The condemnation of a Nigerian citizen, 22-year-old Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, to death by a Kano Sharia court over blasphemy brings back the question as to the real status of the criminal aspect of Sharia Law under the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
On October 27, 1999, former Zamfara State Governor, Ahmad Sani (Yeriman Bakura), launched the full Sharia Law thus incorporating the criminal codes of the Islamic jurisprudence, contrary to the Constitution. Today, “full” Sharia is being enforced in 12 Northern states – Zamfara, Kano, Sokoto, Katsina, Bauchi, Jigawa, Borno, Kebbi, Yobe, Kaduna, Niger and Gombe.
It only supposedly applies to Muslims. Sharif-Aminu, a musician, was convicted of blasphemy against Prophet Mohammed by an Upper Sharia Court in Kano presided over by Khadi Aliyu Mohammed Kani on Monday, August 10, 2020. The convict has the right of appeal.
The main issue here is whether a Nigerian citizen, irrespective of his circumstances of birth, ethnic, religious or cultural origin, can be put to death except through the provisions of the 1999 Constitution as amended?
Sharia courts in many parts of the North have pronounced numerous death sentences on crime suspects, but only one such convict, Sani Yakubu, has been executed after trial in a Katsina Sharia Court in 2002 for killing a young woman and her two children during a robbery.
It is baffling that more than 20 years after the adoption of the “full” Sharia Law in the 12 states of the North, Nigerians have not picked the courage to resolve the contradiction of allowing a theocratic legal system to unilaterally assume the power to deprive some Nigerians their constitutional right to life outside the ambit of our Constitution.
Should this “unconstitutional status quo” be allowed to continue? Does it mean that any part of the country that summons enough mob power to foist any legal system of its choice outside our constitutional charter is permitted to do so? Have we succumbed to the impunity of “might is right”?
We deplore the condonement of any practice that disdains our Constitution. The Constitution is the force that binds all Nigerians and gives them their common identity as compatriots. The “full” Sharia Law is still illegitimate under our Constitution. It is yet to be legalised through the processes of constitution amendment and approval by the president.
Until then, we consider any death sentence or other bodily harm visited on a Nigerian citizen which is not in accord with our Constitution as an extra-judicial and illegal act. Nigeria cannot claim to be one country and yet permit an unconstitutional legal system to flourish to the point of depriving our citizens their right to life.
Nigeria is a democracy not theocracy.