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Court Upholds Ban on Wearing of Hijab in Lagos Public Schools



african girl hijabAn Ikeja High Court on Friday upheld the ban on the wearing of Hijab (Muslim head scarf) in public primary and secondary schools in Lagos state.

Justice Modupe Onyeabor dismissed the suit instituted against the Lagos State Government by two 12-year-old girls under the aegis of the Muslim Students of Nigeria, Lagos State Area Unit.

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) recalls that 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 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.

In her judgment, 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 said Section 10 of the Constitution made Nigeria a secular state and that government must maintain neutrality at all times.

Onyeabor said the government therefore had a duty to preserve the secular nature of the institutions concerned as argued by the Lagos State Solicitor-General, Lawal Pedro (SAN).

She 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, however, 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 granted.

“The non-Hijab wearing students will feel inferior to those who are putting on Hijab.

“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 accordingly dismissed,’’ Onyeabor said.

Reacting to the judgment, the plaintiffs’ counsel, Chief Gani Adetola-Kazeem, told NAN that his clients would file an appeal against the judgment.

“Well the court has spoken but there are still very many issues to be considered which invariably means that we will appeal the judgment.

“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,” he said.

Photo Credit: Alan Gignoux | Dreamstime

The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) was established by the Federal Government of Nigeria in May 1976 to gather and distribute news on Nigeria and cover events of interest to Nigeria at the international level for the benefit of the Nigerian Media and the Public.


  1. tbn

    October 17, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Plaintiff’s lawyer: You wil reach supreme court the way you’re going.! Good judgement by the Court.

  2. ak

    October 17, 2014 at 1:54 pm

    This is just a load of bullcrap.

    I’m confused as to why the government banned students from identifying with their religion.

    What is so wrong with ladies wearing Hijab?

    In my opinion, it becomes a problem when YOU FORCE WOMEN TO WEAR HIJAB, rather than them making a voluntary decision to identify with their religiosity.

    BTW Why does a public school have a uniform? isn’t this negating the government being a “Secular state” – A secular state has NO UNIFORM, and allows for individual freedoms/ expression which will be limited by dress codes.

    But then again, this is Nigeria where nothing makes sense / constitution was written by a bunch of idiots with no critical thinking capability

    • Siryemi

      October 17, 2014 at 2:59 pm

      “A secular state has no uniforms” I like that line . This is actually a complicated issue and I understand the government is trying to shy away from it because if the plaintiff wins it’s gonna open up a floodgate of court cases. People with various religious beliefs will come out wanting their own style of clothing. I really see no way out of this mess except to switch to the American concept which requires no uniforms but that has it’s bad sides too

  3. Theresa Doghor

    October 17, 2014 at 2:01 pm

    Nigeria is a secular state and we must maintain that.

    • ak

      October 17, 2014 at 3:09 pm

      I wonder if you will say the same if the government attempts to ban prayer in public schools

      After all, “Nigeria is a secular state and we must maintain that.”

    • Fatimah

      October 17, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      Along with singing hymns and Christian songs (and Muslim songs on Friday) too.

      “The non-Hijab wearing students will feel inferior to those who are putting on Hijab.” Did she actually say this with a straight face? haha

    • Bimbo

      October 20, 2014 at 7:21 pm

      The owner of an establishment has every right to determine what type of uniform they want students, workers or whatever to wear. In this case the lagos state government owns and funds these schools so have the right to determine what uniform the students should wear.

  4. Changing Faces

    October 17, 2014 at 2:34 pm

    Well reasoned… Same goes for all religious insignia. The government has a right to define what public school uniforms should be, same way an individual has the choice not to attend government schools.

    • Freedom Fighter

      October 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm

      But if the only school you can afford is a government school then what are you expected to do? I find it ironic how they want to ban Hijabs which is clearly not a burkha hence the face of the child can be fully seen and banning it will have the same effect as forcing people to wear it because you’re not allowed to express yourself freely in a so-called “democratic” country. By the way, Nigeria being a secular state means that no specific religion is brought into governmental affairs and does not mean that people cannot practice their religion wherever they wish; this is similar to the way in which Catholic students go to school with an ash cross on their foreheads for ash wednesday and Nigeria being a secular state does not mean that Catholics should be banned from having those marks on their foreheads on ash wednesday and muslims stopped from wearing hi jabs. If they want to make them look smart, then the school can simply provide plain and shorter hijabs with the school logo or find another alternative.

    • Changing Faces

      October 17, 2014 at 4:51 pm

      If it’s the only school you can afford, then you abide by the rules and regulations! Why do parents not demand that private schools where they spend millions wear hijab or crosses? My kids had nice afros, their new school said low cut hair for boys. I had the option of looking for schools that’d allow afro but I didn’t. As someone above said, religion is personal, keep it at home. Even if they do away with prayers and all that, how would it affect the students faith? Some schools do not say prayers, does it make them bad? Some schools do not do crk/irs, does it make them unfair. With all the prayers said in all these schools, what difference does it really make as its just routine with no heart. Let our faith be between us and God. That’s how some students in a school somewhere in Europe wanted pork banned from the menu. Where does it end?

  5. papermoon

    October 17, 2014 at 2:41 pm

    Religion is personal and must remain in our homes. what will happen if the shintos, hindus, Bahais and everyone else want to bring in their own.

  6. Rems

    October 17, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    All I’m going to say is……….. ignorance is bliss!!!

  7. Muna

    October 17, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    I’ve been bewildered by this issue since day 1. I work with education bodies in Lagos state and I know how all this started. one morning, principal was driving down when school was already in session, she saw a girl with her school skirt but could not identify if she was really one of her students because she was wearing a hijab that covered the blouse and in the school complex of 2 or 3 schools the girls all wear the same skirt but different blouses to differentiate the schools. the query was first what she was doing on the streets by that time and then the principal tried to identify her by telling her to remove the hijab and when she did she found out that the girl is actually in her own school. she held onto the hijab and told the girl to meet her in her office. girl did not, instead goes home immediately and tells her Dad that Principal seized her hijab. Dad goes to his mosque to inform the faithfuls that his daughter was harassed for wearing hijab, faithfuls gather and storm the school, cause an uproar, upset studies and physically assault Principal and a other teachers who tried to intervene. matter escalates, muslim women declare the girls have the right to wear hijab, lawsuit ensues. first, the initial correction that the principal tried to institute got completely lost i.e. the girl being on the street at an odd hour. secondly, it was turned into a religious issue unnecessarily. thirdly, there are muslim public schools in Lagos that actually have hijabs as part of the school uniforms with the same colours e.g. the Ansarudeen public schools, there are many of them. so if one wants to compulsorily wear the hijab to school there are options, enrol in the muslim schools. I don’t know if its allowed in the private schools to wear hijabs that are not part of the school uniform, but if yes that’s another option. if its allowed in schools whether public or private it means you would go to school and see many different colours and types, and that defeats the concept of ‘uniform’. I think our institutions at that level have the right to put in place rules and regulations, we all went thru secondary schools and there have always been guidelines and rules. I think the girl should not have used religion to cover up the initial question; and I think people should not apply religious fanaticism to such issues. if a child has an issue at school, a concerned parent should be able to discuss and dialogue with the school authorities, and not stir up anarchy. we don’t need such, especially in these days of BH. maybe when Nigeria develops to the extent that we don’t need uniforms in schools then all and every will be ok to wear, but for now guess we have to stick to the rules. unless a compromise can be reached by the govt and schools on complimentary hijabs for all school uniforms in all public schools.

    • steve

      October 17, 2014 at 5:16 pm

      @muna! reading thru people’s opinion, I became ambivalent over what’s right or wrong over the verdict issued today on this worrisome topic. But, having mentioned the alleged root of the ban on use of hijab by Muslim faithful at the public primary and secondary school. I felt obliged to believe ur own side of argument not necessarily on the Judge definition of Nigeria as a “Secular State” cos dwelling on that has varying implications.

    • Rich

      October 17, 2014 at 5:25 pm

      It’s amazing how muslims are always so quick to jump on the ‘let’s cause a riot’ wagon. The man couldn’t got to the principal and have a civil conversation; he had to incite a riot. And then next thing they say Islam is a religion of peace. I hear.

    • tbn

      October 17, 2014 at 7:56 pm

      I so love your reply. You just put in so many words the thoughts in my head!

    • SOLLY _BOY 77

      October 18, 2014 at 3:40 pm

      Lovely one Muna…………..just wondering why this so called faithfuls are not fighting for the use of Hijab by female bank workers, nurses, Doctors……………eh eh Lawyers, Judges etc. Why just schools? ……….Just wondering when Nigerians will stop deceiving themselves…………..Just wondering

  8. glad

    October 17, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    muna you’ve said it al.

  9. dinma

    October 17, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    This issue of Hijabb in school uniform dont look good atall to me. Its just for few hours a day people, if they dont wear the hijab from 8-2pm nothing will happen to them. At least if they get home they can even decide to put on a Hazman suit and that will now be their choice to make.

  10. Glowing

    October 17, 2014 at 6:08 pm

    Fantastic Commentary Muna! I wonder what the fuss is about! Children are more visual than what the Adults fighting for them presume. Children sometimes may have issues that have to do with Self Esteem to deal with if there is the discrimination between who wears what and not, maybe not now but much later in life. It’s best if there’s Uniformity in Schools. Haba!!! Its good to think deeply before concluding there’s any Religious Sentiment involved. I Believe that was a Just Judgement!!!

  11. slice

    October 17, 2014 at 6:09 pm

    “What is so wrong with ladies wearing Hijab?” i guess that’s part of the issue here. these are not ladies. these are children.
    plus having uniform in schools is one of the few good things about Nigeria

  12. D

    October 17, 2014 at 6:47 pm

    I beg to differ…Being a secular state does not negate the use of Uniforms,. A secular state is one the purports to be officially neutral in regards to religion or lack thereof. So if the government is insisting on being neutral then the judge makes sense, that is, there should be no religious attachment brought into the public school system. Wether it is the Christian deeper lifer that wants to tie hair or turtle neck or the muslim that wants to wear hijab.
    As long as the government is paying for it no religious deal should be brought into it. It is has the US says seperation of Church and State or in this case Mosque and State. Since the goal of having Uniforms has nothing to do with religion it does not make Nigeria more or less a secular state. There is freedom of thought (No one is stopping the students from thinking). Freedom of religion who is stopping them from practicing whatever religion or no religion at all and Education??? are they in court because the teachers are not teaching them based on their religion. This all deal should hold no water in any court of law.

  13. D

    October 17, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    My comment was in response to ak’s comment at the top.

  14. el patron

    October 17, 2014 at 8:07 pm

    @muna kudos to you respect.!
    imagine taking this rubbish to court, why should you wear a hijab to school that’s not part of the school’s uniform?
    This is just selfish..muslims need to chill, they don’t need to be aggressive about everything..
    you want hijab there are muslim school that if you don’t have hijab on you go back home, that he can enroll his child.
    we shouldn’t let these foreign religion tear us apart.

  15. NNENNE

    October 17, 2014 at 10:32 pm

    Have these foreign religions not done enough damage to Nigeria?
    Christianity, Jewish, Buddha, Muslim etc. Enough is enough. The irony is the more religious ,the worst we become.( Kidnapping, fraud, prostitution, robbery etc.)

    The government should be neutral. Those seeking otherwise should please go to religious schools and/ or get very involved after school.

    • Idomagirl

      October 17, 2014 at 10:47 pm

      My dear I tire. All this religiousity yet see where we are. Instead of people to discuss and reason like they have brains they either behave like zombies or wild animals.

      The earlier Nigeria becomes a truly secular state, the better. People resume at work more than 2 hours late and spend the next one hour doing praise and worship. Don’t even get me started on the use of public funds to sponsor pilgrimages.

      Religion or a belief in a higher power should be personal as far as I’m concerned. Keep it in your house.

    • bablow

      October 19, 2014 at 12:03 pm

      @idomagirl preach peace not far as govt still send pple on pilgrimages.Our school girls can wear hijab in Schools

  16. Idomagirl

    October 17, 2014 at 10:50 pm

    Thank you for explaining this Muna. See how people behave like lunatics and cause chaos.
    What stopped him from getting the other side of the story from the principal? Na wa.

  17. yemisi

    October 18, 2014 at 8:05 am

    Plaintiffs lawyer is a rogue. Anything for some money and 15mins of fame. The courts decision makes perfect sense so why don’t you look for something else to do. Oniranu

    • bablow

      October 19, 2014 at 11:54 am

      @yemisi,for a lawyer to do his job now jst fame.

  18. jake ro

    October 18, 2014 at 10:04 am

    I do not understand muslims always trying to creat chaos in the name of their me an atheist if you want , but am not one only that I use my brain when it comes to religion.i keep my believes private.there are a lot of school they may choose that takes care of their need as muslims.they can go to islamic schools or schools that does not have the rules that affect their believes.b/c of the way muslims sees thing , there are always chaos in any country where they are.they probably think that other people do not love their region enough to kill for it..just let those kids go to school that takes care of their need instead of creating problems as usual.let a secular society remain a secular society , cos nigeria has other population of people with other faith or even non.

    • bablow

      October 19, 2014 at 11:49 am

      @jake ro , there is noting bad wearing hijab in our state schools. As a secular state.God bless Federal republic of nigeria

  19. bablow

    October 19, 2014 at 11:37 am

    Nigeria is a secular state, a secular state has NO UNIFORM, and allows for individual freedoms/ expression which will be limited by dress codes.
    They av a very good case to appeal 4.We are watching as events unfold. I wish them all the best.

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