The bi-annual call to bar ceremony returned on the 12th and 13th of December for the second-leg of the induction of new members of the profession. This ceremony will however be remembered as one which has raised a fundamental issue for discussion. This is the issue of permitting veils at legal functions as demanded by some faiths.
The Code: The legal profession in Nigeria prides itself in its roots which can be traced to the common law of England by retaining many aspects of British legal culture including its dress code which makes no provisions for veils of any kind for whatever purpose.
The Contention: certain female lawyers especially a few of the Muslim faith have argued that their religion, Islam does not permit them to leave their houses without a veil covering at least up to the bosom.
The Dissent: In the days building up to the call-to-Bar ceremonies, Youths Digest gathered that there were plans to protest the no-hijab rule. Broadcast messages were sent across social media platforms calling on prospective new wigs of the Muslim faith to support a protest against what they perceived as oppression and a violation of their right to freedom and conscience sparking arguments online by those for and against.
On the first day of the call, a few of them protested by wearing their veils which was met with a response by the enforcers who ordered removal as well as withholding of certificates for several hours and days for some.
The second day of the call saw a bolder case of dissent when a young woman named Firdaus Amasa attempted to disrupt proceedings at the ceremony until she was evicted from the premises meaning that she was not called with her peers.
In a country like Nigeria where issues of religion are often sentimentalized, Firdaus has become a hot thing on the internet with sympathizers showing support with the IStandwithFirdaus hashtag.
Many will however argue that the latin maxim volentis non fit injuria (he who has accepted can no longer claim injury) means that these young women by choosing to read law on their own volition have agreed to let go of certain rights and such cannot now claim an infringement. This very much follows the popular saying “you know what you signed up for”. On whatever side of the divide you fall, it will be very interesting to see how the lawyers face their latest challenge in a year which has seen other cases of dissent like the case of the expelled Kayode Bello.