Female Muslim students in Lagos State schools can now wear hijab without harassment or discrimination, the the Supreme Court ruled on Friday. It was a majority decision of six out of the seven justices who presided over the appeal filed by the Lagos State Government.
In February 2017, the state government challenged the Appeal Court ruling in the case between the government, on one hand; and Asiyat AbdulKareem (through her father), Moriam Oyeniyi and the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria.
Ruling on the appeal by the state government on 21st July 2016, the Court of Appeal 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 Court of Appeal in Lagos but failed.
On 21st July 2016, a five-man special appellate court panel, presided by Justice Ali Babandi Gumel, overruled the 17th October 2014 judgment of Justice Modupe Onyeabo of the Lagos State High Court, Ikeja, which banned the use of hijab in public primary and secondary schools in the state.
While striking down Justice’s Onyeabo’s verdict, the Justice Gumel’s panel 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, as 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.
Justices on the Supreme Court panel, who ruled on Friday, 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.
In upholding the Appeal Court judgment, the Supreme Court ruled 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 banned the use of the hijab, arguing that it was not part of the approved school uniform for pupils.
Following the ban, the students filed the suit on 27th May 2015, seeking redress and asked the court to declare the ban as a violation of their rights to freedom of thought, religion and education.