Legal Clinic: The Nigerian Law School and The Hijab. By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

A law graduate or lawyer that cannot defend his or her own basic rights as contained in the constitution does not deserve to be called a legal practitioner. Why because, such person is not fit to defend the right of others. You can’t defend the right of others, if you can’t defend your own rights.

This is why I have always maintained that there are very few lawyers in Nigeria who deserve to be called legal practitioners, what we have are business men and women who trade in the legal profession. If not, the abusive system in the Nigerian Law School could not have been tolerated for this long without much resistance. It appeared lawyers are now trained to be docile, so they could not defend human right,but to wear wig and collect certificate.

For the Nigerian law school, which has become notorious in flagrant violation of basic rights of many Nigerians, including female Muslim Students who have been consistently denied their right to decent dressing as prescribed by their constitutionally guaranteed right to religion, the time for change is now.

To change an unjust system, there must be at least one disobedient person, who is very much aware of the unjust system and purposefully decides to disobey it, with the intention of causing change and permanent restructuring. This is exactly what has happened during the recently conducted call to bar by the Nigerian Law School.

A Muslim lady, Amasa A. Firdaus who graduated from University of Ilorin and Nigerian Law School, Abuja campus was barred from entering the International Conference Center (ICC) for the call to bar programme because she refuses to remove her decently worn hijab in defiance to the repugnant tradition of the law school, which ban use of hijab by female Muslim students.

Firdaus is not the only victim of this violation of basic rights, thousand of female Muslims had continued to suffer similar abuse over the years.

Few days before the unfortunate incident at the call to bar event in Abuja, some young people had taken to the social media to launch a campaign to call for change in the law school discriminatory practice against Female Muslims. It appeared Firdaus,a female law graduate, who was the Ameera of Muslim Students Society (MSS) at University of Ilorin resolved to take up the challenge to fight for all victims, as she also preside as the Ameera of Nigerian female Muslim lawyers at the law School.

While I understand that rule 36 (a) of the Rules of Professional Conduct in the Legal Profession Revised (2007) expressly decries the “wearing of apparel and ornament” that draws attention to a legal practitioner appearing before a judge, but hijab doesn’t fall into such apparel ornament that can be decried upon, because it is a constitutional right that no bye law can suppress on a permanent basis.

It has been established that the constitution is a ground norm and by section 1(1) & (3) thereof, it is Supreme and binding on all authorities and persons in Nigeria and as well above the ordinary laws of the land. Since the constitution recognizes ones right to manifest ones religion and belief in practice and observance, a Muslim female, being a Nigerian too, has the right to wear her veil anywhere, any time.

“The Constitution of Nigeria is the basic norm from which all the other laws of the society derive their validity. Any other law that is in conflict with the provision of the Constitution must give way or abate”. This is the position of the law court in the case of PDP V CPC (2011) 17 NWLR (pt 1277) 485 at 511.

Besides the above, there are numerous court judgements from Appeal Court and even Supreme Court that has maintained that the use of hijab by female Muslims is a right that cannot be denied because veil is part and parcel of religious practice of a female Muslim, if she chooses to wear it.

The Court of Appeal Ilorin Division in the case of *PROVOST, KWARA STATE COLLEGE OF EDUCATION, ILORIN & 2 ORS VS BASHIRAT SALIU & 2 ORS Appeal No CA/IL/49/2006, delivered on the 18th day of June, 2009 held that:“The use of veil by the respondents, therefore qualifies as a fundamental right under Section 38 (1) of the Constitution”.

In another court of Appeal judgement in Massoud AbdulRahman Oredola, JCA, it was held that; “The right of the Respondents to wear their Hijab, veil within the School campus and INDEED ANYWHERE else is adequately protected under our laws.

I therefore hold the views that, the only reason why such archaic rule still existed in the Nigerian law school is because nobody has been courageous enough to challenge it like Firdaus has now done and all well meaning Nigerians must rise up to defend our law and not their personal sentiments.

It is important to note that, if the law school can make rules to deny people their right under the guise of profession, then to what use is the constitution? That means every profession can then proceed to make unjust laws and claim it is to protect a professional ethics. We must not allow this to continue.

I am also aware that religious right is not absolute. The right is subject to section 45 of the constitution which gives government the right to disregard citizen’s right to religion in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality or public health; or for the purpose of protecting the rights and freedom of other persons. But the practice in the Nigerian law school doesn’t fall into any of these categories.

While some people might want to argue that it falls into the public order category, but they have to explain how exercising a right to wear hijab impedes public order. And even if it is for public order for the purpose of defense, such ban cannot be permanent; it can only last for some time.

The Supreme Court decision in M.D.P.D.T. v. Okonkwo (2001) 6 NWLR (Pt.710), explained that, for the purpose of public interest, such right would be held in abeyance.

In view of the above, the Nigerian Law School must begin the process of changing all of its rules that are inconsistent with the Nigerian constitution. This is the only way to guarantee peace and teach law.


Abdulrazaq O Hamzat is a Human Rights Ambassador and Executive Director of Foundation for Peace Professionals. He can be reached at

About Jare Tiamiyu

A political and sport analyst, public speaker, writer, printer and online personnel. A development advocate with greater interest in SDGs goal 4 and 16.
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2 thoughts on “Legal Clinic: The Nigerian Law School and The Hijab. By Abdulrazaq O Hamzat

  1. I hope she baths with the hijab on her too, constitutional human right is one things, institutional rules and regulation is another thing, if u can not keep to the rules and regulation leave the institution, don’t mix both. They did not force her to be a legal practitioner, during her stay in law school she abide by the strict rules and regulations there. Institutional rules and regulation are created with the interest of the institution at heart, not the workers, so a worker can not come out and say it violates constitutional human right, if its too hard for u to keep, leave the institution. Pls stop being sentimental bcos u are a Muslim, if it were to be a christian who violated the dress code conduct am sure you won’t be writing this article.

  2. Mr hamzat you are talking trash because you are a muslim. The law school is an institution on its own and for you to be uder the institution you have to follow its laid down rules and regulations. Don’t use constitutional human right as excuse for violating rules and regulation. Just as scientist and philosopher does not believe in God as supreme leader, so does law doesn’t give room for religion. This is the same problem u have in national open university, Nigeria constitutional right gives room for freedom of association, but the act by which the school was establish give no room for association. If I open a company now and b4 employing you I tell u that this is my dress code, its left for u to agree and work for me or disagree and not work, u can not come into an institution and change is own rules and regulation all in the name of constitutional human rught, constitutional human right did not open my company for me. If u support the wearing of hijab to the call to bar, them u must support the other churches wearing their different dress code too, like Lord chosen members wearing their green vest, celestial churches wearing their white garment and coming to the conference on bare foot, and also deeper life members not to be forced to wear trousers during nysc (they should sew skirts for them).

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