Nigerian Supreme Council for Ecclesiastical Affairs  (NSCEA) Reacts To CJN 's Call For Constitution Amendment To Accommodate Sharia Law in Nigeria

By Nigerian Supreme Council for Ecclesiastical Affairs (NSCEA)
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The Nigerian Supreme Council for Ecclesiastical Affairs (NSCEA) has reacted to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Muhammad Tanko’s call for constitutional amendments to accommodate some peculiarities of Sharia law which he claimed "have been ignored for so long" in Nigeria, saying; "this call is not only divisive, or an hate speech but the beginning of an end if care is not taken as it can lead to full blown war, since the call is being made by a sitting CJN of the country."

The CJN made the statement while declaring open the 20th Annual Judges Conference at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria, Kaduna State; during a two-day conference organized by the Centre for Islamic Legal Studies, CILS, ABU, in collaboration with the National Judicial Institute, NJI, Abuja, represented by the Grand Khadi of Niger State. He had called for full implementation of Sharia law, at the event tagged: “Documentation of Contracts in Islamic Law: Procedure, Sample Precedents and Practice,” the CJN had said the full implementation of Sharia law was imperative in view of the importance of Arabic to Sharia legal system."

Nigerian Supreme Council for Ecclesiastical Affairs says, "it is rather alarming that the Nigerian sitting CJN could make such remarks. He has refused to put the nation's interest first above his own religious Islamic persuasion in the glare of the public in his current position."

We at the NSCEA, also read on a very sad note that, Muslim MURIC spoke through its director, Professor Ishaq Akintola, in a press statement to DAILY POST on the matter: "The MURIC backed the CJN’s suggestion, adding that the current constitution was a child of British colonial Christianisation of the country which had failed to take into consideration the multi-religious nature of the Nigerian nation."

"The statement stated, “The CJN has our full backing on this. The British colonial government bequeathed a legacy of Christianisation to the Nigerian nation. Muslims were not comfortable with it but the British did not listen. He added, “Yet it was not so ab initio. It was the British Christian colonialists who changed the system to favour Christians only. This is not good enough and we need to sit down like neighbours to renegotiate our nationhood."

"MURIC therefore embraces the CJN’s idea of the need for constitutional amendment. Saying "It is even belated. It is part of restructuring and we hope the restructuring camp will welcome the CJN’s idea because it is not going to be about Muslim demands alone but a comprehensive one. We call for objectivity in this matter."

It is in our own view therefore, "that it isn't just time for "Constitutional amendment for full Sharia and Islamisation" but rather, a time for a FULL AND COMPLETE RESTRUCTURING of Nigeria. We must and would add, this matter of urgency is dragging for too long, and we are always being put at the edge and on the defensive.” says NSCEA.

However, may we note as rightly spoken, "The Human Rights Writers Association of Nigeria, HURIWA, today has called on the National Judicial Council, NJC, to sack the Chief Justice of the Federation, CJN, Tanko Muhammad for allegedly attempting to start a religious conflict in Nigeria ... HURIWA, a prominent civil rights advocacy group says, that "Tanko was attempting to instigate religious conflict in Nigeria by advocating for full Sharia law in the country’s constitution."

Furthermore, "HURIWA expressed absolute shock at the failure of Tanko to address the critical issue of the desecration of the temple of justice by the department of state services (DSS) but was more focused on instigating possible religious conflict by advocating full sharia law in the Nigerian constitution; and in statement by the National Coordinator Comrade Emmanuel Onwubiko and the National Media Affairs Director Miss. Zainab Yusuf, HURIWA said, "Tanko should be sacked before he plunged the nation into religious conflicts with his “self-centred campaign for Sharia law to be included fully in the Constitution and to be taught in Arabic language in Universities.”

"The rights group also called on the NJC to call the CJN to order and stop “overheating the polity in the guise of promoting his attachment to his religion or get him removed from office immediately since he is attempting to defecate on the Constitution of Nigeria as it were and for his negligence of duty by failing to defend judicial integrity, judicial independence and the Principle of Separation of powers.”

"HURIWA also accused the Chief Justice of Nigeria of playing religious politics by seeking to undermine section 10 of the constitution upon which Nigeria has been erected on a pro-democratic platform of secular or multi-religious entity." "Also, the Rights group criticized the Chief Justice of Nigeria for calling for the teaching of sharia law in Arabic language as if Nigeria is an Arabic nation."

"It stated that the “religiously motivated campaign by the holder of the Chief Justice of Nigeria deploying public fund to carry out such a private religious assignment and campaign as AGAINST the provisions of the Constitution is an ABSOLUTE IMPEACHABLE OFFENCE and must never be swept under the carpet,” adding that “doing nothing by the NJC amounts to the institutionalisation of impunity and lawlessness by the ministers in the supposed temple of justice.”

The statement further reads: “The Chief Justice of Nigeria should not and must not be allowed to use his national office to drum up support for his private religious codes even against the fact that he swore an oath of allegiance to the constitution before he became Nigeria’s Chief Justice of Nigeria and not Chief Justice of Sharia law. Why has Justice Muhammad Tanko suddenly become the chief Islamic warrior of sharia law?"

As “Nigerians at this point in time cannot afford another overheated environment like we had in the late 1970’s when the first attempt was made as is been suggested by the current Chief justice of Nigeria which the campaign for full sharia by the chief justice of Nigeria is capable of igniting religious conflicts amongst diverse religious groups including African Traditional Religionists, Christians, and Atheists."

The Rights group has said it all, it is “shameful that at a time the integrity, independence and respectability of the court system in Nigeria has been rubbished by the executive arm of government, the Chief Justice who should defend the judiciary is busy chasing religious shadowy programme of making Nigeria a sharia or Islamic state even when this is clearly unconstitutional."

“Was Muhammad Tanko away from the Planet Earth that he isn’t aware that armed State Security Services operatives chased out a judge of the Federal High Court Ijeoma Ojukwu in the nation’s capital and re-arrested a citizen who was granted bail and indeed released earlier by the same misbehaving SSS?" And no comments yet!

We at the NSCEA hereby call on President Buhari and insists as HURIWA has stated, "that the Chief Justice of Nigeria should be removed or resign from his office, so as to allow him fully concentrate on carrying out his private religious project of campaigning for full Sharia. He should leave public office to set up his non-governmental office to raise his resources to execute his mandate which favours only adherents of his own religion. He cannot continue as the Chief justice of Nigeria who should defend the Constitution and work for free, egalitarian society whereby equality of rights are promoted and protected to perpetuate his evil of polarity of the nation.”

As the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has also faulted CJN’s call for constitutional amendment on Sharia, saying, it's a threat to National Unity , and the National Director, Legal and Public Affairs, CAN, Evang. Kwamkur Samuel Vondip said, "CAN viewed this development as the most reprehensible, reckless and insensitive statement made by a public officer, a jurist and the very head of Nigeria’s judiciary. We describe him CJN as a threat to national integrity.

"Samuel Vondip observed, "that no one can begrudge the CJN from peacefully practising his faith, but seeking to transform one religion into having greater space in the Constitution is the height of official immodesty. He condemned the CJN’s advice that academics champion the cause of redesigning the methods of teaching Sharia law; discard English as the language of instruction in Sharia law and for a separate faculty dedicated to Sharia."

Adding that, “CAN observes that the CJN has neither denied nor clarified the report. No person or association has also come out with a contrary opinion. We, therefore, regard it as a settled fact that the CJN said it, and meant it…" Clearly, this looks like the path to making Islam a state religion. It is one more glaring case in our recent history, where public officers, rather than see themselves in privileged positions to discharge responsibilities that promote national cohesion, dialogue and understanding, remove suspicion and project Nigeria’s leadership, have instead turned round to be local and humdrum in their dispositions toward other parts of the country." he added.

Hon. Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad should have a re-think. He hasn’t helped our country with this ignoble position. As an eminent jurist and head of a very critical arm of the government, saddled with the responsibility of interpreting laws, what we generally expect of the CJN is patriotism in the course of his official function, not partisanship. What a disappointment to the nation and a very sad development!

The CJN should be guided that, "Any expansion to the current scope of Sharia in Nigeria would not only require constitutional amendment, which under section 9 (2) could only be passed with two-thirds of the votes in the federal National Assembly along with the approval of at least two-thirds of all states; and given that the majority of the states are predominantly Christians, would be a hard nut to crack, a matter dead on arrival and under the present amendment procedure in Nigeria, could led to full war."

He should be reminded also from a more holistic perspective, that the current appearance of Sharia in the Nigerian constitution contradict article 10 that proscribes any State religion; especially as the Constitution not only declares the secularity of the Nigerian state but in Section 1 (3) also affirms the supremacy of the federal Constitution over “any other law [that] is inconsistent...” with it.

Bishop Professor Mercy Olufunmilayo Adesanya-Davies, the Secretary of Elders Council, NSCEA, to conclude says that, "Sharia already erroneously reflects in the constitution of Nigeria and as such, the contention and topic of discussion should rather be how to purge the Nigerian constitution of any article of segregation in terms of any religious statements, as Sharia."

Unarguably, the enforcement of Sharia infringes on the rights and freedom of Nigerians, including the right to move about freely and to be treated equally in their chosen place of residence. Given that the Constitution envisages the application of Sharia only to Muslims, an emblematic example of such infringement is subjecting non-Muslims to Sharia law in the affected Northern states. To now subject all Nigerians to it in other states would be the last stroke that breaks the camel's back."

Bishop Prof. Funmilayo Adesanya-Davies
Secretary, Elders Council, NSCEA
Nigerian Supreme Council for Ecclesiastical Affairs (NSCEA)