I challenge both Council of Legal Education and Body of Benchers to provide that Rule or Law or Regulation which EXPRESSLY PROHIBITS THE USE OF HIJAB. This has not still answered that very important question of THE EXPRESS RULE PROHIBITING THE USE OF HIJAB. PUT DIFFERENTLY, WHAT IS THE RULE GUIDING CALL TO BAR EVENT?
There is something we are really missing out here, the Council of Legal Education makes rules for law school which by express provisions of the purportedly signed Code of Conduct, it allows the use of Hijab or head covering. Do not argue that the Code of Conduct does not contain such provision cos in various campuses of the Nigerian Law School, female Muslim students are ALLOWED TO WEAR HIJAB/HEAD-COVER FOR LECTURES . The Council Legal Education does not have power whatsoever to make RULE for dinner cos dinner terms are prescribed by the Body of Benchers.
Assuming but not conceding that Council of Legal Education has power to make rules for dinner, they allowed the use of skull cap or head covering on dinner days for Muslims. Does the Council of Legal Education Rules apply to Call to Bar? Does CLE have power to make rules and regulations guiding aspirants to the bar awaiting call to bar? The answer to this can be found in both the Legal Practitioners Act and Council of Legal Education Act. The Legal Practitioners Act expressly empowers the Body of Benchers to makes rules in respect of its power to Call those who have passed the prescribed bar exams to the Bar, the question now is, has the Body of Benchers taken that step to make the regulations in the exercise of its power to Call aspirants to Bar? I am not aware of any WRITTEN REGULATION to that effect especially the one prohibiting wearing of Hijab or head cover. In case you have any, please update my knowledge of law.
Interestingly, under the Act, the Body of Benchers has power to confer the prestigious rank of Senior Advocate of Nigeria on deserving legal practitioners and in the exercise of power, there is a rule/regulation made to this effect by the Body of Benchers setting out the requirements and standard of conferment of the rank. Also, the Body of Bencher has power to discipline legal practitioners who are found wanting of professional misconducts, we all known that there is a law/rule/regulation guiding how a legal practitioner can be properly disciplined. But the institution of highest distinction in the legal profession did not remember to make any LAW/REGULATION/RULES to exercise its power to CALL successful Aspirants to the Bar. Rather, allows TRADITION./CUSTOM to regulate the Call to Bar ceremony. An event of such nature evidencing the importance of the power of the Body of Bencher in this country should have been clearly regulated by A WRITTEN LAW which would have envisaged this kind of situation and properly addressed. Maybe if there is such a law clearly stipulating what is allowed and what is not allowed, maybe this controversy will not arise, MAY BE!! We are all aware that being called to the Bar is a prerequisite to be conferred with the rank of SAN and being subject to the Rules of Professional Conducts for Legal Practitioners.
Admittedly, the event does not last for more than 3hours, but her religion does not allow her to open her head in the public which she is entitled to practice as a fundamental right, why then do we want to deny her that right on the alter of TRADITION? the fact that some other persons have compromised their religious beliefs on this matter is not enough to crucify the person who chose not to, what harm will it cost? the exercise of right will only be prevented if it will negatively affect the right of another or public, how does this affect others negatively? it is very harmless.
A simply analogy will help to understand this issue at hand. Various faculties of law have dress code rules and regulations that law students must wear white and black but after the whole exams and all, on convocation day they are not bound to wear white and black cos at that material time, they are no longer subject to the faculty dress code while waiting for the university to confer honours and award degrees having passed the necessary exams.
However, it is submitted that, there is a tradition of minimum standard of compliance with the occasion in the absence of any WRITTEN rule.
The next question is, has Firdaus complied with the minimum standard in the absence of any express rule? The answer to this question is not farfetched. A proper look at the picture circulating will reveal this to an objective mind. The lady was on black suit, black skirt, her black gown, white shirt, white collaret and of course HER PRETTY BLACK HIJAB. This categorically means that she did not only comply with the minimum standard in the absence of any rule but there was SUBSTANTIAL COMPLIANCE.
Most cases cited are on express written rule. Especially the case of lawyers on freedom of Association. Wherein people who have elected to be bound by the express provision of law cannot rescind from it.
It is also important to add that the issue is within the confine of her right to practice her religion and the UNWRITTEN RULES OR TRADITION of not allowing her to practice it. The exercise of her right does not in any way or manner fall under the exceptions recognized under our grundnorms. An attempt to put it under that does not only show a move to defeat the clear intendment of the constitutional drafters but also to put something on nothing which will surely collapse.
Adam Muhammed Ndakudu.