A bill currently pending in the House of Representatives will require the Armed Forces and paramilitary organizations to allow female officers to wear the Islamic veil, known as hijab.
Saidu Abdullahi, Deputy Chairman of the House Committee on Finance and Member of the Bida/Gbako/Katcha Federal Constituency, sponsored the Religious Discrimination (Prohibition, Prevention) Bill, 2020, which has passed second reading in the House.
The military is prohibited from discriminating against someone wearing a hijab under Article 13 of the bill, titled “Discrimination in Employment in Security and Other Sectors.”
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.”
Despite the fact that the bill may not propose a fine or prison time for anyone who discriminate against women who wear hijab, it does state that anyone who violates the section would have committed an offence.
It also notes that the High Court will have original jurisdiction over such matters, while the National Human Rights Commission will have the power to examine complaints of any breach of the Bill’s provisions within a reasonable period or not more than 30 days, either on its own motion or upon a petition presented by an aggrieved individual.
In Nigeria, the hijab, a veil worn by Muslim women, has become a contentious issue. In Kwara State, for example, in-grant Christian colleges are resisting the government’s attempt to force hijab on Christian missionary schools.