By Abdullahi Olesin, Ilorin
The leadership of the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) has said it will not allow female Muslim students to wear hijab in its schools in Kwara State.
The position of the ECWA’s leaders negates the directive by the Kwara State government that female students in all mission grant- aided schools in the state should be allowed to wear hijab.
The government’s position was predicated on the court’s judgements and consultation with Muslim and Christian leaders in the state.
Addressing newsmen yesterday in Ilorin, the chairman, ECWA Ilorin District Church Council, Rev. John Owoeye, however, said ECWA schools were established by the Christian missionaries for the purposes of reaching communities with the love of Christ and to meet educational needs of the indigenes, irrespective of religious affiliations, among other reasons.
The ECWA church leaders, who demanded the return of ECWA schools to them, said the agreement reached, in 1974, between the state government and the proprietor for the school to be grant-aided schools does not include a total take over of its schools by government.
Owoeye, who said that Christians are bonafide citizens of the state, added, “We have equal right under the Provisional Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”
He argued the government is aware that Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) teachers are not posted to Muslim grant-aided schools and the gathering of Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS) are not allowed in Muslim grant-aided schools.
“Similarly, we want the government to be informed that her decision and plan to provide hijab and enforce its use in our Christian mission grant-aided schools will not be tolerated as it is an infringement on our freedom of religion as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria,” he added.
However, Muslim stakeholders have urged the state government to stand by the rule of law in taking a final decision on the hijab issue.
A statement co-signed by the stakeholder’s union chairman, Alhaji Is-haq AbdulKarim and secretary, Prof Ibrahim Abikan, said the state branch of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which engaged the state government in legal battle over the issue of ownership of the grant-aided schools since 2013, lost its two cases both in Ilorin High Court in 2016 and Court of Appeal in 2019.
The group while commending the state government for approving the use of hijab in all public schools in the state said, “the decision of the state government is in consonance with the provisions of the Nigeria Constitution, the National Policy on Education and Kwara State Education Edict which must be complied with under all circumstances.”