Condemnations trailed the death by hanging sentence handed over to a 22-year musician, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, by an Upper Sharia Court in the Hausawa Filin Hockey area of Kano State for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad.
Sharif-Aminu was found guilty by the Upper Sharia Court of committing blasphemy for a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March, an allegation the Hausa musician did not deny.
The trial Judge, Khadi Aliyu Muhammad Kani said, while handing over the death sentence that convict can appeal against the judgment of the court.
An Abuja based lawyer, Godwin Sunday Ogboji, in his reaction, told Tribune Online that the Sharia court is an inferior court that cannot hand over a death sentence to a person.
Ogboji said the Upper Sharia court in an inferior court of record as it was not captured Section 6 of the 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, as amended as a superior court.
He said, even though states have the power to promulgate their own laws, it must not be averse to the constitution of the country.
Ogboji wondered why an Upper Sharia court would take somebody’s life for blasphemy and asked where blasphemy is found in the law.
According to the lawyer, “The judgment can be appealed as Sharia court is an inferior court of record, which judgment can be appealed at the state high court. The death sentence is a very serious punishment.”
Another lawyer, Amos Bature, in his reaction said the Kano state Sharia Penal Code Law of 2000 said, “whoever publicly insults or seeks to incite contempt of any religion in such a manner that will likely lead to a breach of peace, shall be punished with imprisonment for a term which may be extended to one year or with a fine of N20, 000 or all.
“Chapter 20 of the state penal code states also that whoever by any means publicly insults or seeks to incite by using words or expression bin written or verbal by means of gesture which shows or demonstrate any form of contempt or abuse against the Holy Quaran or any prophet shall, on conviction be liable to death.”
States across Muslim-majority northern Nigeria use both secular law and Sharia law, which does not apply to non-Muslims.
Only one of the death sentences passed by Nigeria’s Sharia courts has been carried out since they were reintroduced in 1999.
The singer who is currently in detention had gone into hiding after he composed the song.
Critics said the song was blasphemous as it praised an imam from the Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood to the extent it elevated him above the Prophet Muhammad.
The leader of the protesters that called for the musician’s arrest in March, Idris Ibrahim, told the BBC that the judgement will serve as a warning to others “contemplating toeing Yahaya’s path.”
“This (judgement) will serve as a deterrent to others who feel they could insult our religion or prophet and go scot-free,” he said.
The last time a Nigerian Sharia court passed a death sentence was in 2016 when Abdulazeez Inyass, was sentenced to death for blaspheming against Islam during after a secret trial in Kano.
He was alleged to have said that Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, the Senegalese founder of the Tijaniya sect, which has a large following across West Africa, “was bigger than Prophet Muhammad.”
The sentence has not been carried out as a death penalty in Nigeria requires the sign-off of the state governor.
Twelve states in Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated north operate the Sharia system of justice, but only Muslims can be tried in its courts.
The Sharia system, which also has its own Court of Appeal, handles both civil and criminal matters involving Muslims and its judgements can also be challenged in Nigeria’s secular Courts of Appeal and the Supreme Court.
The Sharia judges, known as alkalis, are learned in both Islamic and secular laws.
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Sharia Court death sentence