University Of Benin Law Student Task Federal Government To Look Into The Issue Of “serve with skirts movement”
Uniben 300 level law student, identified as Branham PaulPipAr Chima has in all due respect task the federal government of Nigeria, under the leadership of president Mohamadu buhari, to look into the issue “serve with skirts movement”
He said this through the article which he wrote and forward through the media to Mr President, according him religion is constitutional, and therefore those who can’t wear trousers for the sake of the religious beliefs should be allowed.
Read the article he wrote below:
So, it has fallen on the ears of the deaf the alleged maltreatment of some NYSC corps members. I am referring to those set of corps who have remained dogged in serving the nation with “putting on skirts”. There was a recent protest by some corps members under the aegis of “serve with skirts movement”. These persons gave for their non-wearing of trousers as a result of their religious affiliations. Religious affiliation is something so paramount that even the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria gives credence to it; I will reference this aspect later in the analysis section of this write-up.
The issue of whether NYSC corps members should be allowed to wear “skirts” has raised many waters of opinions – though opinions are scarce on this aspect of our national issue; this write-up shall add to the “so far gotten” view on this issue.
This write-up shall analyse the relevant legal authorities regarding this issue, including the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria; further this write-up shall rebut some popular points regarding why NYSC female corps members should be forced to wear trousers. Hence, I am of the position that the female corps members who want to wear skirts, and not trousers, for religious reasons, and serve, should be given the liberty to so do – for this is their right guaranteed.
This write-up should apply to exemptions based or related to religious belief, as far it is conscientious.
Section 34 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (hereinafter referred to as, CFRN 1999) “(1) Every individual is entitled to respect for the dignity of his person, and accordingly – (a) no person shall be subject to torture or to inhuman or degrading treatment;”
Section 38 of the CFRN 1999 provides, “(1) Every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including freedom to change his religion or belief, and freedom (either alone or in community with others, and in public or in private) to manifest and propagate his religion or belief in worship, teaching, practice and observance. (2) No person attending any place of education shall be required to receive religious instruction or to take part in or attend any religious ceremony or observance if such instruction ceremony or observance relates to a religion other than his own, or religion not approved by his parent or guardian.”
Section 8 under the Code of Conduct, NYSC BYE-LAWS (revised 2011), provides “8. Wear the various Uniforms provided for the activities. Any member who refuses, fails or neglects to comply with this rule shall be tried by the Camp Court and, if found guilty, be liable to be decamped and sent out of the orientation camp;”
Section 315(5) of the CFRN 1999 provides, “Nothing in this Constitution shall invalidate the following enactments, that is to say – (a) the National youth Service Corps Decree 1993;”
In Uzoukwu v. Ezeonu II (1991) 5 NWLR (Pt. 200) 708 at 761, per Nasir, PCA as follows: “It may be recalled that human rights were derived from and out of the wider concept of natural rights. They are rights which every civilized society must accept; as belonging to each person as a human being. These were termed human rights. When the United Nations made its declaration it was in respect of ‘Human Rights’ as it was envisaged that certain Rights belong to all human beings irrespective of citizenship, race, and religion and so on.”
Corps members are human beings like you and I; they deserve every respect that every other human being deserves in the course of his living on earth, particularly Nigeria. The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria contains provisions that protect every citizens’ right; and being that the Constitution is the grundnorm of every other law, its’ provisions are superior in the hierarchy of laws and must be obeyed.
Section 34 of the Constitution as provided above is to the effect that every individual is to be respected, and by that fact, no person shall be subjected to inhuman or degrading treatments. Plain fact: a person is not respected when his’ decisions and beliefs, which are not inimical to the society, are not respected. The dignity of a person includes that person’s way of life, the way he or she wants to appear. Hence, the clothing that a person has chosen to wear is parts and parcels of who that person is – and such must be respected especially on religious or faith grounds.
When people are forced to do what they do not want to do, it is torture. Especially when the person is a free citizen and of a legal age. Torture includes the subjecting of a person to a situation that he or she does not like. The NYSC female corps members have come out to speak on their reason(s) for not wanting to wear trousers in serving the nation, for religious grounds.
Religion is something so big in our contemporary society and which has taken a footing in the nation. Different people are subscribed to several religions and we owe one another a duty to respect each person’s religion, including beliefs. Many people see religion as a way of life; for many, God speaks to them through their religion and hence anything that deviates from what God has communicated is a NO for them. So many has made religion a “meat and potato” of themselves and so it has become what gives them pride, hence, dignity.
The NYSC corps members who see religion as an important part of them need to be respected because this has become a part of their dignity. And section 34 which is a fundamental rights provision guarantees the respect for a person’s dignity. A fortiori, section 38 guarantees the freedom of a person to thoughts and religion; and subsection 2 of the same section is to the effect that a person shall not be forced to receive observance(s) that is contrary to his’ religious affiliation. Hence, any observance that is not in tune with a person’s religion is to be discarded – such person is to be exempted from such observance, and the law backs up such person.
These preceding position has moved to show how a person’s belief or religion is of delicate importance and which must be respected. The NYSC compulsory service is an integral part of a person’s education in Nigeria, and the Nigerian Constitution is to the effect that no person receiving education shall be forced to accept observance contrary to that person’s religion.
Section 8 under the Code of Conduct, NYSC BYE-LAWS, is to the effect that a person is to wear uniforms provided at his camp for activities. This is a nice provision as it goes to show that the NYSC committee has made plans for the provision of uniforms for corps members, and as usual these uniforms have a colour that distinguish it. Now this uniform according to present practice is the wearing of trousers and several other peripherals. Many ladies wear trousers and obey these directives; but what about those who have refused to wear trousers due to one reason or the other, particularly religious reasons, should they be forced to wear trousers? My answer to this is a NO.
These set of persons who have refused to wear trousers are doing so for a respectable reason; of course, religion is to be respected. Many religions believe that ladies should not wear trousers as it is a sin against their God. We all have beliefs which we adhere to, and in all honest truth, we would want our beliefs to be respected; the issue of them not wearing trousers is their belief and it should be respected likewise.
For whatever advantageous reasons the introduction of trousers might have being, the dignity of a human who has chosen not to wear trousers should be respected. These ladies have come out to say that they can perform whatever job that will be given to them even at still wearing their skirts, it is superb reasonable to let them go ahead and wear skirts. Does it make sense to force a person to do what he does not want to do, NO! Forcing a person to do what he does not agree with is tantamount to disrespecting such person’s dignity and section 34 of the Constitution 1999 frowns against such.
Whatever punishment that is placed for the non-acceptance of wearing trousers should be junked. Nigeria as a country is far bigger than this issue of trouser wearing. There are more important things that we should occupy our minds with, instead of this issue of forcing some set of ladies to devoid their beliefs for the sake of wearing trousers.
Some might say that the Constitution of Nigeria by section 315(5) absents the human rights provisions from applying to the NYSC, however, it should be noted that human rights are something so fundamental which cannot be denied of a person. The respect for dignity and religion are rights which are human and fundamental. This position has been given judicial stamp. In Uzoukwu v. Ezeonu II (1991) 5 NWLR (Pt. 200) 708 at 761, per Nasir, PCA, “It may be recalled that human rights were derived from and out of the wider concept of natural rights. They are rights which every civilized society must accept; as belonging to each person as a human being. These were termed human rights.”
This Court has in this case given the clue that human rights are inseparable from the human being itself. Without fundamental and human rights accruing to a living human being such human being is not living but dead. Any other provision might be excluded from applying to the NYSC but the portion of human rights as contained in Chapter 4 of the Nigerian 1999 Constitution cannot be excluded no matter whatever because it is parts and parcels of the human being.
Some persons have dented some points by saying that the uniform is like every other profession where uniforms are required, and that if such in that field is not exempted why should the corps members be exempted. Excuse me, there have been no issue of dress code in other professions based on religious grounds.
This issue of “skirts and trousers” under dissertation pertains to a religious issue which is very important. If a religious issue(s) be raised in any other profession, it has to be determined and solved as necessary. But I must state, issues of religion, beliefs, and thoughts, as guaranteed by the Constitution must be respected.
It is obvious from the analysis provided above that the issue of forcing ladies to wear trousers in the NYSC camp centres is an infringement on their fundamental and human rights. Sections 34 and 38 gives them the right to a respected dignity, belief, and thought/religion.
The rights of a human being must not be stepped on, and so as far as those complaining have stated that the wearing of trousers infringes their religious beliefs, they must be listened to.
Further, there have never been a report of ladies who wear skirts performing less. Ladies should be allowed to wear skirts for NYSC services but they should be regulated so as to not dress provokingly or unprofessionally.
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