The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria (MSSN), Kwara State Area Unit has called on all government institutions to ensure strict implementation of the recent judgment of the Court of Appeal as it affects the rights of Muslim students.
The Amir of MSSN, Barrister Nurudeen Ibrahim made the call in a statement made available to newsmen in Ilorin, the Kwara state capital.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Ilorin had on 20th of September, 2019 dismissed the appeal filed by the Christians Association of Nigeria (CAN) and 10 others against the Kwara State Government and 10 other Muslim groups.
The appeal was filed consequent upon the judgement of Kwara State High Court delivered in 2016 by Justice Mahmud Garaf on management and control of missionary schools in the state as well as banning Muslim students from using hijab and practising other religious obligations in missionary schools.
The Court of Appeal dismissed the appeal for lacking in merit and failed in its entirety and affirmed the judgement of lower court.
The Court of Appeal held that the purported ban of hijab in the missionary schools is unconstitutional and invalid because the grant-aided schools are public schools as spelt out in the Kwara State Education
Law of 2006.
The Appeal Court further held that the authorities of Christian/missionary schools have no authority or power whatsoever to bar, ban or prevent female Muslim students from wearing hijab over
uniforms of schools built on parcels of land compulsorily acquired by the state
Government from the families of such female students and allocated to Christian bodies to build schools.
The Court said that the authorities of Christian schools have no power to ban or prevent from observing prayers, the children of mainly Muslim families whose land the state government acquired and gave to Christian groups to build such schools.
According to the judgement “the State Government has a duty to protect the rights of students in schools whose family land it compulsorily acquired and gave to religious bodies to build such schools.
“That Education being under the Concurrent Legislative List in the Constitution, the State Government has power and authority to regulate and supervise activities of
schools, public or private, to ensure harmony and orderliness in such schools”.
The court held that all grant-aided schools are public schools, because the Appellants did not deny beneficiaries of government grants to run the schools and that introduction of policy directions like Hijab for female students, conversion of class rooms into Mosque, teaching of Islamic studies does not constitute antithetical policies against freedom of religion as guaranteed by Section 38 of The Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The court held further that wearing of Hijab, conversion of class rooms into Mosque, and teaching Islamic studies in these schools are
irreducible minimum rights which all humans are endowed with.
“They are inalienable rights, basic rights, and because of the fundamental nature of these rights, they have been incorporated into the grundnorm
(Constitution) such that any infraction of, or attempted violation of any of those rights in relation to any person or individual is met with stiff resistance by the law”.
The MSSN alleged that the authorities of a number of Christian schools and other schools have despite the initial judgement of the High Court which had now been affirmed by the Court of Appeal continued to put laws into their hands by continuously trampling on the rights of the Muslim students to practice their faith within the school premises.
“These violations take different forms ranging from forceful prevention of the use of hijab, forcing Muslim students to partake in Christian religious activities, malicious destruction of Muslim worship places in the school
to outright prohibition of the organization any form of mandatory Islamic worships or
gathering within the school premises”.
The statement called on all the security agencies to use their good offices as a matter of internal security of the state to quickly install measures to enforce the judgement and prevent the continued violation of Muslim rights protected therein especially across all educational institutions in Kwara State.
This, according to the statement is necessary in order to prevent resort to self-help by the Muslim community and a breakdown of law and order that would most likely follow if these school authorities
continue to violate the rights of Muslim students.