The Sharia Bill and public holiday

A Sharia Bill which, if passed into law, will empower Sharia courts, wherever they may be located in Nigeria, to try criminal cases involving both Muslims and all non- Muslims, including Christians is currently before the House of Representatives. The Bill is said to have scaled through its second reading in the House of Representatives and on a fair way to becoming a Federal Law, an Act! The secularity of Nigeria is enshrined by section 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 (as amended). According to that section, which recognizes the plurality of Nigeria in terms of religious diversities, ethnic differences, the disparate congeries of cultural backgrounds, etc, “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt ANY religion as State religion” (emphasis added).

Section 42 (1) of the same Constitution, the fundamental Law of the land, has the provisions of section 10 in view when it sternly warns that “A citizen of Nigeria of a particular community, ethnic group, place of origin, sex, religion or political opinion shall not, by reason only that he is such a person—(a) be subjected either expressly by, or in the practical application of , any law in force in Nigeria or any executive or administrative action of the government, to disabilities or restrictions to which citizens of Nigeria of other communities, ethnic groups, places of origin, sex, religious or political opinions are not made subject;….” These provisions are a warning to all religious bigots, afflicted with religious fanaticism, including the killer instinct, and political ideologues in the corridors of power, with murderous and xenophobic proclivities, not to subject any Nigerian from any State of the Federation other than his/her own to a treatment that is foreign to him/her in his/her State of origin just because of his/her ethnic group, place of origin, sex and divergent religious or political orientation. All the States of the Federation cannot be Sharia-compliant!

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How did an arm of the National Assembly, the Federal Parliament, come by a Bill on religion to empower States to adopt a religion as State religion when even a House of Assembly of a State is forbidden by section 10 of the Constitution to introduce such a Bill? If the intendment of proposed law is that Sharia courts, Muslim courts, should have the power to try both Muslim and non-Muslim faithful, including Christians, it means that if, for example, a Christian commits the offence of theft, the Moslem penalty of amputation prescribed by the Sharia Law, instead of a term of imprisonment or a fine dictated by the Penal or Criminal Code Act, will be meted out to him! Pray, aren’t the inclusion of Sharia courts in the nation’s Constitution (sections 260-264 and 275-279) and the unconstitutional adoption of the Sharia (Islam) by various States in the North, not enough for Muslims? How do we explain this unveiled attempt to establish an Islamic theocracy in Nigeria?

Quite clearly, this plot to pass a Sharia Bill into law (by the Federal Legislature) is designed, at least, to overtly empower Islam, one of the religions in this country (contrary to section 10 of the 1999 Constitution), to do away with the Penal Code Act, a Federal Law, and replace it with a religious law, with draconian sanctions, or, which is more frightening, to make Islam the official religion of Nigeria. That a “directive” from the Sultan of Sokoto and President-General of the Nigerian Supreme Council for Islamic Affairs (NSCIA, Alhaji Sa’ad Abubakar III, to a Federal minister, the Minister of the Interior, Rtd. Lt. Gen. Abdulrahman Bello Dambazau, “to the effect the Ramadan fast continues today (Tuesday) as a result of the non-sighting of the moon”, could extend the officially declared two-day Muslim Ramadan holiday from Tuesday, July 5, 2016 and Wednesday, July 6, 2016 (2 days), to Thursday, July 7, 2016 (3 days), does not augur well for religious peace in a secular country. Why would the sponsor(s) of the Sharia Bill turn a blind eye to the fact that Nigeria is already beleaguered with noisome insecurity from both the North and South?

The governments of all civilized nations, the world over, hold religion at an arm’s length. This is by reason of the divisive nature of religion, which Karl Marx rightly described as “opium of the people”. We appeal to the National Assembly, particularly the House of Representatives, to snuff the life out the Sharia Bill before it in the interest of religious peace.