It has emerged that on the same day 22-year-old Nigerian musician Yahaya Sharif-Aminu was sentenced to death in the northern state of Kano for blasphemy, a 13-year-old boy was also given 10 years in prison with menial labor for blasphemy.
Omar Farouq was convicted in a Sharia court in Kano State after he was accused of using foul language toward Allah during an argument with a friend. Farouq’s lawyer, Kola Alapinni, who chanced on his case when working on the case of Sharif-Aminu, filed an appeal on his behalf on September 7.
“We found out they were convicted on the same day, by the same judge, in the same court, for blasphemy and we found out no one was talking about Omar, so we had to move quickly to file an appeal for him,” he said.
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“Blasphemy is not recognized by Nigerian law. It is inconsistent with the constitution of Nigeria.”
The UN children’s agency Unicef on Wednesday called on the Nigerian government to urgently review the Islamic court’s decision.
“The sentencing of this child — 13-year-old Omar Farouk — to 10 years in prison with menial labour is wrong,” said Peter Hawkins, UNICEF representative in Nigeria. “It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria — and by implication, Kano State — has signed on to.”
“This case further underlines the urgent need to accelerate the enactment of the Kano State Child Protection Bill so as to ensure that all children under 18, including Omar Farouq are protected — and that all children in Kano are treated in accordance with child rights standards,” Hawkins said.
Sharia in Nigeria
Sharia is Arabic for law and in Islam, Allah’s immutable laws. Outside the Islamic world, and especially on western platforms, Sharia is thought to be often misunderstood and desecrated.
Since 1999, 12 northern states in Nigeria with Muslim-majority populations work with Sharia as part of civil and criminal jurisprudence. These states also abide by secular federal laws.
Only Muslims are governed by Sharia in Nigeria. If a non-Muslim requires a Sharia court to adjudicate in a matter involving them, the non-Muslim would have to put their request in writing to a Sharia court.
A non-Muslim’s agreement is required even in cases involving a Muslim.
Sharia court judges are learned in both Islamic and secular laws and are expected to provide those who appear before the court every opportunity to make their case.
Death sentences are rarely carried out even though they are frequently handed out for such things as adultery convictions against women, murder and other crimes. Death sentences require the assent of usually unwilling state governors.
The last man to be sentenced to death according to Sharia, Abdulazeez Inyass, has been in detention since 2016. The last death sentence to be carried out was in 2002 against a man who was convicted of killing two children and their mother.
Sharia courts also have avenues for appeal as well as a Supreme Court.