Blasphemy in Nigeria’s authorized devices: an explainer

A courtroom in Kano, northern Nigeria, not long ago convicted an atheist for producing social media posts it located to be blasphemous against Islam. Following a lengthy trial, Mubarak Bala pleaded responsible and was sentenced to 24 many years in prison. The Discussion Africa’s Wale Fatade asked Islamic law expert AbdulRazzaq Alaro to clarify the judgement.

Is blasphemy a criminal offence in Nigeria?

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

Blasphemy is also an offence underneath Nigeria’s criminal law in states that place it on their statute books. This is correct for states in the two the north and the south.

The defendant in the 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 Point out. He was alleged to have posted one thing regarded to be insulting to God, Prophet Muhammad and Islam in normal.

At very first glance this cost does not show up to be a person of blasphemy, but somewhat of an offence towards religion. Nonetheless, a shut reading of Kano’s penal code demonstrates that the demand equals that of blasphemy, an offence under each the state’s penal code and its system of sharia regulation. The two are executed side by aspect.

It is significant to notice that the consequence would have been the similar in a Lagos Higher Courtroom mainly because the prison legislation of Lagos State also criminalises blasphemous utterances. They are criminalised under segment 124, which forbids insults to religion.

Have there been related convictions just before?

In the north indeed, but not in the south.

There have been a amount of trials of comparable offences less than 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 cost popularly described as blasphemy. A singer, Yahaya Sherif Aminu, was sentenced to loss of life by hanging in 2020 for the exact same offence by a sharia courtroom in Kano.

On the other hand, the superior court overturned the two convictions. Farouq was acquitted for remaining a insignificant. Sherif’s scenario was despatched back for retrial.

There are no records of both of these two conditions acquiring been despatched on enchantment to a higher courtroom.

It’s worthy of noting that the Supreme Courtroom of Nigeria has also recognised blasphemy as a sharia offence. The court docket affirmed the conviction of the defendants for taking guidelines into their have hands by extra-judicially killing a suspect of blasphemy. It went on to explain blasphemy as “a serious crime which is punishable by death” below sharia, noting on the other hand that it “has to be founded as a result of evidence ahead of a court of law” and that “the killing is controlled and sanctioned by the authorities.”

How are the penal and felony codes and sharia law managed in Nigeria?

Nigeria operates penal as properly as criminal codes. Equally are substantive regulations on crimes and punishments in Nigeria. The penal code applies in the north, where by there is a Muslim majority, and the legal code in the southern section of the country, the place there is a Christian the vast majority.

The regulations use different names for offences. For case in point, the offence of murder in the legal code is referred to as culpable murder – punishable with loss of life – in the penal code. Manslaughter in the felony code is named culpable murder – not punishable with death – in the penal code.

Some functions are offences below the penal code but not underneath the felony code. Examples incorporate adultery and drinking alcohol.

As for the sharia legislation, it is applicable in some states in Nigeria, particularly in the predominantly Muslim north, in private issues, this sort of as relationship, divorce, inheritance and succession. Due to the fact 1999, some states have also manufactured rules to apply sharia law in felony issues. Kano Condition is a single of them.

How many authorized techniques function in Nigeria?

Every single Nigerian state has a distinct authorized technique. This is because every state is constitutionally mandated to have a State Home of Assembly to make regulations for it on issues that do not tumble below the special legislative checklist which stipulates what falls underneath the country’s federal jurisdiction.

The Supreme Court is Nigeria’s apex courtroom. Its word is ultimate in all situations – including blasphemy.

All Nigerian legal guidelines make it obvious that beneath no circumstance ought to individuals just take laws into their arms as a result of additional-judicial killings. This is also the stand of sharia, as it gives for suspects of any criminal offense to be tried using and sentenced, if identified responsible, only by courts of proficient jurisdiction and not by way of “jungle justice”.

Isn’t Nigeria a secular point out?

Part 10 of Nigeria’s 1999 structure (as amended) prohibits the adoption of any religion as a state faith.

Having said that, the similar structure also states in its preamble that:

the people of Nigeria have solved to stay as 1 indivisible and indissoluble sovereign nation underneath God.

The merged looking through of these two constitutional provisions for that reason supports designating Nigeria as a multi-religious point out fairly than a secular state.

Secular states are those people that are not related in any way with religion. Based mostly on its structure, Nigeria is not a person of them.