Re-Emergence of Shari’ah Penal Law in Northern Nigeria: Issues and Options

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Hanafi A. Hammed Wahab O. Egbewole


It was in quest of political legitimacy as well as religious purity that former governor of Zamfara state, Senator Sani Ahmed Yerima, started a crusade in 1999 to re-establish Shari’ah. That initiative immediately found spacious reverberation with many Muslims. For the clerics, it was an opportunity to restore a religious and moral heritage that had been suppressed after colonial conquest. Many people saw Shari’ah as an instrument for achieving a just, safe, compassionate and less corrupt society. Thus, the Zamfara government’s actions were soon taken up by other states, whose governors followed with varying degrees of enthusiasm. The federal government, however, declared Shari’ah to be incompatible with the constitutional guarantee of freedom of religion. The northern governors responded by highlighting that the same constitution vested in states concurrent powers to establish their own court systems. The writers develop this narrative and look into the constitutional provisions that guarantee freedom of religion and international and national judicial decisions where the right of religion has been vindicated.

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