Nigeria: Lagos bans Hijab in schools, pending Supreme Court decision

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Gboyega Akinsanmi

The Lagos State Government yesterday noted that it would not allow the use of Hijab in all its public schools until the Supreme Court “determines an appeal seeking to upturn the decision of a Court of Appeal.”

The state government equally clarified that religious institutions were exempted from paying taxes, according to the state laws, though any religious institution engaging in commercial activities was liable to pay taxes, accordingly.

The State Commissioner for Home Affairs, Dr. Abdulateef Abdulhakeem on a Television Continental (TVC) programme, ‘YourView’ yesterday, said the state government would not enforce the appellate court’s decision on the use of Hijab.

A Court of Appeal sitting in Lagos had in July 2016 unanimously set aside the judgment of a Lagos High Court, which banned students in public schools in the state from putting on the Hijab with their school uniforms.

The court presided over by Justice AB Gumel held that the appeal was meritorious and should be allowed. Gumel held that the use of the Hijab was an Islamic injunction and also an act of worship, hence it would constitute a violation of the appellants’ rights to stop them from wearing it in public schools.

Dissatisfied with the decision of the appellate court, the state government approached the apex court, challenging the court decision, which reinstated the use of Hijab in the state’s public schools on July 21, 2016.

Confronted with a question on the refusal of the state government to enforce the court decision on the use of Hijab, Abdulhakeem noted that the state government “firmly believes in the rule of law and will continue to uphold it.”

He explained that the state government did not enforce the judgment of the appellate court, which reinstated the use of Hijab in the public schools on July 21, 2016 until the state government had already appealed the judgment.

According to the commissioner, the state government is awaiting the decision of the Supreme Court on this matter. We cannot enforce the decision of the lower court until the Supreme Court determines the appeal before it.

He also clarified the position of the law that exempted religious institutions from paying taxes, noting that all religious institutions were exempted, though those involved in commercial activities was liable to pay taxes.

“Religious institutions are not taxable under the Lagos laws. If religious institutions engage in business transactions, they are liable to pay taxes. But as far as the institution is concerned, it is exempted from paying tax,” he said.

He explained that the law was not applicable “to those who convert their buildings into mosque to avoid paying taxes,” adding that we have made it abundantly clear that they are not allowed to convert residential premises into religious centres.

“So, people should just respect God the way the state government has respected God and do not come under that arena to avoid payment of taxes,” he said.

He debunked reports that it was planning to commence paying salaries to religious leaders in the state, saying the claim was totally untrue and misleading.

He said the reports did not contain any iota of truth, thereby urging the residents “to disregard it in its entirety. Contrary to the reports, we have no plan to employ imams and pastors. We are not willing to delve into a private realm.

“There is a symbiotic relationship between the state government and faith-based organisations. It is a mutually beneficial relationship which has contributed to the growth and development of the state,” the commissioner said.

Abdulhakeem had been quoted to have said the state government would soon place religious leaders on the State salary structure to encourage them to use their Pulpit and the Minbar to re-orientate citizenry to shun corruption and immorality.

He however clarified that he was misunderstood or misquoted, explaining how he encouraged religious leaders “to be advocates against corruption because religious leaders have millions of adherents and they enjoy the allegiance of millions of followers.

“We expect them to advocate good governance and selflessness so that they can influence their members positively. In Lagos State, our success is that we have cutting-edge approaches to relating with religious leaders.”

Read original article here.

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