Nigerians Are Shocked by the ‘Kano Nine’ Death Sentence for Blasphemy

Gate to Emir's palace in Kano by Shiraz Chakera [Image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license]

Gate to Emir's palace in Kano by Shiraz Chakera. Image under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license

Nine people have been allegedly sentenced to death in the ancient city of Kano, north-west Nigeria, for blaspheming against Prophet Mohammed. Nigeria is a presidential democracy with a central government and 36 federating units (state governments). However, nine states in the northern part of the country practice the Islamic Sharia law.

African Spotlight reports that the judgement was passed by “an Upper Sharia Court, Rijiyar Lemo, in Kano State”:

Early last month, a group of Tijjaniyya sect members, during Maulud in Kano, blasphemed the prophet of Islam and the action was followed by widespread protest in the state. After series of hearing, the Kano State Sharia Court of Appeal, in a statement, said the nine were found guilty under Sections 110 and 382B of the Sharia Penal Court law of 2000.

Oluwadara Kasali of Nigerian Monitor gives more insight on the case:

It was reported that this barbaric judgement created wild jubilation in certain quarters in Kano, this was further worsened when the Kano Government’s expressed satisfaction at the given verdict. A press release by the government stated that this judgement will serve as a deterrent to others…

Four other persons namely Alkassim Abubakar, Yahaya Abubakar, Isa Abubakar and Abdullahi Abubakar were discharged and acquitted as they were not found wanting by the court. However, Abdul-Inyas and Hajiya Mairo, with seven others to death, will be executed over a case of Blasphemy once the Kano State Governor appends his signature on their execution form.

Very little is know aside from these sketchy reports. Arome, a Lagos-based multi-media professional, wrote:

Section 10 of Nigeria's 1999 Constitution (as amended) provides thus: “the Government of the Federation or of a state shall not adopt any religion as state religion.” This makes Nigeria a secular state. However, this has been contentious, as some have argued that this constitutional provision only means that Nigeria is a multi-religious country. Writing for Nigerian news site News Diary Online, Wulumba Iliya Jatau argues:

Looking at this provision on the surface it may appear to discard any element of religion in a state. But a careful examination of the provision may reveal the true intention of the draftsman what section 10 tends to achieve is a balance of religious tolerance and recognition in such a way that no particular religion is given a level of dominance over another. The provision intends to strike a balance in the eyes of law irrespective of the number of adherents to a particular religion.

Justice Niki Tobi once commented on both the issue of section 10 and secularity of Nigeria when he reportedly said: “There is a general notion that section 10 of the 1999 constitution makes Nigeria a Secular Nation. The word secular etymologically means pertaining to things not spiritual, ecclesiastical or not concerned with religion what section 10 is out to achieve is that Nigeria cannot for example adopt Christianity or Islam as a state religion and that is different from secularism”.

Thus from the foregoing, what section 10 tries to rule out is a state of theocracy which is a Government by an established religion. In other words the provision of section 10 is geared towards attaining an equilibrium amongst the different religions in the country. This is further corroborated by the provisions of section 38 and 15 subsection (2) of the 1999 constitution. Section 38 provides that every person shall be entitled to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, including the freedom to change his religion or beliefs, also, as part of the fundamental objectives and directive principles of state Policy contained in chapter II of the constitution. Section 15 (2) provides that national integration shall be actively encouraged; whist discrimination on the ground of Religion shall be prohibited.

The question still remains: is Nigeria a secular nation or a multi-religious country?

Nigerians have taken their outrage to Twitter, where they have condemned the sentence. A Twitter user questioned the jurisdiction of a religious court granting a death sentence:

Similar sentiments were expressed by @NaijaHistory, who called on the governor of Kano state to intervene:

Hydra pointed out the irony:

Dupe Kllia pointed out on the futility of playing God's warrior:

Onye Nkuzi was furious that in 21st century, blasphemy is considered a crime deserving death:

This Twitter user asked Amnesty International to step in:

However, not all are dissenting the sentence. Ibraheem M claims:

While Opeyemi Ahmed, also Muslim, writes:

Zebbook asks a poignant question that needs to be answered:

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