A bill seeking to alter the Nigerian constitution so as to increase the jurisdiction of the Sharia law in Nigeria has reportedly scaled through the second reading at the House of Representative.
Seriously, what the name of this bill?
The bill is known as “A Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of Sections 262 and 277 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to increase the Jurisdiction of the of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory and the Sharia Court of Appeal of a State by including Criminal Matters of Hudud and Qisas and for Other Related Matters; (HB. 530)
The bill was sponsored by Abdullahi Balarabe Salame.
Chill first, who is he?
Balarabe is a member of the ruling All Progressive Congress (APC). A former Speaker of the Sokoto State House of Assembly, Balarebe was elected into the House of Representative in 2011 to represent Gwadabawa/Illela federal constituency.
He holds a degree in Islamic studies.
So about the bill….
Somehow, the bill passed the second hearing on May 12, 2016 and has been referred to the House Committee on Constitution Amendment for further deliberation and review
The #Shariabill is ambitious and it aims at making the Sharia law a part of Nigeria’s federal law and if it is passed by the House of Representative, the bill will dangerously undermine the provisions of the same constitution that proclaim Nigeria a secular state.
You mention amendment of Section 262 and 277 of the constitution, biko what does it say?
Basically, both sections spells out the jurisdiction of the Sharia court in the country.
Section 262 stipulates the jurisdiction of the Sharia Court of Appeal in the FCT, while section 277 defines the jurisdiction of Sharia court of a state.
Both sections of the constitution makes it clear that Sharia is limited to civil and personal laws and can only be enforced in states that allow for Sharia. Furthermore, both parties involved in a case before a Sharia court must be Muslim.
Note that the section grants Sharia power in Civil law, not criminal.
But if amended, which is what this bill is aiming at, the jurisdiction of Sharia courts will be extended and its powers far reaching even into our criminal laws.
While 12 Northern states recognize Sharia law, the rest of Nigeria do not. But if this bill is passed, Sharia becomes a part of our federal laws and enforceable in every state in Nigeria, including the Federal Capital Territory. Furthermore, the definition of what is a crime and what isn’t will more than likely be defined through the prism of religiosity.
What does that mean?
It simply means that customary and religious laws, which were instituted for non-criminal matters and in recognition of Nigeria’s diverse religious and cultural beliefs, will become a part of our lawmaking process and the line between religion and law will be more and more difficult to differentiate.
Essentially, whatever the religion condemns will most likely be illegal. States that already have Sharia laws can decide to kick secular laws out and enforce Sharia law fully, hence anyone in the state, whether Muslim or not, can be prosecuted under the state’s Sharia law.
We have reached out to the chair of the Senate committee on information, and have no feedback yet.