By Akinyemi M. Adedeji
“…and to provide for a constitution for the purpose of promoting the good government and welfare of all persons in our country, on the principles of freedom, equality and justice…”
Those were the opening lines of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 – as amended. Those were words calling for equality, for justice, and the welfare of every citizen of the Federal republic of Nigeria. But the Nigerian Law School has consistently over its years of existence flagrantly abused the introductory lines.
Assuming that those were just forewords, what about S1(1) of the CFRN that says “this constitution is supreme and its provisions ‘shall’ have a binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.” While this same constitution affirms subsequently in S38(1) that “Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion…and freedom (either alone or in a community with others, and in public or in private) toamifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance of his religion.”
Why then has Nigerian Law School through its instruments continuously violated the rights of Muslim Law Students? What crime has the Hijab committed to make it such an instrument that brings great shame to the Legal profession that law students are not allowed to wear it during call to bar, but it is surprisingly allowed in the noble profession after call to bar?
The Nigerian law school has over decades turned law students to legal professionals, enjoining them to stand up for justice, for equality, and for the protection of the rights of all citizens, while it continually denies Muslim law students the single right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion. What offense has the Hijab committed I ask? Does it prevent the wig from entering the heads of ‘new wigs? — in this case short Hijabs come in handy’ Does it make their certificates less befitting? Or does it make the profession neanderthal? If there is the case of neanderthal behaviour here, I don’t see anything more neanderthal than a body that teaches people to fight for and protect of rights, while taking an important part of their lives away from them.
A lot of Muslim law students have had all of their lives to protecting their bodies from the gaze of other people, and denying them otherwise makes them feel stark Naked! – Iron Man without his suit describes it.
The recent case of Amasa Alijanna Firdaus is a display of how backwards we are as a nation when one considers how NLS forcefully infringes on rights of Muslim Law Students. Amasa like other Muslim students feel offended that they would be made bare by a terrible law and have pushed for their rights to be respected; this after all is their offense. I have been in conversation with a friend of mine, a recent product of NLS Abuja, a former Ameerah of MSSN, UNILORIN, who had initially wanted to skip Law school and just go for her masters, because she couldn’t stand to be made naked. My friend had cried severally before, during and after her call to bar ceremony because she felt degraded, dehumanised, disrespected and humiliated by having to remove her hijab for such a relatively short period of time.
My question now is, what exactly is the crime of the Hijab? Why can it be used in practice and not during call? Why does NLS continue to disrespect these innocent people? Amasa has only expressed herself for all I and tons of other Nigerians care, and does not deserve to be denied the right of call just because she insisted on using her Hijab. She is a citizen of Nigeria who has only followed the constitution, stricto sensu and does not deserve to be denied her right to be called to bar. Whatever argument the NLS will make will only prevail if it admits that it sees itself as above the Law of the land.
Amasa is a peace loving Nigerian. No prior history of violence or insubordination. No earlier case of aggressive behaviour or tendency to be violent. No such disrespect has been dished from her to any other person. She does not deserve to be denied her call to be just by doing what the Constitution of the country recognises and allows her to do.
The NLS should call Amasa to bar. Enough victimisation on Muslim law students. I am a Nigerian, I am Princely X, and I stand behind Amasa!
The opinion expressed is entirely that of Akinyemi M. Adedeji. Send yours to email@example.com