Olawale Ajimotokan in Abuja
The Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA) has criticised the reaction of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), to the statement by the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Ibrahim Muhammad Tanko, where the latter advocated for a constitutional amendment to address contemporary Muslim concerns to the application of Sharia.
Justice Tanko had incurred the wrath of CAN via an address read by the Grand Khadi of Niger State, Justice Muhammad Danjuma, at the Judges Conference at Ahmadu Bello University, which CAN had described as an attempt to Islamise Nigeria.
The CJN’s address had alleged a constitutional lacuna on the application of Sharia, which he said be amended by the National Assembly
In a statement issued yesterday by its spokesman, Aselemi Ibrahim, NSCIA said the CJN’s remarks were within his constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.
The Nigerian Supreme Islamic Council insists that Section 237 (2) (b) of the 1999 Constitution provides for 21 judges for the Appellate Court, out of which three must be experts in Islamic Jurisprudence.
It, however, wondered that although the number of the judges had since been increased from 21 to 49, but without a corresponding increase in the number of judges with expertise in Islamic Jurisprudence.
It said this was an imbalance that could only be addressed through a constitutional amendment, and was one of the many issues that the CJN was trying to bring to the fore.
“The Nigerian Constitution is already “religiously inclined.” That is why it grants freedom of worship to every Nigerian. It is this religious inclination that gives Christians in the country Saturdays and Sundays as work-free days to attend their Synagogues and Churches.
“Our Constitution already recognises and accommodates Sharia as contained in Section 275 which addresses the Sharia Courts of Appeal.
Similarly, Sections 262 and 277 of the Constitution restrict the application of Sharia to Personal Law such as marriage, inheritance, divorce, etc. So, contrary to the impression being made, the issue of Sharia is not alien to the Constitution,” NSCIA said.
It accused the Christian body of Islamophobia.
The Council accused CAN of double standard by maintaining a muted stance, when the Governor of Rivers State, Nyesom Wike, openly declared Christianity as a state religion in Rivers State in flagrant disregard of the extant laws of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as contained in Section 10 of the 1999 Constitution as amended, which abhors state religion.
“For the records, Israel and Britain are among many advanced democracies that have incorporated Sharia into their statutes. In fact, in a research carried out in 2012 by Dr. Samia Bano of the University of Reading UK, it is revealed that no fewer than 30 Councils have adopted Sharia law alongside civil law in the UK,” NSCIA said. It lashed CAN of sacrificing and defiling national interest, cohesion and integration. It also said the Christian umbrella body is working with foreign interests to undermine the unity of the country and stoke the fire of instability.
NSCIA expressed apprehension that CAN had been peddling a lot of conspiracy theories to the United States and other foreign countries, noting those countries have accepted those hues without regard to the rules of evidence and investigation.
The Council also said it viewed the US government listing of Nigeria on the watch list of countries with religious rights violations as misinformed and biased, simply because a Muslim is the leader of the country.
“On former CJN Walter Onnoghen, everything that CAN has alleged is only based on conspiracy theory”.