Management of the National Orthopedic Hospital in Igbobi, Lagos, may have caused controversy by relieving two female nurses of their duties for wearing hijab at work.
Vanguard reports that nurses Fasilat Olayinka Lawal and Sekinat Sanusi were asked to remove their hijabs and wear a nurse cap instead. They responded by presenting a copy of a circular from Nursing and Midwifery Council of Nigeria to the hospital authorities. The circular, dated February 11, 2002 (reference number N&MCN/CMF/721/1/3), prescribes wearing either a nurse cap or a shoulder-length hijab for female nurses. The circular was signed by P. N. Ndatsu, Secretary General/Registrar and sent to all directors of nursing and their deputies, chief medical directors, chief executives and principals.
The nurses, however, found themselves exchanging letters of complaint with the hospital authorities and have been prevented from entering the ward and carrying out their official duty since April. They have also appeared before a panel/disciplinary committee and the hospital management board where they were asked to reconsider their position and take off their hijabs. Otherwise, the management said, they would face insurbodination and disobedience charges punishable by public service. Eventually, the two were sacked.
The nurses retaliated by seeking legal advice and then taking the matter to court.
Meanwhile, an anonymous source at the hospital told Vanguard correspondent that the case was an eye-opener to other Muslim nurses, as they were unaware of any official document permitting wearing hijab to work. Also, nurses of other medical institutions across Nigeria (for instance, in Kwara, Osun, Oyo states, and in most northern states) are allowed to wear shoulder-length hijabs.
When contacted for commentary, Medical Director, NOHIL, Dr. O. Odunibi revealed only that they were advised to keep mum on the matter while the investigation is ongoing.
Muslim organizations react
Chairman of Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria, Barrister Musadiq Adunni Sanni says the nurses’ fundamental human rights were violated by this “wrongful dismissal”. He says MULAN are not happy about a Federal institution being involved in a case like this, but insisted the court should decide who is right.
The Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC) said the two nurses are the latest victims of religious discrimintaion in Nigeria. MPAC pledged their support and urged the nurses to continue to demand for justice.