By Innocent Anaba
LAGOS — A Federal High Court sitting in Lagos has granted an order mandating the Federal Government to apply a uniform cut-off mark to all candidates seeking admission into Federal Government Colleges, also known as Unity Schools, irrespective of their states of origin.
Trial judge, Justice John Tsoho, in the landmark decision, declared as unconstitutional, the state-based admission inequality in Federal Government colleges.
Former President of the Nigerian Bar Association, NBA, Mr. Olisa Agbakoba, SAN, in the suit against the Federal Government and the Minister of Education, had challenged the prescribed different cut-off marks for different states, based on candidates’ gender and their states of origin, arguing that same violates the candidates’ fundamental rights to freedom from discrimination guaranteed by Section 42(1) of the 1999 Constitution.
He had argued that Section 42 of the 1999 Constitution prohibits administrative or executive actions by government that discriminate between Nigerians on grounds of ethnicity, gender, religion and place of origin.
He had asked the court to declare that the administrative act of the respondents, particularly the 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, etc., is discriminatory against applicant’s grandchildren and the group or class they represent, on grounds of ethnicity, states of origin, gender, etc. and therefore violates Section 42(1) of 1999 Constitution.
He also prayed for:
*An order directing the respondents, particularly 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.
*An order of perpetual injunction restraining the respondents, particularly 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.
Agbakoba in a 19-paragraph affidavit had averred that since the inception of the Unity Schools, the Federal Government had maintained great disparity in admission requirements for candidates wishing to be admitted into Federal Government colleges.
In particular, he had argued that the Federal Government prescribed different cut-off marks for different states, based on candidates’ gender and their states of origin.
After hearing arguments from counsel to parties, the court ordered that the Federal Government and Minister of Education should apply uniform cut-off mark to all candidates seeking admission into Federal Government Colleges, irrespective of their states of origin.