A Federal High Court in Lagos on Wednesday declared as unconstitutional the decades-long state-based, quota system admission into federal government colleges, also known as unity schools.
The trial Judge, John Tsoho, in a ruling on the disparity in admission, yesterday declared that the action of the Minister of Education in prescribing and applying different requirements for candidates seeking admission into Unity Schools is in violation of Section 42(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
The court further held that the provision of the constitution is superior to any administrative law or policies adopted by the Minister of Education. The court eventually directed the Minister of Education to apply uniform admission requirements, especially cut-off marks, to all candidates seeking admission into the Unity Schools.
The court’s decision was sequel to a fundamental human rights enforcement suit filed by a Senior Advocate Nigeria (SAN), Dr Olisa Agbakoba, against the Attorney General of the Federation (AGF) and the Minister of Education.
Olisa Agbakoba Legal had filed a suit before a Federal High Court, Lagos, asking the court to stop the Federal Government from further using alleged discriminatory cut-off marks for admission into Unity Schools across the nation.
He asked the court to declare that the publishing of different cut-off marks for the 104 Federal Government colleges, known as Unity Schools across the nation, based on gender, ethnicity and states of origin, is discriminatory. The suit was filed before Justice Jame Tsoho. He joined the Attorney-General of the Federation, Mr. Mohammed Adoke, and the Minister of Education, Nyesom Wike, in the suit, numbered FHC/L/CS/1358/2013.
Agbakoba argued that the differentiation violates the fundamental guarantees to freedom from discrimination guaranteed by the Constitution.
He therefore sought “an injunction restraining the 2nd respondent (Minister of Education) from subsequently publishing any cut-off mark for the 36 states of the federation for admission into the 104 Federal Government colleges, which violates Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“A mandatory order compelling the Minister of Education form implementing a uniform cut-off mark for the 36 states of the federation.”
Agbakoba cited as instances of discrimination in the admission process, a situation whereby out of maximum score of 200, candidates from Zamfara and Bayelsa states only need to score two and 72, respectively, while their counterparts from Anambra and Lagos states must score 139 and 133, respectively, to be admitted.
He stated, “The implication of this policy is that pupils from states like Zamfara and Bayelsa, with lower cut-off marks, for instance, will be accorded privilege or advantage in admission into the 104 Federal Government colleges on account of their state of origin, irrespective of their low score.
“Pupils from other states, like Anambra and Lagos with higher cut-off marks, will be subjected to disabilities or restrictions in admission on account of their state of origin, irrespective of their high score.”
After listening to submissions from both parties, the court on the 17th of December, 2014 held that the administrative acts of the respondents particularly the second respondents violates Section 42 of the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, same are null and void and therefore, the applicant’s action must succeed.
Accordingly, the administrative acts of Minister of Education which prescribes and applies different requirements including cut off marks for candidates seeking admission into Federal Government Colleges, based on gender, ethnicity, states of origin was declared discriminatory and a violation of Section 42(1) of the 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic Of Nigeria.
The court also granted an order directing the Minister of Education to apply uniform admission requirements, especially cut-off marks to all candidates seeking admission into Federal Government Colleges, notwithstanding their gender, states of Origin, ethnicity etc.
The court equally granted an order of perpetual injunction restraining the Minister of Education whether by itself, its agents, servants, privies or otherwise howsoever from further acts of discrimination in admission to Federal Government Colleges.