A bill pending before the House of Representatives is seeking to compel the Armed Forces and para-military organisations to permit female officers to wear Islamic veil, commonly known as hijab.
The bill, known as the Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill, 2020, which has passed second reading at the House, was sponsored by the Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Finance and Member representing Bida/Gbako/Katcha Federal Constituency, Saidu Abdullahi.
Article 13 of the bill titled, ‘Discrimination in employment in security and other sectors,’ prohibits the military from discriminating against anyone wearing a hijab.
Article 13 (2) reads, “Any person employed in the security sector, whether within the military or paramilitary or otherwise, shall not be discriminated against on the ground of the exercise of his right to manifestation of his religion in worship, teaching, practice and observance such as wearing religious emblem, head cover, or hijab in concomitant with the common uniform code or code of conduct in relation to the choice of colour, type or design of such religious emblem, religious head cover or hijab.”
Although the bill does not propose any fine or jail time for persons who discriminate against persons wearing hijab, it states that anyone who contravenes the section would have committed an offence.
It further states that the High Court will have original jurisdiction on such matters while the National Human Rights Commission shall have the power either on its own motion or upon a petition presented by an aggrieved person to investigate allegations of any violation of the provisions of the Bill within a reasonable time or not more than 30 days.
Hijab, a veil worn by Muslim women, has become a controversial issue in Nigeria. In Kwara State for instance, an attempt by the government to impose hijab on Christian missionary schools is being resisted by the in-grant Christian colleges.