By Christopher Bello-
A High Court judge in Nigeria positioned to rule over the parties in an intense legal battle over the Muslim Hijab has urged for an amicable settlement between the parties. Such a settlement is very unlikely because neither side will shift their position in this tense battle. Parents of the Muslim students of I.S.I protested claim that International School Of Ibadan, a private school in a city in Nigeria, is breaching their constitutional right to practise their religious beliefs.
The Muslim litigants have put in a motion, requesting the court to declare as illegal, wrongful and unconstitutional, the school authority’s declaration that Muslim female students are prohibited from wearing the hijab over their school uniforms during school hours. The private school say the group are a ‘nuisance’ group who are breaching a binding contract the pupils of the school have with the authorities as far as codes of dressing is concerned.
The group of litigants allege that the order to be in violation of their right to freedom of thought, religion and right to education as contained in section 38 (1)(a) and 42(1)(a) of the constitution. The brief hearing of the case on Friday discovered that more students had joined the legal battle by filing applications, requesting to be joined as parties in the matter. A further suit was added by parents of children who are traditionalists and worshippers of idols called Ifa. They allege that their rights to freely practise their religion by preventing them from entering the school premises with traditional beads.
The legal representative of International School Of Ibadan, Babatunde Ajibade called for an adjournment, which was granted until February 20th. He said the adjournment was to allow the matter to allow the students ample time to properly file their applications before the next hearing date. The selective private school which has a mix of Asian and English students added to the predominantly Nigerian pupils has a history of academic excellence. It is the first time in the school’s 55 year history that it has been divided so bitterly over religious issues. Two other parties also signalled their interest in the the suit. They were the secular parents’ forum and the body of Alumni.
TJustice Akintola urged the parties not to heat up the polity unnecessarily and explore options of an amicable settlement.
“We are all Nigerians, we met this nation peaceful and we must ensure that it remains so. We owe the nation that duty. We should all not unnecessarily heat up the polity. I am talking to all the parties.
“I believe an amicable resolution is best. Don’t let us further divide ourselves. Don’t overheat the polity. I want parties to sleep over this, meet and resolve the issue,” Justice Akintola stated.
“As Nigerians, be it Christian or a Muslim, you must learn to live in harmony and allow the nation to be peaceful at all times. “We must not create unnecessary tension or heat up the polity to further divide this country. “It will be proper if you can resolve this matter amicably and relate with one another as human beings. “We will all regret it if we turn ourselves and the nation into such a state that we cannot sleep with our two eye closed,’’ Akintola said.