The Lagos Division of Appeal Court, today adjourned the hearing of appeal filed by the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria, MSSN, challenging the decision of an Ikeja High Court of Lagos State, upholding the ban on the wearing of Hijab (Muslim head scarf) in public primary and secondary schools in Lagos State.
The three man-panel headed by Justice Aminat Augie, said the adjournment became necessary to enable the panel have its five full members to hear the appeal.
Justice Augie said the appeal being sensitive in nature, because all the panel members she headed are Muslims. Adding that if the three justices went ahead to hear the appeal, it could raise issues of bias.
The appeal was filed by two 15-year olds and the Registered Trustees of the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN).
Adjourning the matter on Tuesday, Justice Augie said: “the appeal is very sensitive since it involves the right of the applicants, who are Muslims, to wear the hijab over their school uniform in accordance with Koranic injunction.
“We are a three-man panel, and more importantly, an all Muslim panel. if we went ahead to hear the appeal, it could raise issues of bias.”
Responding to an observation by applicant’s counsel, Chief Gani Adetola-Kazeem, Justice Augie said: “Any way the decision goes, we would be under fire. We’re protecting ourselves as much as we’re protecting you.
“It’s a very sensitive matter that will most likely still get to the Supreme Court.”
The court ruled that the suit was a constitutional one and a five-man panel was required to hear it.
It directed the applicants to apply in writing to the President of the Court of Appeal for a five-man panel to be appointed to hear it.
It would be recalled that Justice Modupe Onyeabor of an Ikeja High Court, had on October 17, 2014, dismissed the suit instituted by then the two then 12-year-old girls under the aegis of the MSSN, Lagos State Area Unit by MSSN against the Lagos State Government.
The government had banned the use of Hijab on the argument that it was not part of the approved school uniform for pupils.
Following the ban, the students had filed the suit on May 27, 2013, seeking redress and asked the court to declare the ban as a violation of their rights to freedom of thought, religion and education.
However, 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 stated that Section 10 of the Constitution made Nigeria a secular state and that government must maintain neutrality at all times.
In the judgment, the judge further stated that the government had a duty to preserve the secular nature of the institutions concerned as argued by the Lagos State Solicitor-General, Mr Lawal Pedro (SAN).
While noted that since the public schools were being funded by the government, it was therefore competent to issue dress codes and other guidelines to the students.
According to her, the use of 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 grantedhttp://thestreetreporters.com/?p=3325&preview=trueThe Street Reporters Newspaper is your BREAKING NEWS platform. Do you have Breaking news or Opinion article for us? | *Call: +234 817 504 7979 | Or Email Us: firstname.lastname@example.org | Follow Us on Twitter https://twitter.com/streetreporters | Join Our Fans on Facebook: https://facebook.com/streetreporters.ng | Follow us on Instagram https://intagram.com/streetreporters | Advertise With Us: +2348035823617 | Visit Our Website: www.StreetReporters.ng