19th August, 2023
JUDICIARY KILLING SHARIAH COURT OF APPEAL – MURIC
The Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC) has accused the Nigerian judiciary of attempts to kill the Shariah Court of Appeal. The human rights body based the allegation on the failure of the judiciary to appoint qualified Shariah judges and compose the Shariah panel at the federal level.
The organization spoke on Saturday, 19th August, 2023 through its Executive Director, Professor Ishaq Akintola.
“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.
“MURIC calls for expedited action on the setting up of a Shariah Court of Appeal in Abuja in order to allay our fear of targeted diminishing influence of the Shariah.
“We call attention to the absence of state Shariah Courts of Appeal in the whole of Southern Nigeria despite the existence of large Muslim population in states like Oyo, Osun, Ogun and Lagos.
“Finally, we remind the authorities in the Southern states that Section 275 of the Constitution stipulates that ‘There shall be for any state that requires it a Shariah Court of Appeal for that state’. Failure to allow Muslims in the region to enjoy this constitutional provision diminishes compliance with democratic principles. It also constitutes a major minus in good governance indices because there can be no good governance without inclusivity.”
Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC).