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Blasphemy in Nigeria’s legal systems: an explainer

A court docket in Kano, northern Nigeria, not too long ago convicted an atheist for earning social media posts it observed to be blasphemous in opposition to Islam. Soon after a lengthy demo, Mubarak Bala pleaded responsible and was sentenced to 24 several years in prison. The Dialogue Africa’s Wale Fatade questioned Islamic regulation specialist AbdulRazzaq Alaro to describe the judgement.

Is blasphemy a prison offence in Nigeria?

Blasphemy is an offence below sharia (Islamic law). Sharia legislation operates in most northern states, which includes Kano.

Blasphemy is also an offence less than Nigeria’s felony regulation in states that set it on their statute publications. This is accurate for states in each the north and the south.

The defendant in the latest situation in Kano was convicted of “inciting disturbance and insulting” and “exciting contempt of religious creed” under sections 114 and 210 of the penal code legislation of Kano State. He was alleged to have posted anything deemed to be insulting to God, Prophet Muhammad and Islam in basic.

At initial glance this cost does not look to be just one of blasphemy, but instead of an offence versus faith. On the other hand, a close looking through of Kano’s penal code displays that the demand equals that of blasphemy, an offence less than both of those the state’s penal code and its system of sharia regulation. The two are carried out facet by facet.

It’s vital to be aware that the final result would have been the identical in a Lagos High Courtroom mainly because the felony regulation of Lagos Condition also criminalises blasphemous utterances. They are criminalised less than section 124, which forbids insults to religion.

Have there been very similar convictions in advance of?

In the north sure, but not in the south.

There have been a quantity of trials of equivalent offences below the penal code and sharia penal code in the northern sections of the state.

In 2020 Omar Farouq was sentenced to 10 years’ imprisonment on a charge popularly explained as blasphemy. A singer, Yahaya Sherif Aminu, was sentenced to dying by hanging in 2020 for the similar offence by a sharia courtroom in Kano.

Having said that, the substantial court docket overturned the two convictions. Farouq was acquitted for staying a small. Sherif’s case was sent again for retrial.

There are no information of possibly of these two scenarios acquiring been sent on attraction to a increased court docket.

It’s worth noting that the Supreme Court of Nigeria has also recognised blasphemy as a sharia offence. The courtroom affirmed the conviction of the defendants for having rules into their have arms by extra-judicially killing a suspect of blasphemy. It went on to describe blasphemy as “a significant criminal offense which is punishable by death” beneath sharia, noting having said that that it “has to be recognized as a result of evidence prior to a courtroom of law” and that “the killing is managed and sanctioned by the authorities.”

How are the penal and criminal codes and sharia regulation managed in Nigeria?

Nigeria operates penal as nicely as prison codes. Both of those are substantive guidelines on crimes and punishments in Nigeria. The penal code applies in the north, the place there is a Muslim the greater part, and the felony code in the southern component of the country, where there is a Christian bulk.

The legislation use distinct names for offences. For instance, the offence of murder in the legal code is referred to as culpable murder – punishable with death – in the penal code. Manslaughter in the criminal code is termed culpable murder – not punishable with dying – in the penal code.

Some acts are offences beneath the penal code but not less than the legal code. Illustrations include adultery and consuming liquor.

As for the sharia legislation, it is applicable in some states in Nigeria, significantly in the predominantly Muslim north, in individual issues, this kind of as marriage, divorce, inheritance and succession. Since 1999, some states have also designed regulations to use sharia legislation in felony matters. Kano Point out is one of them.

How quite a few authorized methods work in Nigeria?

Every Nigerian condition has a unique lawful method. This is due to the fact each and every state is constitutionally mandated to have a Condition Household of Assembly to make guidelines for it on matters that really don’t tumble underneath the exceptional legislative record which stipulates what falls underneath the country’s federal jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court docket is Nigeria’s apex court. Its term is final in all circumstances – like blasphemy.

All Nigerian rules make it very clear that underneath no circumstance will have to persons consider legislation into their arms through excess-judicial killings. This is also the stand of sharia, as it gives for suspects of any criminal offense to be tried out and sentenced, if found guilty, only by courts of qualified jurisdiction and not through “jungle justice”.

Is not Nigeria a secular point out?

Section 10 of Nigeria’s 1999 constitution (as amended) prohibits the adoption of any faith as a state faith.

On the other hand, the exact same structure also states in its preamble that:

the people today of Nigeria have fixed to live as one indivisible and indissoluble sovereign country beneath God.

The combined looking at of these two constitutional provisions for that reason supports designating Nigeria as a multi-religious state fairly than a secular state.

Secular states are those that are not linked in any way with religion. Primarily based on its structure, Nigeria is not one of them.