Text of the Press Conference addressed by
Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA) Joint DCCs, Kwara State on Friday, March 5 2021 at ECWA Chapel, Ilorin
Gentlemen and Ladies of the Press,
Hijab Wrangle: Kwara State Government Imposition of Hijab Wearing for Muslim Students in Christian Mission Schools
Most of ECWA Mission Schools in Kwara State have been in existence for over seventy years which is before the creation of Kwara State, established by the Christian missionaries for the purposes of reaching the community with the love of Christ and as a means of social emancipation and relevance to meet the educational needs of the indigenes, irrespective of religious affiliations.
Before the recent ugly development of February 17, 2021, where some Muslim extremists ordered the Muslim female students to wear hijab over the uniform beret cap accepted as designed by the proprietors of the school, and a female Christian Teacher was humiliated and assaulted by some overzealous Malims, who are also teachers in the school, both Christians and Muslims cohabit harmoniously without any discrimination.
This is absurd to the Christian community and it is an appearance of infringement on our right and freedom of religion. Upon this, the Kwara State Government without due consultation with the proprietor, closed down our schools and as if that was not enough, under this distressing circumstances, the government gave her press release on Wednesday, 24 February, 2021, announcing her plans to provide and enforce the use of hijab in all public and
Christian mission grant-aided schools. Whereas, the government is aware that, Christian Religious Knowledge teachers are not posted to Muslim grant-aided schools and the gathering of Fellowship of Christian Students (FCS) are not allowed in Muslim grant aided school.
Now that the Kwara State government has suddenly claimed to become advocate for religious freedom and tolerance in public and Christian mission grant-aided schools to support the Islamic religion fundamentalist to foist their religious codex to our school. We the Evangelical Church Winning All (ECWA), Kwara State, Nigeria and International state emphatically that we will not welcome the wearing of hijab in all ECWA Schools.
It is also worthy of note that we are all bonafide citizens of this state and we have equal right under the provisional constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria. By this pronouncement and plan of Kwara State government, we can affirm that the government is saying a religion is more important and superior to others and promoting religious inequality among Kwarans. It appears that the Kwara State government is insensitive to kidnapping of students that is getting rampant in the country and even in neighboring states.
The point is that there is every reason to suspect this Greek gift to the people of Kwara state. With this the government has done, more than ever before, there is now an identity that distinguish a Muslim female from her Christian counterparts in the school premises. And in the event of mayhem and similar social vices, perpetrators of evil will find it easy to identify their targets, which are always the Christian students.
This is also to remind the Kwara State Government that since 1974, when there was agreement on collaboration between the government and the proprietor for the school to be grant aided schools, the policy has never been total taking over of our schools by the government. In the spirit of the agreement reached then, we are constantly adding to the sacrifices and sweat of our missionary founding fathers who establish the school by putting in hundreds of thousands of Naira in refurbishing our schools from time to time. And it is vividly clear that both community and mission grant aided schools determine the heads of their schools, school uniforms and have a say in the running of the school. We therefore uphold the term as agreed with us for grant aiding of schools since 1974.
In light of the foregoing, we demand the return of our schools to us in earnest. Similarly, we want the Government to be informed that her decision and plan to provide hijab and enforce its use in our Christian mission grant aided schools will not be tolerated, for to us, it is an infringement on our freedom of religion as enshrined in the constitution of Nigeria.
Moreover, we are saying that we refuse the enforcement of hijab on our pupils and students by the State government knowing full well that our schools are church heritage and we shall use every licit means to protect it. We promise to defend our faith and protect our property with the whole of our strength and might.
Thank you and God bless you all.
Rev Dr. John S. Owoeye
Chairman, ECWA Ilorin District Church Council
Rev R.A. Adebara
ECWA Joint DCCs in Kwara State.
Rev. Dr. Vincent A. Akintunde
Chairman, ECWA Joint Districts Kwara State. Secretary, ECWA Joint Districts Kwara State.