ILLEGALITY OF SHARIA

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LETTER ON ILLEGALITY OF SHARIA

 

from

 

Kanu Agabi (SAN)
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice

 

Federal Government of Nigeria
            Ministry of Justice, Garki, Abuja, Nigeria

 
 

 


March 18, 2002                     HAGF/SHARIA/2002/Vol. 1
 

 


MEMORANDUM
 


To: Governors of  All States that are Practising Sharia Legal System
1.  Zamfara - H.E. Ahmed Yerima Sani, Government House, Gusau
2.  Sokoto  - H.E. Alhaji Attashiru O. Bafarawa, Government House, Sokoto

3.  Niger  - H.E. Alhaji Abdullahi Kure, Government House, Minna
4.  Kano - H.E. Alhaji Rabiu Musa Kwankwanso, Government House, Kano
5.  Katsina - H.E. Alhaji Umaru Musa Yar'Adua, Government House, Katsina
6.  Jigawa  - H.E. Alhaji Ibrahim Saminu Turaki, Government House, Dutse
7.  Borno - H.E. Alhaji Mallam Kachalla, Government House, Maiduguri
8.  Yobe - H.E. Alhaji Bukar Abba Ibrahim, Government House, Damaturu
9.  Kebbi - H.E. Alhaji Adamu Aliru, Government House, Birnin
10. Bauchi - H.E. Alhaji Ahmadu Adamu Muazu; Government House, Bauchi
11. Kaduna- H.E. Alhaji Ahmed Makarfi , Government House, Kaduna
12. Gombe- H.E. Alhaji Abubakar Hashidu, Government House, Gombe
From: Mr. Kanu Agabi (SAN), Attorney-General of the Federation and
Justice
Minister
 
RE: Prohibition of discriminatory punishments.
 
Your Excellencies:
 
It is my solemn duty to bring to your notice the hundreds of letters
which I
receive daily from all over the world protesting the discriminatory
punishments now imposed by some Sharia courts for certain offences. As a
respected member of the world community we cannot be indifferent to these

protests. I crave your indulgence, therefore, to give thought to these
protests and take measures to amend or modify the jurisdiction of the
courts
imposing these punishments so that we do not in the end isolate either
the
country as a whole or the affected states. We must be seen to comply with
our
constitution which in Section 42 (1) (a) provides as follows:
 
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 -  
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.
 
I appreciate that your motive in conferring criminal jurisdiction on the
Sharia Courts is to ensure transparency and achieve a more orderly and
disciplined society. I commend this lofty objective but in achieving it
we
must not violate the constitution. Unless we abide by the constitution we

shall have on our hands an arbitrary society based on the discretion of
our
rulers. That is totally unacceptable.
 
The fact that Sharia law applies to only Moslems or to those who elect to
be
bound by it makes it imperative that the rights of such persons to
equality
with other citizens under the constitution be not infringed. A Moslem
should
not be subjected to a punishment more severe than would be imposed on
other
Nigerians for the same offence. Equality before the law means that
Moslems
should not be discriminated against. As an elected governor I am certain
that
you would not tolerate such disparity in the allocation of punishment. It
is
not only against the constitution but also against equity and good
conscience.
 
Individuals and states must comply with the constitution. A court which
imposes discriminatory punishments is deliberately flouting the
constitution.
The stability, unity and integrity of the nation is threatened by such
action. In order to implement policies or programmes inconsistent with
the
constitution we must first secure its amendment. Until that is done we
have
to abide by it. To proceed on the basis either that the constitution does
not
exist or that it is irrelevant is to deny the existence of the nation
itself.
We cannot deny the rule of law and hope to have peace and stability.
 
I write to you in good faith and in the interest of our country and the
law.
While bearing witness to your devotion to our country and to the cause of

fairness and justice, I urge that you do not allow your zeal for justice
and
transparency to undermine the fundamental law of the nation which is the
constitution.
 
I appeal to you, therefore, to take steps to secure modification of all
criminal laws of your state so that the courts will not be obliged to
impose
punishments which derogate from the rights of Moslems under the
constitution.

 
May God guide you successfully through these difficult times.
 
Signed:
 
Kanu Agabi (SAN)
Attorney-General and Minister for Justice


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