In a majority decision of six in favour and one dissent, the apex court of Nigeria on Friday in Abuja affirmed the rights of Muslims Female Students in Lagos state public primary and secondary schools to wear Hijab.
The Supreme Court erroneously held that wearing the hijab was an Islamic injunction and an act of worship required of Muslims and consequently, the banning of female Muslim students from wearing Hijab to school is a violation of their fundamental rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, dignity of human persons and freedom from discrimination.
The Supreme Court heavily relied on section 38 of the 1999 constitution, which guarantees every Nigerian citizen the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. The justices failed to see the rights contained in section 38 of the constitution as private rights that must be exercised privately in our homes, place of worship, community, religious schools and not in the public or public schools for that matter funded with taxpayers money.
I respectfully submit that the Supreme Court’s decision allowing female students to wear Hijab, is a flagrant violation of section 10 of the Nigerian constitution which provides for the secularity of Nigeria by prohibiting the Government of the Federation or of a state from adopting any religion as state religion. The justices ignored the secularity of Nigeria in section 10 of the constitution which has mutilates and/or whittle down the individual right of every Nigerian citizen to freedom of thought, conscience and religion as contained in section 38 of the constitution. The Supreme Court’s decision, I respectfully submit, is tantamount to it encouraging the adoption of Islam as State religion and this I humbly submit is an error.
It is sad and disturbing that the justices of the Supreme Court failed to see how our public schools will look if students from white garment church family background like Celestial Church of Christ and Cherubim and Seraphim Church sew their uniform in sutana style covering all their bodies from neck to toe with cap to march and go to school bare footed because it is a Christian injunction and an act of worship required of them?
How will our public schools look like if the children of traditionalists come to school with white powder on their faces and necks with charm bracelet on their arms and cowrie’s or life tortoise tied around their necks? How will our public schools look like if children from Rastafarian families leave their dreadlocks unkempt or wear their Rasta cap or tam in line with their religious belief?
It is unfortunate and regrettable that the justices of the Supreme Court failed to see that public schools are established by government with public funds and by virtue of section 10 of the Nigerian 1999 constitution, are secular. Our public schools are suppose to be centres for learning and not worship centres and therefore, students must be helped to focus on their studies at school not religion because religion is a personal thing that must be practiced privately.
Whether we admit it or not, the Supreme Court’s decision will give rise to the identification of students’ religion by their dress code which in turn will bring about discrimination, favouritism, nepotism, victimisation, disunity and distraction in the public school system.
I appreciate the fact that the judgment of the Supreme Court is final and must be complied with; nevertheless, I find solace in the fact that the Supreme Court does reverse her decisions when it finds it expedient to do so especially after it has erred in an early decision and this case is one of such occasions.
I want to specially thank the justice that dissented in this case for his courage, independent mind and level of intelligence to apply the law to serve its purpose. And for the other six justices, who erroneously gave the judgment, I urge them to be ready to reverse it at the slightest opportunity because it is a bad decision in a multi religious/secular country like Nigeria.