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:
@feathersproject its all shrouded in so Much mystery n secrecy The report claims even the name of the judge was kept secret
— Chief Priest (@_iamarome) July 1, 2015
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?
Secular in theory. Multi-religious in practice. https://t.co/8WoY6c4Fz1
— Damocles (@Damocleansword) July 1, 2015
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:
A religious court should not be able to effect the death penalty in a Federalist system, there's something wrong with that. #SaveKanoNine — Andre Blaze Henshaw (@AndreBlaze) July 1, 2015
Similar sentiments were expressed by @NaijaHistory, who called on the governor of Kano state to intervene:
When did ‘blasphemy’ become a crime deserving of capital punishment in #Nigeria? @GovUmarGanduje must revoke this error. #SaveKanoNine — A|#BringBackOurGirls (@NaijaHistory) July 1, 2015
Hydra pointed out the irony:
Terrorists are being kept in prisons but ordinary blasphemers are getting death sentences. #SaveKanoNine #StopSharia — Hydra (@briandark) July 1, 2015
Dupe Kllia pointed out on the futility of playing God's warrior:
What is happening in #Kano? Ppl should not ve to be killed in 2015 because of blasphemy. Leave them to God or just leave them! #SaveKanoNine — Dupe Killa (@dupekilla) July 1, 2015
Onye Nkuzi was furious that in 21st century, blasphemy is considered a crime deserving death:
Nine Nigerians have been “sentenced to death for blasphemy” This would be ludicrous if not so tragic #SaveKanoNine — Onye Nkuzi (@cchukudebelu) July 1, 2015
This Twitter user asked Amnesty International to step in:
Dear @amnesty, Kano govt has sentenced nine Nigerians to death for blaspheming Allah. This is d type of crime u should fight #SaveKanoNine
— #ABookForAfrica (@Gomeznsude) July 1, 2015
However, not all are dissenting the sentence. Ibraheem M claims:
You want to #SaveKanoNine abi? Just go out the streets of Kano & say you will protest their death sentence. You too, will be history! Idiots
— Ibraheem M (@ibrah_shuwa) July 1, 2015
As Muslims we can't force you to like us or our way of life. That's your choice. But you should never interfere in our affairs #SaveKanoNine — Ibraheem M (@ibrah_shuwa) July 1, 2015
While Opeyemi Ahmed, also Muslim, writes:
No one can defend God to pass death sentence on others, I'm a Muslim and in totality I condemn it. #SaveKanoNine
— Amb Opeyemi Ahmed (@amb_opeyemi) July 1, 2015
Zebbook asks a poignant question that needs to be answered:
This blasphemy something, can traditional worshipers also make a case for their gods and sentence the rest of us?
— B. (@zebbook) July 1, 2015