Shari’a Law: MULAN Speaks on CJN Tanko’s Comment

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Statement by the Muslim Lawyers Association of Nigeria (MULAN) on the CJN’s comment on inclusion of Sharia Law in the constitution

The Undeserved Attacks By Islamophobes On The Honourable Chief Justice Of Nigeria, Honourable Justice I. T. Muhammad, Phd.

The Muslim Lawyers’ Association of Nigeria (MULAN) is concerned about the resurgence of attacks by well-known Islamophobes to wit: Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria (HURIWA), Afenifere, Ohaneze, Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), Middle Belt Group and their allies on the Honourable Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN) that have occupied the Nigerian public space of recent. The basis for the unnecessary spat by CAN and other Islamophobes on the CJN and which they used as a decoy to insult Muslims, is the press report of a Keynote Address delivered on behalf of the CJN by the Grand Kadi of Niger State at the 20th Annual Judges Conference on the theme: “Documentation of Contracts in Islamic Law: Procedure, Sample Precedents and Practice” held at Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria

We state at the onset that MULAN is not in a position to give authenticity or otherwise to the statement ascribed to the CJN that made CAN and its fellow Islamophobes to go on their uncalled for display of intolerance to legitimately expressed views of a person whose face and achievements they have never hidden their aversion for. Amazingly, CAN in its press release did express reservation as to the authenticity of the statement attributed to the CJN by stating that he might have been quoted out of context. Still, CAN went ahead to lampoon the CJN based on a statement it entertained reservation about! In this scenario, does CAN wants to be taken seriously by discerning minds?   

The antecedent of CAN especially since the past two decades has shown it to be dominated by those who have scant regard for the rights, feelings and thoughts of Nigerian Muslims. It has turned itself from a Christian body to an amoral antagonistic group of people with a passionate hatred for Islam and Muslims. Any posture to the contrary is just pretense. The new mantra of CAN and for which it has enlisted its long list of jejune groups with laughable appellations seeking for relevance in order to get some crumbs from some donor institutions, is to oppose anything that has to do with Islam or has the support of Muslims no matter how laudable or beneficial it is to all Nigerians. It matters not to CAN if its opposition deprives a large chunk of Christians the benefit of such. A case in point is the Hijab struggle by the female Muslims and the willingness of CAN to directly and through its proxies frustrate the effort despite the fact that some of its members such as the Catholics do not encourage the nakedness of their female members in the public.

Therefore, MULAN was not taken aback by CAN and its proxies’ attacks on the CJN for the statement said to have been made on his behalf. The sad aspect of it is the embellishment of the statement with falsehood to serve a pre-determined end of heating up the social-political space of the country with unrewarding religious tension.. To fuel their Islamophobia agenda, CAN and its proxies disingenuously turned the CJN’s statement around to fit their often repeated and worn-out narrative of an Islamization agenda which only exists in their imagination.       

Without prejudice to the foregoing, MULAN finds nothing, absolutely nothing wrong with the statement ascribed to the CJN. The statement was made in good faith and called for the doing of justice to the Nigerian Muslim who till today gets the short end of the stick in the country. We find nothing unsavory in advocating for an increase in the number of Justices of the Court of Appeal who are well grounded in Islamic Law given the fact that the number of Justices in that court was increased by an additional twenty. There is wisdom in asking that those who want to specialize in Islamic Law in the University should be taught in the Arabic language in which the primary source of the Law is written. This will enhance a proper grasp of the Law on their part and make them better practitioners unlike the present situation where a tertiary language – English – is used with its attendant deficiency.

It is an undisputed historical fact that Islam and its way of life was firmly established in Nigeria for well-over eight hundred years before the advent of Christianity. However, with the coming of colonialism in the 19th century, the British made their common law and doctrines of equity (rooted in Christianity) to supplant the existing Islamic Law. Till date the legal practice in Nigeria, including the attire, is based on Christian values. The Christian days of worship are non-juridical days while all the superior courts go on vacation during the week in which there are Christian festivals. See for instance, Order 46 of the Federal High Court Civil Procedure Rules 2019    

The British Christian Colonialists through their Ordinances deliberately made the practice of Islamic Law to be subordinated to the Christian common law and doctrines of equity. The relics of this is what CAN and its proxies have carried on to this day. The agitation by the Muslims to be allowed to practice their religion unencumbered was stoutly resisted by CAN and its proxies in the Constituent Assembly in 1978. The walkout by the delegates who were Muslims was what allowed for the highly qualified provisions for Shari’ah Court of Appeal to be created and vested with the jurisdiction to entertain matters of Islamic Personal Law as well as the appointment of at least three persons learned in Islamic Law to the bench of the Court of Appeal. See Sections 260, 277 and 237 respectively of the Constitution of Nigeria, 1999

It is important to point out that since 1978, there has been substantial increase in the number of the Court of Appeal Divisions as well as in the Justices. However, the number of Justices grounded in Islamic Law has remained stagnant at three! This is unfair to the Muslims as many appeals on Shari’ah matters are left unattended to in the various Divisions of the Court of Appeal. Hence, the crying need for an increase in the number of Islamic Law Jurists to the Court of Appeal bench.

The fundamental rule of Shari’ah is that it does not apply to non-Muslims. In the various States where limited aspects of it is practiced, the Christians and other non-Muslims are not subjected to its application. This is despite the bogey that CAN and its proxies have tried to create in order to instill fear in the minds of members of the public. The Muslims are not members of CAN and they are agitating for Shari’ah to govern their affairs. They have a constitutional right under Section 38 of the Nigerian Constitution to manifest the practice and observance of Islamic religion and its teaching unencumbered. What is CAN’s business in how they elect to run their affairs?

The hypocrisy of CAN and its proxies like HURIWA is brought out by the fact that Governor Nyesom Wike of Rivers State has publicly declared that the State is a Christian State. He re-emphasized it a couple of days ago during thanksgiving. This is a flagrant violation of Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution of Nigeria which forbids any State from adopting a State religion. Neither CAN nor HURIWA nor their allies thought it fit to caution this highly unbecoming conduct of Governor Wike. After all he is serving their interest to make Nigeria remain a Christian State! However, they are ready to create a storm in a tea cup for a factually justifiable and valid statement said to have been made by the CJN (who does not controls political power) because of their affliction with Islamophobia

Ordinarily, CAN is expected to be above the pedestrian display it has put up in this case. It is an association that ought to make the pursuit of justice its focus. Justice in its true sense is for all without any discrimination. Section 17(1) and (2) of the Nigerian Constitution recognizes this fact. While we would not bother ourselves with the other cheer groups of CAN, it is necessary to condemn the disappointing role of HURIWA. As a group of writers, a more cerebral approach to issues of public concern should be the basis of comments emanating from it. The group failed in its constitutional duty to hold those who have turned their various States into Christian States and are discriminatory against Muslims to account for their misdeeds. Instead, it has become an agency for CAN and for propagation of anti-Muslim agenda.

Going forward, we wish to appeal to CAN to rise beyond pettiness and leave politicians to play their game of intrigues. The leadership of CAN should be more concerned with uniting the different segments of our country and deploy its huge resources in the pursuit of justice for all Nigerians. In this regard, there will be no need to denigrate any other Nigerian or public officer as was done to the person of the CJN by CAN and its proxies in this instance. We commend to CAN and to us all, Section 24(1) of the Nigerian Constitution which provides thus;

“It shall be the duty of every citizen to respect the dignity of other citizens and the rights and legitimate interest of others and live in unity and harmony and in the spirit of common brotherhood.”     

  For: MUSLIM LAWYERS’ ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (MULAN)

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