House of Reps – Sharia Law Debate Ongoing
FULL SCALE SHARIA LAW IN OUR LEGAL SYSTEM?
I was shocked to watch the live proceedings of the House of Representatives as covered by NTA2 and saw that the bill calling for the criminal aspects of Islamic Sharia law to be implemented in our legal system in Nigeria at the Federal and states passed the second reading today!
I was even more shocked because even though there were many Christians in the House no one raised an objection! The Speaker of the House, Hon Yakubu Dogara, who presided over the proceedings, said that what this meant was that it would now move to committee level where it will be discussed fully before the House would decide on it finally; but it is curious that not even one voice of dissent was aired against it!
I waited till 9pm to hear what NTA Network news would report about it, but there was a blackout of reportage about it! Of course, other issues discussed and decided in the House today were reported but not this one! The bill to amend the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria to make provision for the full implementation of Sharia Criminal law at the Federal and states legal system has passed the second reading in the House of Representatives and no one is telling Nigerians what is happening! For all we know, when a bill passes the second reading unchallenged in parliament it is almost as good as passed!
Long before the 2nd Republic, Muslim leaders in Nigeria have always agitated for the full implementation of Sharia in Nigeria. Nobody has forgotten the hot debates that took place in the Constituent Assembly of 1978 about the place of Sharia in the 1979 Constitution. Christian members kicked against the full implementation of full Sharia because non-Muslims would fall victim of this law. In the end, a compromise was reached that the Sharia Personal Law be allowed, not the criminal aspects. It was the same thing that happened in 1988 Constituent Assembly that produced the 1989 Constitution, which never took off. In fact, in the 1988 Constituent Assembly, General Ibrahim Babangida, then Nigeria’s self- styled military President, had to stop all debates relating to Sharia and other sensitive issues when he saw how inflammable the debates were becoming, and retained the status quo.
The 1999 Constitution drew much from both the 1979 and 1989 Constitutions and retained Sharia Personal law. Now, Muslims, under PMB, have surreptitiously attempted to amend the Constitution to insert the full implementation of Sharia without carrying Nigerians along! Muslim leaders have always argued that Sharia law is meant for Muslims only. But Christians have always refused to buy the argument because in practice, non- Muslims have often been dragged before Sharia courts and have been adjudicated by a legal system repugnant to their faith. Several documented cases abound to prove this! Besides, Christians have always argued why the government that is supposed to be neutral to all religions should uphold the religious laws of one religion with public funds to the harm of the adherents of other faiths!
My book, Sharia In Nigeria: A Christian Perspective (Challenge Publications, 1988), documents the issues succinctly clear! These are some of the issues that make some of us to take with a pinch of salt the claims that PMB means well for this country! Our job is to bring these issues to the fore to create awareness of what is happening. Whatever happens afterwards is beyond our power. It’s up to you all!
BY DANJUMA BYANG