There is tension in Kwara State, as Baptist Conference and Evangelical Church Winning All, ECWA, have told the state government that they would resist the wearing of the hijab (veil) in their schools by all legitimate means and also demanded the immediate return of their schools.

 

Vanguard reveal that both Christian bodies, at different press conferences in Ilorin, the state capital, said they were not consulted before the decisions were taken.

 

They stressed that the state government was ill-advised in approving blanket wearing of the hijab by female students in grant-aided mission schools in the state.

 

Recall that following the controversy that trailed the wearing of hijab in grant-aided mission schools, the state government, last week, approved the wearing of hijab by female pupils of the schools.

 

Meanwhile, the Kwara Baptist Conference and ECWA says it will not allow the use of the hijab in its grant-aided schools, describing the state governor’s order permitting the use as ill-informed.

 

Speaking with journalists in Ilorin on Friday, the chairman, ECWA Ilorin District Church Council, Reverend (Dr.) John Owoeye, said that ECWA schools were established by the Christian missionaries for purposes of reaching communities with the love of Christ and to meet educational needs of the indigenes irrespective of religious affiliations, among other reasons.

 

The ECWA church leaders, who demanded return of ECWA schools to them, said that since 1974 when there was agreement on collaboration between the state government and the proprietor for the school to be grant-aided schools, “the policy has never been total takeover of our schools by the government.”

 

Owoeye, who said that Christians are bonafide citizens of the state, added that “we have equal right under the provisional constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.”

 

Tribune note that he argued that the government is aware that Christian Religious Knowledge (CRK) teachers are not posted to Muslim grant-aided schools and that the gathering of Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS) are not allowed in Muslim grant-aided schools.

 

“Similarly, we want the government to be informed that its decision and plan to provide hijab and enforce its use in our Christian mission grant-aided schools will not be tolerated as it is an infringement on our freedom of religion has enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria,” he said.

 

The state government had last month approved the use of the head covering in all public schools in the state.

 

The government had, in February, temporarily closed 10 grant-aided secondary schools in Ilorin, the state capital, following a crisis in the schools over the use of hijab.

 

The schools are;

  • Cherubim and Seraphim College,
  • ST. Anthony College,
  • ECWA School,
  • Surulere Baptist Secondary School,
  • Bishop Smith Secondary School,
  • CAC Secondary School,
  • St. Barnabas Secondary School,
  • St. John School,
  • St. Williams Secondary School and
  • St. James Secondary School.

 

Muslim leaders had insisted that students should be allowed to use the head covering in accordance with the Constitution but their Christian counterparts said such negates the heritage of the missionaries who established the schools.

 

The state government said after considering the submissions of the major interest groups on the matter, it had decided to allow the use of the material in all public schools.

 

It also directed the 10 closed schools to reopen from Monday March 8.

 

Ill-informed decision

But Christian leaders immediately kicked against the order and advised the faithful to occupy the affected schools to stop the implementation of the government’s order.

 

On Thursday, the Baptist conference in Kwara restated the churches’ stance

 

Addressing a press conference in Ilorin, the leader of the conference, Victor Dada, again faulted the state government’s decision.

 

“The state even acted in contempt of court as the case is still pending before the highest court in the land.

 

“We want to warn the government that the step it wants to take by approving the use of Hijab for all public schools and grant-aided schools will lead to an avalanche of reactions, the end of which no one can predict.

 

By this move, the state government is saying the Muslims purported rights are superior to that of the Christians,” Mr Dada said.

 

“What we are saying is that no one, not the Kwara State Government or even the Federal Government, can force Hijab on our children or on our schools.

 

 

“We shall not hesitate to use all legitimate means to protect our heritage. We will defend our faith and protect our property. Baptist family waits for further instructions.”

 

PM reveal that the cleric stressed that Baptists in the state, home, and abroad would not allow the wearing of Hijab in all the schools they established.

 

“We are all bona fide Kwarans and we all have equal rights under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. By this move, the Kwara State Government is saying the Muslims purported right is superior to that of the Christians

 

Also, the; State Government is not ignorant of the planned invasion of our mission school on the 18th day of February 2021 as the confirmation of impunity and imperial conclusion

 

According to him, missionaries established 38 of the 316 public schools in the state, vowing that all would be taken back in no distant time.

The military government had in the 1970s, taken over schools from Christian and Islamic missions.

 

These schools, now grant-aided by government, had their names changed afterwards while some, like those in Kwara retained their names.

 

The Christian missions in Kwara State had twice challenged the government’s ownership of the schools in court but lost the suit at the high court and appellate court.

 

Undaunted, the missions, comprising different Christian denominations, have appealed to the Supreme Court.

 

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