The Federal High Court has declared unconstitutional the state based admission inequality in Federal Government Colleges also known as Unity Schools. The declaration was made in a landmark Judgment delivered in Lagos, by Honourable Justice John Tsoho on Wednesday 17th November 2014, in Suit FHC/L/CS/1358/2013 filed by Dr. Olisa Agbakoba SAN against the Federal Government and Education Minister, to challenge the admission disparity. The case is based on Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution which prohibits administrative or executive actions by government that discriminates between Nigerians on grounds of ethnicity, gender, religion and place of origin. The Originating Application was filed on September 30, 2013, for the following Orders:
(1) A Declaration that the administrative acts of the Respondents, particularly the 2nd Respondent 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 etc. is discriminatory against Applicant’s grandchildren and the group/class they represent, on grounds of ethnicity, states of origin, gender etc. and therefore violates Section 42(1) of 1999 Constitution of Federal Republic of Nigeria:
(2) An Order directing the Respondents, particularly the 2nd Respondent 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.
(3) An Order of Perpetual Injunction restraining the Respondents, particularly the 2nd Respondent, whether by itself, its agents, servants, privies or otherwise howsoever from further acts of discrimination in admission to Federal Government Colleges.
(4) Such Further Order(S) as the Honourable Court may deem fit to make in the circumstances
Dr Agbakoba stated in his 19 paragraph Affidavit to support the Originating Application, that since the inception of the Unity Schools, the Federal Government has maintained great disparity in admission requirements for candidates wishing to be admitted into Federal Government Colleges. In particular, the Federal Government prescribes different cut off marks for different states, based on candidates’ gender and their states of origin.
The Federal High Court took argument of Counsel for the Applicant and Respondents on Monday, 12th November, 2014 and delivered Judgment on Wednesday 17th November 2014. In the Judgment, the Federal High Court declared that application of different cut-off marks based on states of origin and gender violates the candidates’ fundamental rights to freedom from discrimination guaranteed by Section 42(1) of 1999 Constitution. The Federal High Court then ordered the Federal Government and Minister of Education to apply uniform cut-off marks to all candidates seeking admission into Federal Government Colleges, irrespective of their states of origin.