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Date: 18th Dhul Qa'dah, 1443 AH (18th June, 2022)

On Friday, 17th of June, 2022, the Supreme Court of Nigeria delivered a landmark judgment in Suit Number SC/910/16; between Lagos State Govt and Ors V. Asiyat Abdulkareem.

In the judgment, the Supreme Court approved the use of hijab by female Muslim students in government owned secondary schools in Lagos State as being constitutional.

The matter began about eight (8) years ago when the Lagos State Government during the tenure of Babatunde Raji Fashola, the then Lagos State Governor, banned the use of hijab in public schools in Lagos which led to the Respondent, Miss Asiyat Abdulkareem, a JSS 3 student then in one of the Public schools being denied the use hijab. This denial which was inconsistent with the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria led to series of protests organized by the Muslim Students Society of Nigeria (MSSN) in Lagos State to demonstrate the dissatisfaction of the Muslims on the policy of the State Government banning the use of hijab by female Muslims.

An action was subsequently instituted at the Lagos State High Court to change the ban by the state government on the use of hijab. On 17th October, 2014, the trial court gave judgment in favour of Lagos State affirming the ban on the use of hijab. Dissatisfied with the judgment of the trial court, the Respondent, Asiyat Abdulkareem, filed an appeal against the judgment of the trial court at the Court of Appeal, Lagos Division on 27th May, 2015.

At the Court of Appeal, Lagos, the decision of the trial court appealed against was reversed on account that, the use of hijab by female students is a constitutional right and as such banning same was inconsistent with the fundamental right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion enshrined in and guaranteed by the Nigerian constitution. Dissatisfied with the judgment of the Court of Appeal, Lagos State Government filed an appeal at the Supreme Court of Nigeria against the decision of the Court of Appeal.

On Friday, the 17th day of June, 2022, the Supreme Court, the apex Court in the country, delivered the landmark judgment in which it dismissed the appeal filed by the Lagos State Government, upheld the decision of the Court of Appeal and held that the use of hijab is indeed a fundamental right of every Muslim students and that the ban by the State Government was illegal and discriminatory against the Muslim students. The legal team that fought the case from the trial court up to the Supreme Court comprises members of Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) ably led by the Alh. Gani Adetola-Kazeem ( may Allah be pleased with his return and grant him Al-jannatul Firdaus).

With this judgment of the apex court, the question of constitutionality or otherwise of the use of hijab by female Muslims has finally been laid to rest. It is our expectation that the Lagos State Government will abide by the rule of law and immediately commence the implementation of the judgment. This is a notice also to every schools, institutions of learning and other concerned persons, bodies or authorities public or private to henceforth desist from stoping, harassing, molesting or hindering in any form, anyone who uses hijab in the exercise of her constitutional right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

Be you ever so high, the law is above you. Be you ever so low, the law will protect you. As a body of Muslim legal practitioners in Nigeria, we shall ensure and we will not relent in ensuring that the supremacy of the law takes its course in this regard. We will not equally not relent in protecting and enforcing the rights of every Muslim in Nigeria.