
of the state governor, Babatunde Fashola.
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