A court in Kano on Wednesday, August 17, ruled that Islamic religious law does not violate the constitution; dismissing a test-case challenge from a singer who was sentenced to death two years ago on the charge of blasphemy.
But in a majority decision, the court in northern Kano state also upheld a lower court’s call for a re-trial.
Yahaya Aminu Sharif was convicted of having shared a blasphemous message on WhatsApp. Thereafter, he was sentenced to death in August 2020 by a Sharia court. The High Court in Kano threw out the conviction and ordered a retrial. But Sharif appealed, challenging the constitutionality of the religious law.
Nigeria is divided between the largely Christian south and mostly Muslim north; with the constitution neutral on religion.
Kano enforces sharia, including the death penalty against blasphemy.
Judge Abubakar Muazu Lamido said on Wednesday the challenge by Sharif, who has been in prison since 2020, was unfounded; adding that it was made “more out of sentiment than (in line with the) law”.
“The appeal is devoid of merit and is therefore dismissed,” Lamido said in a ruling delivered via Zoom.
The Kano state government also opposed the appeal which was heard in June; arguing that Sharia does not violate the national charter, a view held by many in northern Nigeria.
In 2020, when Sharif was sentenced to death; a teenager was jailed for 10 years by Kano Sharia Court over similar accusations.
The rulings drew international condemnation and the secular branch of the state’s high court freed the teenager but ordered a retrial for Sharif.
Sharif’s lawyer said he would study Wednesday’s judgment before responding.
Meanwhile, Nigerian students enrolled in federally funded universities would not be able to attend classes since the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) was unable to come to a resolution to stop the strike.
Tuesday’s meeting between ASUU and the administration failed to produce a resolution to the strike.
As a result, the six-month-old lecturers’ strike at public universities is expected to continue.
The government-instituted Professor Nimi Briggs Committee and the striking academics met on Tuesday at the National University Commission in Abuja in the hopes of breaking the deadlock.
Members of the Briggs renegotiation committee did not present any new offers to the table, according to a top member of ASUU who requested anonymity and spoke to Channels Television.
Instead, the committee begged the academics to call off the strike, the ASUU source claimed, assuring them that their issues would be addressed in the 2023 budget.