29th August, 2023
INCLUDE SHARIAH JUDGES IN JUDICIARY RECRUITMENT
The Federal Government (FG) yesterday announced plans by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to review the judiciary and fill vacancies in the Supreme Court. Sequel to this announcement, an Islamic human rights organization, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has called on the president to include Shariah experts among judges to be recruited.
The call was made on Tuesday by the founder and Executive Director of the human rights advocacy group, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
“The Federal Government (FG) has announced plans by President Bola Ahmed Tinubu to review the judiciary and fill vacancies in the Supreme Court. The announcement was made yesterday, Monday, 28th August, 2023.
“We commend President Bola Ahmed Tinubu for taking this bold step to improve the welfare of judges and review the judiciary in general. No nation can wipe out corruption if judges wallow in poverty and if the working condition of the judiciary is unattractive. Court infrastructure, comfortable courtrooms, adequate security for judges at home and at work and seamless promotion opportunities are sine qua non for the emergence of global best practices in the Nigerian judiciary.
“In the same vein, MURIC calls the attention of Mr. President to the near-moribund condition of the Shariah wing of the Nigerian judiciary.
“Incidentally, the announcement by FG concerning its preparation to review the judiciary and fill vacancies in the Supreme Court coincides with a recent call made by MURIC to save the Shariah Court of Appeal from total collapse. The call was made just ten days ago, on Saturday, 19th August, 2023 in a statement titled, ‘Judiciary Killing Shariah Court of Appeal’ (https://afrireporters.com/2023/08/19/muric-accuses-judiciary-of-killing-shariah-court-of-appeal/) in which we said inter alia:
“There are ominous signs that the Shariah Court of Appeal may fade away at the federal level very soon as no attempt is being made to compose its panel. The Constitution provides for a federal Shariah Court of Appeal made up of Shariah experts but at present there is only one Shariah specialist in the Court of Appeal.
“The former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammad Tanko was the only Shariah expert in the whole Supreme Court and that lacuna has not been filled since he retired. It is also sad that none of the 20 judges recently recruited into the Court of Appeal is a Shariah specialist. Yet there are several Shariah lawyers willing to come on board but they have been ignored.
“MURIC frowns at this indifference of the authorities to the legal and religious yearning of more than 130 million Muslims across Nigeria. Our fear is that a deliberate attempt is being made to eliminate the Shariah Court of Appeal the same way that the Customary Court of Appeal was exterminated. This will negate the letter and spirit of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in which several sections expressly assert the constitutionality of the Shariah Court of Appeal.
“Exempli gratia, Section 260(1) says, ‘There shall be a Shariah Court of Appeal at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Section 260(2) describes the composition of the Shariah Court of Appeal. It explains that it shall be headed by the Grand Kadi of the FCT assisted by other kadis who shall be members.
“Also, Section 261(1) gives the president the power to appoint the Grand Kadi on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation by Senate while Section 261(3)(a)(b)(i) and (ii) itemise the qualifications that the Grand Kadi must possess.
“Although Section 244 says that appeals from state Shariah Courts of Appeal will go to the federal Shariah Court of Appeal wing of the Supreme Court, cases from states like Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Kebbi, Sokoto, etc continue to pile up on Abuja due to the absence of a properly constituted Shariah Court of Appeal at the federal level.
“We therefore appeal to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to save the Shariah Court of Appeal from being totally exterminated from the Nigerian judicial system. In doing this, we advise Mr. President to consult the chairman of the Shariah Court of Appeal who is the only remaining Shariah expert in the court to set the machinery in motion for the appointment of more Shariah lawyers. It should be noted that Shariah judges are specialists in that particular field and only Shariah experts can identify and recruit them.
“It will be recalled that the introduction of Shariah in Nigeria generated tumultuous controversy ab initio. The anti-Shariah camp did not relent even after the establishment of Shariah and the deliberate recruitment of conventional lawyers who are just Muslims but who know nothing about Shariah is part of the grand plot to destroy the Shariah Court of Appeal.
“We remind President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that Nigerian Muslims had this in mind when they voted massively for a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The restoration and rejuvenation of the Shariah Court of Appeal through the recruitment of more Shariah experts as judges to fill the yawning gap will be a huge take-away for Nigerian Muslims from the Tinubu administration. This is how dividends of democracy are measured.”
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC).