Nigeria’s Christian Leaders Want Parliament to Suspend Bill on Muslim Headscarf

Christian leaders in Nigeria have called on the National Assembly to suspend Bill seeking to institutionalise the wearing of hijab

Christian leaders in Nigeria have called on the leadership of the country’s National Assembly to suspend the Bill that seeks to institutionalize the wearing of the Muslim headscarf popularly known as the “hijab” in the West African nation.

In their Monday, March 22 statement obtained by ACI Africa, representatives of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) call on relevant leaders in Parliament “to suspend a bill before the House of Representatives (HoR) seeking to institutionalize the use of hijab in the country. It is ill-timed and uncalled for.”

According to CAN officials, the proposed law titled “Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill, 2021” seeks “to provide a mechanism for enforcing certain provisions of the Constitution and other international laws that recognizes the right of a female to adorn hijab in both public and private establishments in Nigeria.”

“We wonder what the sponsors of the Bill seek to gain from it other than to compound the security problem and the wearing of hijab in public and Christian schools,” the Christian leaders say in the statement signed by CAN’s General Secretary, Joseph Daramola.

The call to suspend the bill, CAN representatives say, is based on Nigeria’s 1999 Constitution as amended, stipulating that “the National Assembly shall have the power to make laws for the peace, order and good government of the Federation or any part thereof with respect to any matter included in the Exclusive Legislative List set out in Part 1 of the Second Schedule to this Constitution.”


“To what extent does this controversial bill seek to promote peace, order and good governance? Has dress code become part of the Exclusive Legislative List?” the Church leaders who comprise the largest ecumenical body in the West African nation pose.

They express their disappointment at the conduct of the members of the National Assembly who, they say, have misplaced their priorities.

Instead of making laws that will address the “lopsided appointments, insecurity, unemployment and economic predicament,” CAN representatives say, Nigeria’s Parliamentarians are making laws that “seek to promote one religion.”

“This is totally unacceptable in a country with multiple religions,” representatives of the 45-year-old ecumenical body who include representatives from the Catholic Secretariat of Nigeria (CSN) say in their March 22 statement. 

The Christian leaders, however, clarify that “it is not the wearing of hijab that is our problem; it is the legislation of the wearing of it in private schools, especially of the schools whose proprietors have a different culture to that of wearing of the hijab.”

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“If anyone travels to Rome, it is common saying that he or she should do as the Romans do since he was not forced to come!” they say, and explain, “If any Christian pupil goes to a Muslim School, he or she should abide by their practices there and vice versa.”

They further explain, “Why should a Muslim student come to a Christian school which operates under different dressing culture and insist on her own culture? That appears provocative and disrespectful!”

The Church leaders were referencing the ongoing controversy regarding the wearing of the hijab in “Christian Mission Schools” pitting the CAN members and the leadership of Kwara State, which falls under the jurisdiction of the Catholic Diocese of Ilorin.

On February 26, Abdulrahman Abdulrazaq, the Governor of the Kwara State, approved the use of hijab by female Muslim students in Christian Mission schools supported by government grants, a move that the CAN leadership faulted terming it as “discriminatory and divisive.”

The escalating tensions saw the closure of ten Mission schools in the State on February 19 after Muslim students and staff who showed up wearing the hijab were turned away, leading to protests.


“Legislating the wearing of hijab in private schools would lead to the trouble that those who started it may not be able to handle. Abandoning school uniforms for religious dressing is going to divide the students along religious lines and further polarize our society,” the Church leaders in Nigeria say in their March 22 statement.

They pose, “Should the children of Ifa worshippers (god of divination) wear Ifa costumes to the school as well, etc.? Is that not going to bring confusion? Will the wearing of the religious dress make one student brighter in class than the other? What are we legislating for?” 

As a way forward, CAN representatives say they have “resolved to close down” their schools and colleges “to protest against this ungodly and disrespectful policy.”

“We should return to the status quo ante where we were before the politicization of hijab. Let those who want to wear hijab go to schools where it is allowed,” they say and suggest, “Alternatively, let those state governments return our schools and stop funding them. We are able to manage them.”

They further say in reference to government's funding of private schools, “We did not beg the government ab initio to partner with us. It was the government that couldn’t provide enough school that came in subtly to partner with us but now going another mile to take over completely.”

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“Can the government own what they did not spend their money to build?” the Christian leaders pose and further say, “Those who took over our schools did not tell us that our religious traditions and culture would be eradicated.” 

They call on all Christians “in every legislative house, including the National Assembly to arise and speak for the Church if they have not compromised their faith for political reasons.”

“If they fail to do so, God Himself will ask them of their stewardship one day and equally fight for His Church,” CAN representatives say in their March 22 statement.