A Brief Account Of The Sharia In The Nigerian Legal System

The administration of the Sharia as the personal law for Moslems in Northern Nigeria in civil causes and matters has not created any controversy whatsoever. Nor has there been any protest from any quarter regarding the right of Sharia courts to exercise jurisdiction over disputes involving the application of the Sharia in matters which have been clearly set out in our Constitution. It is in respect of the administration of the Sharia in criminal causes and matters that controversy has arisen. In a very recent publication by a Committee of Concerned Citizens on the Sharia Issue in Nigeria, a number of distinguished jurists (Moslems and Christians) contributed considered papers on the subject of the Sharia Issue in Nigeria. Two of these jurists (one Moslem and one Christian in the person of the Honourable Mohammed Bello a former Chief Justice of Nigeria and Professor B. O. Nwabueze an acknowledged authority and highly respected on authority Nigerian Constitutional Law very clearly explained that it would be unconstitutional for any State to impose some of the punishments prescribed by the Sharia. For example, part of what the Honourable Mohammed Bello said reads as follows: “It is clear from the provision of section 36(12) that a person should not be convicted for any Sharia offence unless that offence and its punishment are enacted by the National Assembly of or State House of Assembly. Accordingly, application of the Sharia criminal law without codification by the National Assembly or a State House of Assembly will be unconstitutional. It should be stated here, for the avoidance of doubt, that the Sharia law as stated in the Quran, Hadith and other sources is not a ‘written law’ within the meaning of Section 36(12) of the 1999 Constitution.”



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