An Islamic rights advocacy group, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has appealed to the ruling All Progressives Congress presidential candidate, Bola Tinubu to ensure the enforcement of the Supreme Court ruling on the hijab crisis in Lagos State.
This was contained in a statement issued on Monday by the group’s director, Professor Ishaq Akintola. Akintola begged the former Lagos governor to intervene in the matter, saying it affects the constitutional rights of Muslims in the state.
The Lagos state government had banned the use of hijab in public schools on the premise that it was not part of the approved school uniform for students.
Consequently, Muslim students filed a suit on May 27, 2015, asking the court to declare the ban as a violation of their rights to freedom of thought, religion and education.
The suit marked CA/L/135/15, was filed by one Asiyat AbdulKareem (through her father), Moriam Oyeniyi and the Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria against the state government.
Justice Modupe Onyeabor of Ikeja High Court on October 17, 2014, dismissed the suit.
Onyeabor held that the prohibition of the wearing of hijab over school uniforms within and outside the premises of public schools was not discriminatory.
However, her decision was overturned by a five-member panel of the court of appeal on July 21, 2016.
The panel upheld the Muslim students’ contention that the ban violated their rights to freedom of thought, conscience, religion, the dignity of human persons and freedom from discrimination guaranteed by the 1999 constitution.
Dissatisfied with the verdict, Lagos state took its appeal to the Supreme Court.
In June, the apex court affirmed the rights of Muslim female students in the state to wear hijab to school.
Five out of a seven-member panel of the apex court held that banning the use of hijab is discriminatory.
But five months after the Supreme Court ruling, the state government has reportedly not made any policy or given any directive to ensure compliance with the ruling.
The statement issued by MURIC reads: “Strangely enough, the government of Lagos State is yet to say a single word since the judgement of the Supreme Court in favour of hijab. Meanwhile, the repression of female Muslim students continues as school principals and teachers claim ignorance of the Supreme Court judgement. They insist on disallowing hijab until we can produce a circular issued by LASG.
“Islamic organisations and Muslim leaders who were involved in the matter ran into a cul de sac as LASG is not forthcoming on issuing the circular. All efforts made to persuade LASG to release a circular failed.
“On the part of MURIC, we wrote the Commissioner for Education, Mrs. Folasade Adefisayo, seeking an audience with her and she met us on Tuesday, 13th September, 2022. MURIC coopted other Islamic organisations like the Muslim Lawyers Association (MULAN), Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Federation of Muslim Women Societies of Nigeria (FOMWAN) and Coalition For Hijab for the meeting.
“Although the Commissioner promised to issue the circular, this did not happen to date. As the pressure mounted from the Muslim public who were eager to know why female Muslim children who use hijab to school were still facing persecution, we initiated a text message to the Commissioner as a reminder. This was on Monday, 17th October, 2022, more than one month after she had promised to issue the circular.
“But responding to the text message a week later on 23rd October, 2022, the Commissioner simply said the circular would now be issued by the Head of Service. We began to see delay tactics on the part of LASG as represented by the Commissioner. Or should we be tossed around like ping-pong?
“We are explaining all these so that Nigerians can see how we have waited patiently all this while. We approached the court since 2012 instead of going on protests because protests can be easily hijacked.
“Unlike the #EndSARS children of multiple anger who came with the diabolical motive to destroy Lagos (may Allah never allow that to happen), Islamic organisations in Lagos submitted themselves to the rule of law and refused to tow the path of violent struggle. The court case lasted ten years from 2012 to 2022. Haven’t we been patient enough? Haven’t we been law-abiding?
“LASG appears not to know that its silence over the Supreme Court judgement can be misinterpreted as a deliberate attempt to undermine the rule of law and it may fall foul of contempt of the highest court in the land.”
“We call on Senator Bola Ahmed Tinubu to intervene. MURIC does not issue threats. We have never done it before and we will not do it now. Neither do we issue an ultimatum. But whatever LASG does with the hijab case on which the highest court in the land has made a pronouncement will send a strong message to Nigerians, particularly at this crucial period,” the statement added.