Hijab Controversy: MSSN files fresh case against OGSG

The Muslim Society of Nigeria (MSSN) has filed a fresh case against Ogun State governor over the enforcement of fundamental rights on the use of hijab by female Muslim students in public schools in the State.

Nine-year-old Aisha AbdulAleem last year sued the principal of Gateway Secondary, Mrs A.A Kushimo, and Ogun State Government over forceful removal of her hijab and denial of the right to education.

The new case with suit number AB/49/2019, which was filed by Saheed Amisu on behalf of female students in public primary and secondary schools in Ogun State also joined as respondents, the State’s Attorney General and Justice Commissioner, Education Commissioner, All Nigeria Conference of Principals of Secondary Schools (ANCOPS) and Association of Head Teachers of Primary Schools in Nigeria (AOPSHON), Ogun State chapters.

The MSSN case was mentioned for first hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 19 before Justice Bamgbose Alabi, immediately after hearing the applications of parties seeking to be joined in Aisha’s case.

In the notice of Application for Enforcement of Fundamental Right by the incorporated trustees of the MSSN and Amisu, the applicants are seeking for an order “to enforce and secure the enforcement of the fundamental rights of Female Muslim Students in Public Primary and Secondary Schools in Ogun State under Sections 38 and 42 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)”.

The Association is also praying for a declaration that the “use of Islamically prescribed head cover called Hijab by the Female Muslim Students in all Public Primary and Secondary Schools in Ogun State forms parts of their fundamental rights to freedom of religion, conscience and thought as contained in Section 38 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (as amended)”.

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The notice further sought for “a declaration that molestation, harassment, torture, embarrassment and humiliation which Muslim Female students in Ogun State are subjected to in the hands of the agents of government constitutes a clear infringement of their right to dignity of human person and right against torture.

“An order of this Honourable Court restraining the Respondents, their servants, agents, privies or whosoever called from disallowing the Muslim female Students in Public Primary and Secondary Schools in Ogun State the use of Islamically prescribed Hijab in their various schools during and after the school hours”.

In a 33 paragraphs affidavit in support of the application which was deposed to by Saheed Amisu, the Amir (Chairman) of MSSN in Ogun State, documented incidences of humiliation of Muslim students by teachers in Abeokuta Girl Grammar School, African Church Grammar School, Nawairu-deen High School, Premier Grammar School and many other schools in the State which are owned and controlled by the State government.

“That the most embarrassing occurrence happened when a female teacher, Mrs Aderonmu of Premier Grammar School, Abeokuta molested a female Muslim student, Miss Raji Iyabo who put on hijab after the school premises, removed the hijab and drowned same in black engine oil.

“That despite the complaint of the Applicants as stated hereabove, the molestation of the applicants’ female members persisted without anything done by the respondents.

“That the Applicants through its Ogun Area Unit also wrote another letter dated Sept. 17, 2017 informing the 3rd Respondents of the decisions of the Muslims of Ogun State to make sure all their children in public schools wear hijab on their school uniforms in line with the Islamic position and the decision of the courts in respect of similar matters in Osun and Lagos State.

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“That I know as a fact that many of the public schools controlled by the 1st – 3rd respondents in Ogun State in Abeokuta, Ijebu Ode, Sagamu, Ijebu Igbo, Idi Iroko, Owode and other towns in Ogun State, Muslim female students are always denied use of hijab and embarrassed by the agents of the respondents if they use it”.

The applicant also stated that non-Muslims are not compelled to use Hijab in Muslim-named schools and as such are not affected if the prayers are granted.

While appearing before Justice Bamgbose Alabi of Ogun State High Court in Isabo, Chief Semiu Akinbami who stood in for the applicants’ lawyer, Mr Odedeji K.B., informed the court that all processes had been served to allow for the commencement of the case.

Justice Bamgbose said that the new suit brought before him is similar to that of AbdulAleem but the MSSN is representing the larger Muslim Female students.

After hearing the arguments of the counsels to the claimants, respondents and parties seeking to be joined in the cases, the presiding judge adjourned both cases to Wednesday, March 6, for ruling on applications of parties seeking to be joined, and accelerated hearing of the cases.

In an interview with newsmen after the proceedings, the counsel to the plaintiffs, Chief S.A. Akinbami expressed optimism in getting justice for the oppressed Muslim Female students in Ogun State.

Chief Akinbami said that it is the intention of the court to consolidate the two cases in order to arrive at a definite judgment on the matter.

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By Jamiu Folarin

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