The hijab crisis rocking the International School, Ibadan, took a new shape on Friday when traditionalists and non-religious persons were allowed to be joined as respondents in the suit by 14 Muslim pupils against the school, over their right to dress according to their religion.
Recall that the school was shut for days after some Muslim parents under the aegis of ISI Muslim Parents Forum, insisted that their children must be allowed to wear hijab on their school uniforms, a move the school management rejected, saying it was against the school’s dress code. When the Parents Teachers Association (PTA) could not resolve the crisis. The Board of Governors intervened and it was agreed that the current school uniform should be maintained pending the resolution of the hijab crisis.
The affected pupils, aided by the Muslim Parents Forum then approached the court to seek an order to be allowed to wear hijab on uniforms within the school. They are suing the school principal, Mrs Phebean Olowe; the University of Ibadan and the Chairman, ISI Board of Governors Prof. Abideen Adeyinka.
On Friday, Justice Ladiran Akintola of the Oyo State High Court, admitted two other parties as new respondents in the suit, following their applications to the court. The parties allowed to join the suit as co-respondents are Tunde Olutayo Aro, on behalf of his daughter, Ikeoluwakishi Aro, the 2017/2018 social perfect of the school, and Babalawo Awosanmi Abe for his children Fatunmishe Abe and Fawoke Abe on behalf of members of traditionalist parents forum of ISI.
Their applications were not opposed by applicants’ lead counsel, Waheed Egbewole (SAN). Dr B. A. M. Ajibade (SAN) led other lawyers to appear for all four respondents while Barr. Oladipo Olasope appeared for Fatunmise and Fawoke Abe.
The school’s Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) also informed the court of its decision to apply to be joined as a co-respondent. Barr. Lekan Thani, who held the brief of Mr Tade Ipadeola, told the court that the association’s application was delayed by a vital document which was yet to be received. Thani said the application would have been filed before the next adjourned date.
The court was also informed that the body of the alumni of the school had decided to apply to be joined as respondents.
Before adjourning the matter for the other parties to file their papers, Justice Akintola advised the parties not to heat up the polity unnecessarily and explore options of amicable settlement.
His words: “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 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.”
The case was adjourned till February 20, 2019 for mention with an order that all interested parties file the necessary documents before the date.
Apart from an order to be allowed to wear hijab, the Muslim pupils and their parents are also seeking a declaration that the alleged locking up of school gate against them for wearing hijab or their alleged humiliation is a violation of their fundamental human rights to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, freedom from discrimination and right to the dignity of the human person and right to education among others.
They are also seeking an order of perpetual injunction restraining the school and its agents from further interfering or infringing in any manner with the fundamental human rights of all female students that have made up their mind to wear hijab on their school uniform.