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28 Feb 2018

Law School hijab issue: Court restrains House of Reps from holding public hearing

The Federal High Court, Abuja, has restrained the House of Representatives from conducting a planned public hearing on the hijab controversy between the Nigerian Law School and Ms Firdrusa Abdulsalam.
Justice Anwuli Chikere gave the order on Wednesday in her ruling on an application filed by a coalition of legal practitioners seeking to stop the public hearing.

The judge ordered that the public hearing be put on hold, pending the determination of the substantive suit.

Chikere, in her ruling, said the plaintiffs, who are legal practitioners, have a right to bring the action since the decision of the House of Representatives would affect them.

She adjourned the matter until April 24 for hearing of the substantive suit.

It will be recalled that Abdulsalam, a law graduate, was on December 13, 2017 not called to the Nigerian Bar on the grounds that she wore a hijab to the Call to Bar ceremony.

The matter was taken to the House of Representatives and a public hearing was fixed in respect of the matter on February 6.

The lawyers, under the aegis of Coalition of Lawyers for the Preservation of Legal Practitioners’ Ethics, then filed a suit asking the court to stop the House of Representatives from conducting the hearing.

Their counsel, Mr. Sunday Akanni, told the court that the lawyers had even undertaken that they would pay damages to the House of Representatives in case their application was found to be frivolous.

He said they were seeking the interpretation of sections 33 to 45 of the 1999 Constitution as well as that of Section 88.

“We brought the House of Representatives to court because of the public hearing they scheduled to hold February 6.

“Our contention is very simple, the public hearing notice they sent is in respect of a lady called Abdulsalam Firdrusa, who was not called to the bar on December 13, 2017, because she was wearing Hijab.

“They say the public hearing is pursuant to Section 45 of the Constitution, but we are saying it has to do with violation of rights and it is the court that can look into such matters.

“It is not for the House of Representatives to conduct a public hearing. Sections 88 and 89 give power to the House of Representatives to conduct public hearing, but sections 33 to 45 is what we call fundamental rights.

“If that right is breached, where are you supposed to go, public hearing or court?”(NAN)

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