Justice Ladiran Akintola of Court nine, Oyo State High Court, Ring Road, Ibadan has warned all the parties in suit no.: M/706/2018, filed by 14 Muslim students and parents of the International School, Ibadan, ISI against the school and the University of Ibadan, UI to stop further dividing Nigeria as well as heating up the polity.
The respondents in the suit are ISI, University of Ibadan, the School Principal, Mrs. Phebean Olowe, Prof. Abideen Aderinto, Deputy Vice-Chancellor, Academics, and Chairman, ISI Board of Governors.
According to the court processes, the 1st to 11th applicants (female students and minors) are suing through their respective parents while the 12th, 13th and 14th applicants are suing for and on behalf of Muslim Parents of International School Ibadan known as ISI Muslim Parents Forum.
The 12th applicant, Mr. Abdurraman Balogun, a journalist, working with the News Agency of Nigeria, NAN, currently seconded to an astute broadcaster, Hon. Abike Kafayat Dabiri-Erewa, former member of the House of Representatives and currently, Senior Special Assistant to President Muhammadu Buhari on Foreign Affairs and Diaspora and the Chief Executive and Chairman of Nigeria Diaspora Commission. The 13th and 14th applicants are Ridwan Ademola and Bolaji Ajani respectively.
The applicants are asking the court to give an order for the enforcement of the fundamental human rights of their wards for freedom of thought, conscience and religion, and freedom from discrimination, right to the dignity of human person and right to education.
They are specifically demanding that the school should be mandated to allow female students to wear hijab to the school, the demand coming about 56 years after the school was established by German-British educator, Kurt Hahn, with funding received from the USAID, Ford Foundation and donation of landspace by the then Nigerian Western Regional government.
Justice Akintola said, “We are all Nigerians. We met this country peaceful and we must do everything possible to make it peaceful. It is good and in the best interest of the country to shake hands across the inner bar to resolve this matter amicably. We are divided enough. Nigeria is divided enough, don’t let us divide ourselves further. Don’t let us over heat the polity. I want all the parties in this matter to sleep over this matter and see how they can meet and resolve this matter. If we make our home hot, we will not be able to return there again”.
Earlier, counsels to some interested parties in the case, Mr. Oladipo Olasope, Mr. Abdul-Aziz Jimoh and Tunde Olukayo, separately filed applications seeking an order of the court to allow their clients to be joined in the suit as co-respondents. Also, Mr. Tade Ipadeola, who represented Mr. Lekan Thani, orally sought the court to allow his clients to be joined in the court saying that by the next adjournment, his process would be ready for filing.
Olasope, acting on behalf of two minors through a guardian, Babawo Awosanmi Abe and on behalf of members of the traditionalist parents forum of ISI, is asking the court to allow the minors who are students of the school to be allowed to dress to school in Ifa customized traditional way.
The two minors who are in SS2 and JSS2 class respectively are indigenous Yoruba traditionalists and worshipper of ‘Ifa” representing other traditionalist in the matter and should be allowed to wear traditional cloth and beads to school without being discriminated against.
Mr. Ajayi A. S, a legal officer representing the University of Ibadan also informed the court that the Alumni of the Premier University has indicated its intention to be joined in the case and it will properly file an application to the effect when next the court sit.
He however appealed to the court to adjourn further adjourn the case so that those that want to be joined would have the opportunity to do so.
Professor Wahab Egbewole, SAN, counsel to the 14 applicants urged the court to take all applications seeking for other parties to be joined at the next court sitting asking the court not to entertain further applications that is not filed by the next time that the court will sit.
Justice Akintola did not share this view as he pointed out that counsels do not work at the same pace and if justice would be seen to have been done, ample time should be given to anybody that wants to be joined in the suit.
He, however, noted that he would not allow any interested party or parties to slow down the court process.
He adjourned the case to February 20, 2019 for mentioning.