In a circular sent out to schools, the Lagos State government has ordered the tutor-general, permanent secretaries and principals to allow the wearing of the hijab (Muslim headscarves for girls) in public schools immediately. It stated that although the issue was still pending in the Supreme Court of Nigeria, the status quo had to be maintained to avoid contempt of court. Students should be allowed to wear the hijab as part of their school uniform as long as they were short, smart, neat and in the same colour(s) as the uniform.

The circular comes in the wake of students being barred from school premises for wearing the hijab.

The circular reads: “Furthermore, schools management are advised to downplay comments and disciplinary actions on the use of smart hijabs until the final determination of the case by the Supreme Court. No student should be discriminated against in any form on the basis of religion. All principals and teachers must be sensitised to comply accordingly. You are enjoined to adhere strictly to these recommendations.”

In a statement by the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA), the deputy secretary-general, Prof Salisu Shehu, commended the Lagos State government for giving approval.

However, he went on to say, “The approval is not a favour in any way, as the government had been acting ultra vires all this while by refusing to obey the judgment of the Court of Appeal since July 2016 that it was given. We still commend the government for doing the right thing and behaving responsibly now in the eyes of the enlightened citizens who know that judgments must be obeyed until they are set aside by courts of competent jurisdiction.

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“We urge the state government to take a step further by withdrawing its appeal on the same matter from the Supreme Court of Nigeria. That is the appropriate thing to do,” Shehu concluded.

The Muslim Students’ Society of Nigeria also added its voice, saying, “We extol this gesture and the resoluteness of state government in ensuring that avoidable strife did not find its way into the peaceful atmosphere being enjoyed in Lagos State.

“We are pleased with this development because the embarrassing way and manner that our members are being victimised, harassed, punished and denied entrance into their classrooms for wearing hijab would stop.”

“We commend this intervention aimed at calling teachers, principals and the tutor-general to order. This circular approving wearing of hijab by students on their school uniform within and outside school premises will ensure peace and order in our schools and stability in the state’s education system.”

The organisation went on to urge other state governments across the country, especially in the South West, South South and South East geopolitical zones, to take its cue from the Lagos State government.