Court Restrains House from Conducting Public Hearing on Law School Hijab Controversy

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Alex Enumah in Abuja

Justice Anwuli Chikere of the Federal High Court in Abuja wednesday ordered the House of Representatives to refrain from conducting the planned public hearing on the controversy generated by a Nigerian Law School graduate, Firdrusa Abdulsalam, during the last call to Bar ceremony in Abuja last year.

Justice Chikere gave the order yesterday while delivering ruling on an application filed by a coalition of law students seeking to stop the public hearing.

She ordered that the lawmakers halt the public hearing pending the determination of the substantive suit.
The court held that the plaintiffs, who are legal practitioners, had a right to bring the action since the decision of the House of Representatives would affect them.

Justice Chikere subsequently adjourned the matter till April 24, for hearing of the substantive suit.
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, 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 public hearing.

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

He said they were seeking the interpretation of the court on Sections 33 to 45 of the 1999 Constitution as well as 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. Section 88 and 89 gives power to the house of representatives to conduct public hearing but Section 33 to 45 is what we call fundamental rights.
“If that right is breached where are you supposed to go, public hearing or court?,” he asked.