Controversial Sharia bill aimed at protecting Christians in northern Nigeria – Sponsor

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Abdullahi Salame, the lawmaker representing Gwadabawa/Illela federal constituency, Sokoto State, has dismissed insinuations that his controversial pro-Sharia bill is aimed at expanding the Islamic legal system across a secular Nigeria.

Mr. Salame said his constitutional amendment proposal is actually designed to protect Christians from wanton attacks in Northern Nigeria.

The long form title of the bill is: “A bill for an Act to alter Sections 262 and 277 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, to increase the jurisdiction of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory and Sharia Court of Appeal of a State by including Criminal Matters and Hudud and Qisas and for other related Matters”.

Mr. Salame came under intense public ridicule on Wednesday after Nigerians learnt that his bill had surreptitiously scaled the second reading.

Christian groups issued strongly-worded statements reprimanding non-Muslim lawmakers for allowing the legislation to go that far in the parliament without challenge.

In an interview with PREMIUM TIMES Thursday, Mr. Salame said his legislation only seeks to alter the Constitution to give Sharia Court of Appeal the jurisdiction to hear criminal matters in Sharia-compliant states.

Mr. Salame said the two sections the deal with the court currently permit the Sharia Court of Appeal the jurisdiction to try civil matters only, saying the only way to strengthen the court for its purpose is if it’s given the constitutional backing to try both civil and criminal matters.

“I just want them to add only two words ‘and criminal’ to Sections 262 and 272 so that after the ‘civil’ there will be followed with ‘and criminal’ matters,” Mr. Salame told PREMIUM TIMES.

Mr. Salame said his proposal only seeks to widen the powers of the Sharia Court of Appeal in places where Sharia legal system currently exists.

“We’re not trying to expand the Sharia as other people perceive it that we’re trying to take Sharia to other states that have not adopted Shari’a like Enugu or Abuja,” Mr. Salami said. “No, we’re not saying that we should expand Sharia. We’re talking about the jurisdiction of the existing Sharia court.”

Mr. Salame said, if accepted, his amendment will deter Muslims from continuing with their current behaviour of “killing Christians and other non-Muslims” upon any slight provocation in the north.

“When there’s little argument it will become ethnic and religious crisis. Many non-Muslims are being unjustly killed. People are doing injustice to non-Muslims by attacking non-Muslims just because they’re not Muslims,” Mr. Salame said.

“With the passage of this bill, no Muslim will ever attempt even to harm, much less, kill non-Muslims, because you know Sharia can attend to criminal cases and you will be dealt with. And, in Islam, when you kill a non-Muslim, you will be killed. These Boko Haram and other groups that hide behind any little crisis to attack Christians and other non-Muslims would be easily punished.”

Mr. Salami said the bill conforms with APC’s “Change” agenda because it will help improve security which is one of the party’s main agenda.

“One of the objectives of the APC government is to ensure peace and security in the country. This bill, when passed, will certainly improve security and a peaceful co-existence between Muslim and non-Muslims in the states that practice Sharia,” he said.

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Mr. Salami, therefore, urged Nigerians to “put aside their ethnic and religious affiliations” and support the bill, adding that his colleagues in the House, especially those from Sharia-compliant states, are in support of it.

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