After Nigeria's return to civil rule in 1999, Muslim majority states in the north imposed Sharia law. The process was marked by bloody clashes between Muslims and Christians in states with significant number of non Muslims like in Kaduna and Bauchi, many lives were lost.
Many people were displaced and property destroyed. At the end of the day, Sharia ruled -fully or partially- in many of the states. Right now the situation remains volatile. Tension and unease calm reign across the region. Hatred, division and suspicion caused by the introduction of Sharia law is not going away too soon.
At the beginning of Sharia implementation, governments in these states assured the people that the law would not apply to non Muslims; that the law was for Muslims only. But this is not the case today.
Most Sharia implementing states have become fully fledged Islamic states where non Muslims are treated as second class citizens. In fact many Sharia implementing states have made Islam a state religion and promotion of Islam a state business.
Of major concern however, is the unfortunate news that one Mrs. Agbahime Bridget was killed last week Thursday by a mob in Kano State after she was accused of blasphemy. The Kofar Wambai market woman would have been sentenced to death by beheading anyway had she been arrested by Kano’s Islamic police and tried by the state’s Sharia court. But the apparently religious mob that found her guilty of soiling the name of Islam’s holy prophet was obviously too enraged for the process of law.
More recently in January 2016, a Kano upper Sharia Court sentenced one Abdulaziz Dauda, popularly known as Abdul Inyass, to death by hanging for allegedly insulting Prophet Mohammed. The accused is appealing the verdict. Bridget was not afforded that luxury last Thursday evening. Instead of committing Bridget to ‘their own’ Sharia law which Nigeria had unbelievably added to its “secular” constitution, the angry mob allegedly took hold of the woman and beat her to death. This reportedly happened while the woman’s husband watched on in despair and helplessness.
The woman’s death is re-igniting the debate over whether or not Nigeria should expand the reach of Sharia Law to every state in the country. Abdullahi Salame, the APC House of Rep member behind a bill to expand Sharia Law nationwide says the move would protect the Christians. If Sharia law is not expanded, Islamic extremists who attack Christians won’t find a legal deterrent, the rep stated in media reports.
In Nigeria, Sharia has been instituted as a main body of civil and criminal law in 9 Muslim-majority states and in some parts of 3 Muslim-plurality states since 1999. Kano state instituted Sharia courts and customary courts on June 21, 2001. Eight other northern states instituted the same since 1999. The move began with the then Zamfara State governor Ahmad Sani Yerima who began the push for the institution of Sharia at the state level of government in 1999.
Under Sharia law, women are flogged or even beheaded for committing adultery, and thieves are amputated. But Islamic scholars say the law applies only to Muslims.
The time has come for Sharia implementing states to call their flocks to order. They need to divest from state funding of Sharia and invest in building schools, colleges and skill acquisition centers. Sharia states should invest in schemes that create jobs, tackle poverty and empower the people; schemes that address the development needs of persons of all faiths and none.
Sharia implementing states should check the activities of Hisbah and other quasi Sharia policing organs in the region. These groups are spreading Islam-based hatred, fear and intolerance. If as they say, there is no compulsion in Islam, then there is no need for Sharia police at least in indigent Muslim majority states in northern Nigeria.
Sharia agitators declared in 1999 that the destiny and development of Muslim majority states was tied to Sharia implementation. Going by these recent developments in northern Nigeria, one may ask: Is Sharia implementation desirable in today’s Nigeria?