By KEMI KASUMU
The Supreme Court of Nigeria has affirmed the rights of Muslim female students to wear Hijab in Lagos State public schools.
By implication, the apex court’s ruling covers Muslim wearing Hijab in any part of Nigeria.
A source, who broke the news to The DEFENDER, said this was given in a majority judgement of 5 against 2 on the panel morning of Friday June 17, 2022.
Lagos State Public Relations Officer of Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Malam Sadiq Oyeleke, confirmed the development saying the Friday morning judgement was witnessed by its group’s representatives in Abuja.
It will be recalled that a High Court in Lagos State had ruled in favour of Muslims and Court of Appeal ruled also in their favour.
But Lagos State Government, not satisfied with the lower and appellate courts’ decisions, went to Supreme Court, which has now finally ruled upholding the rights of Muslim female students in public schools in the state to wear Hijab.
In a case file “Re: SC/910/16- Lagos State Govt. and Ors V. Asiyat AbdulKareem”, late Alhaji Gani Adetola-Kaseem (SAN) led the team of lawyers in this case and also signed and filed the brief of argument few weeks before his death.
Delivering his run Ng on Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Lagos State Government and upheld the earlier judgement of the Court of Appeal which held that the ban on hijab was discriminatory against Muslim students in the state.
Justices on the panel were Justice Olukayode Ariwoola, Justice Kudirat Kekere-Ekun, Justice John Inyang Okoro, Justice Uwani Aji, Justice Mohammed Garba, Justice Tijjani Abubakar, and Justice Emmanuel Agim.
The court upheld that the ban violated the Muslim students’ rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, the dignity of human persons and freedom from discrimination guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution.
The Lagos State Government had in February 2017 approached the Supreme Court to challenge the July 21, 2016 judgment of the Court of Appeal which reinstated the use of hijab by Muslim pupils in Lagos public primary and secondary schools.
This was after the state government sought to stay the execution of the judgment at the Lagos Division of the Court of Appeal but failed.
The case, CA/L/135/15, is between the Lagos State Government, Miss Asiyat AbdulKareem (through her father), Miss Moriam Oyeniyi and the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria.
A five-man special appellate court panel, presided by Justice A.B. Gumel, had on July 21, 2016, overruled the October 17, 2014 judgment of Justice Modupe Onyeabo of the Lagos State High Court in Ikeja, which banned the use of hijab in public primary and secondary schools in Lagos State.
While striking down Justice’s Onyeabo’s verdict, the Justice Gumel panel had held that the ban on hijab was discriminatory against Muslim pupils in the state.
The panel upheld the Muslim students’ contention that the ban violated their rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, dignity of human persons and freedom from discrimination guaranteed by the 1999 Constitution.
Justice Gumel also held that wearing the hijab was an Islamic injunction and an act of worship required of Muslims.
He said the use of hijab by Muslim pupils could not cause disunity, distraction and discrimination against students of other faiths as declared by the lower court judge.