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CAN Urges NASS to Reject Expansion of Sharia Court to Criminal Matters

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  • CAN Urges NASS to Reject Expansion of Sharia Court to Criminal Matters

The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) FCT Chapter, have called on the National Assembly (NASS) to reject the ongoing attempt to amend the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999, by expanding the scope of the powers of the Sharia Court of Appeal to include criminal jurisdiction.

The FCT CAN in a statement issued yesterday under the aegis of Concerned Christians Citizens of Nigeria, urged the Federal House of Representatives to cease from entertaining the Bill tagged “The Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria [Alteration] Bill 2016” sponsored by Hon. Abdullahi Balarabe Salame (APC Sokoto State), seeking for the amendment of sections 262[1], 262[2] and 277[1] and the deletion of section 277[2] of the 1999 Constitution.

“Our demand, therefore, is that the proposed Bill, which is self-serving and divisive, should outrightly be rejected. Any further attempt by the National Assembly to enact the Bill into law would further polarise the Nigerian nation along religious lines. This should be avoided by all means.

“We therefore, urge all Nigerians who have the interest of this country at heart to denounce this Bill for the sake of the unity, peace, progress, and prosperity of our dear country,” CAN demanded.

The concerned Christians noted that the Bill went through first reading and second reading in the House of Representatives without any debate before it was referred to the Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review.

They also gave a historical perspective in various attempts to smuggle Sharia law into the overall Nigerian legal jurisdiction with damning consequences for the citizens of other faith, particularly Christianity and traditional religions.

The group recalled that before the Second Republic, some Muslim citizens started the agitation for the full implementation of the Sharia law in Nigeria.

Part of the statement read: “The heated debates in the 1978 Constituent Assembly over the insertion of certain provisions relating to the 1979 Constitution are still fresh in our memories.

As a compromise, Sharia Personal Law, i.e., without the criminal aspects, was allowed to be included in the 1979 Constitution. It is clear from the relevant provisions of the 1979 Constitution that Sharia Personal Law was intended to apply strictly to Muslims in resolving their family and personal matters, such as inheritance, marriages, etc.

“Again, at the 1998 Constituent Assembly, another attempt was made to re-introduce Sharia Criminal Law into the Constitution. The uproar that greeted that attempt led to the then Head of State, General Abdulsalami Abubakar, to direct that the status quo be maintained by retaining the Sharia Personal Law provisions.

“Experience and studies have shown that some of our Muslim brothers have taken cover under the Sharia Personal Law in the Nigerian Constitution to declare their States “Sharia States” with legislations that proscribe and criminalise certain conducts: For instance, on 27th January, 2000 Zamfara State enacted the first Sharia Penal Code in Northern Nigeria.

“Since then, the following States, namely: Bauchi, Jigawa, Kano, Kebbi, Sokoto and Yobe have enacted completely new Penal Codes to replace the 1960 Penal Code applicable in the Northern States; along the same direction, Niger State amended the 1960 Penal Code Law by introducing a new section 68A to bring it in conformity with Sharia Penal Law. Meanwhile, work is ongoing in the preparation of Sharia Penal Code in Gombe, Kaduna and Katsina States.”

CAN gave detailed reason why they rejected the bill, top of which is the gross violation of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, citing Section 10 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 that reaffirms the status of Nigeria as a secular State.

That section provides that “The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.”

“As clear as this provision is, some States in Northern Nigeria have flagrantly ignored this Constitutional Provision and have made Islam “State Religion” under the guise that Sharia is a way of life for all Muslims. Although the Christian religion is a way of life for all Christians, the Christian populace in Nigeria has never insisted that Christian Religious Principles be enshrined in the Constitution or in any law in this country.

“Our aversion to this Bill stems from the fact that the current abuse perpetrated against non-Muslims in the face of clear and restrictive provisions of the 1999 Constitution, would exacerbate uncontrollably once the power of the Sharia Court of Appeal is expanded to include criminal matters. Our point here is that allowing the Bill would amount to a clear violation of the provision of section 10 of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria,” the group noted.

In the same vein, CAN said that the bill was a gross violation of their human rights, citing Section 38 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as amended) guarantees the right of every Nigerian to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.

The group claimed that proposed “Bill seeks to do is to discriminate against non-Muslims because all it does is to protect and provide for the interest of Muslims. Arming the Sharia Court of Appeal with adjudicatory powers in criminal matters, even if it is restricted to Islamic Criminal Jurisprudence, would be a weapon in the hands of overzealous Islamists who without such provision in the Constitution are already unleashing hardship and punishment on non-Muslims in the so-called Sharia States.”

“It is therefore our position that if passed into law, the proposed Bill would be a gross violation of the Fundamental Human Rights of Non-Muslims in Nigeria, particularly, Christians. It has the propensity or power to dehumanise all non-Muslims in many ways in addition to the gross negative effects of the Sharia Civil Law upon lives,” the group warned.

The concerned christians also listed alleged cases of flagrant impunity perpetrated against non-Muslims under the guise of Sharia law in parts of the north including the abduction in August, 2016 and forceful conversion of a 14-year old Christian girl, Habiba Ishaku, into Islam who was then married off to one Jamilu Lawal by the Emir of Katsina despite vehement objection from the father and other interest groups.

They also cited the July killing of the wife of a Pastor, Mrs. Eunice Elisha, by suspected Islamists at Kubwa, FCT, Abuja; and killing of the leader of a Christian Fellowship group, Mr. Nuhu Achi at the Tafawa Balewa University, Bauchi, by suspected Muslim students who claimed that Prophet Mohammed was blasphemed.

The statement stated further: “The killing of Mrs. Bridget Agbahime, a Christian business woman, in Kano on 2nd June, 2016 over allegation of blasphemy and the subsequent arraignment and discharge of the suspected perpetrators of this heinous crime by a Magistrate’s Court in Kano at the instance of the Honourable Attorney-General of Kano State, claiming that there was no case for the suspects to answer.

“The abduction and purported conversion of another 14-year-old girl, Ese Oruru, from Bayelsa State, who was taken to Kano State.”

Examples of other disadvantages suffered by Christians and non-Muslims under Sharia: The unwholesome denial of grant or renewal of rights of occupancy to churches and Christian Religious groups in the core North; sponsoring of only Muslims for pilgrimage for religious rites; and the construction of 90 mosques by the Jigawa State Government.

CEO/Founder Investors King Ltd, a foreign exchange research analyst, contributing author on New York-based Talk Markets and Investing.com, with over a decade experience in the global financial markets.

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2023 Voter’s Registration Will Be Online, Biometric To Be Captured Physically- INEC

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The Independent National Electoral Commission (INEC) yesterday unfolded plans to allow online filing during the continuous voter registration for the 2023 general election.

The National Commissioner and Chairman, Information and Voter Education Committee of INEC, Mr. Festus Okoye, however, said only the biometric would be captured physically by INEC officials.

But the commission suffered another setback yesterday as arsonists torched its office in Ohafia Local Government Area of Abia State.

Okoye, during a stakeholders’ meeting on expanding voter access to polling units in Kano yesterday, said: “On June 28, the voter registration exercise for those above 18 years and those who have not registered before will commence with two new innovations. Those versatile with computer can register online and only visit a registration centre to capture their biometrics.”

Okoye stated that the online registration would be introduced to reduce crowd at registration centres in line with COVID-19 protocols.

The commission called on citizens, especially those willing to contest elections, whose voter cards have been defaced, whose names were wrongly spelt or addresses and locations wrongly captured to present themselves for authentication or correction.

INEC also called for valid data of all those with disabilities or physical challenges to be captured during the continuous registration for proper projections ahead of the 2023 general election.

INEC also warned political parties and politicians who have started campaigning to desist from doing so.

Okoye said: “There is a ban on political campaigns which has not been lifted yet. And I find it necessary to draw your attention for you to understand the legal implication of violating this ban.

“I have listened to comments on radio stations, which are capable of heating the polity. Media organisations should avoid providing platforms for such comments. The media should try to curtail such tensions.

“Political parties, politicians and their supporters should understand there is a legal framework for campaigns and it has not commenced yet.”

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No Plans To Relocate AFRICOM HQ To Nigeria Or Any Part Of Africa- U.S. Replies Buhari

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The United States has said there is no plan to relocate its Africa Command from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any other part of Africa despite the worsening state of insecurity in the region.

The US gave the response barely two weeks after President Muhammadu Buhari appealed to the US government to consider relocating AFRICOM to Africa to assist Nigeria and other adjoining countries to combat worsening terrorism, banditry and other security crises.

The President made the plea in a virtual meeting with the US Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, on April 27.

Germany-based Africa Command (AFRICOM) is the US military headquarters that oversees its operations in Africa.

Buhari’s request followed a series of recent military casualties in Nigeria’s decade-long fight against Boko Haram terrorists, fresh expansion of the insurgents’ bases to Niger and Nasarawa States, and heavy waves of abductions and killings by bandits in the North.

Buhari said, “The security challenges in Nigeria remain of great concern to us and impacted more negatively, by existing complex negative pressures in the Sahel, Central and West Africa, as well as the Lake Chad Region.

“Compounded as the situation remains, Nigeria and her security forces remain resolutely committed to containing them and addressing their root causes.

“The support of important and strategic partners like the United States cannot be overstated as the consequences of insecurity will affect all nations, hence the imperative for concerted cooperation and collaboration of all nations to overcome these challenges.

“In this connection, and considering the growing security challenges in West and Central Africa, Gulf of Guinea, Lake Chad region and the Sahel, weighing heavily on Africa, it underscores the need for the United States to consider relocating AFRICOM headquarters from Stuttgart, Germany to Africa and near the Theatre of Operation.”

However, the US government on Thursday ruled out any plan to relocate AFRICOM from its current base in Germany to Nigeria or any part of Africa.

According to the United States Department of Defence’ Pentagon, previous studies have shown that the cost of relocating AFRICOM from Germany to Africa is very huge.

In an emailed response to The PUNCH, the Pentagon said although it would continue to value Nigeria and other countries in Africa as important partners, the American government would not consider relocating AFRICOM to any part of the African continent at the moment.

This newspaper had asked if the US would consider Nigeria’s request to relocate AFRICOM to the continent.

“It would be inappropriate to speculate on any future actions. However, at this time, moving this headquarters (AFRICOM HQ) to Africa is not part of any plans, but USAFRICOM’s commitment to their mission, our African and other partners, remains as strong today as when we launched this command more than a decade ago,” US Pentagon spokesperson, Ms. Cindi King, said.

King also ruled out any plan to consider Buhari’s request in an ongoing global US defence review.

She said, “Although there is an ongoing Global Posture Review, the relocation of Combatant Command headquarters is outside the scope of its assessment. In the case of AFRICOM, previous studies have concluded that the cost associated with the relocation of this headquarters is significant and likely to incur the expense of other engagement opportunities and activities that more directly benefit our valued African partners.

“We greatly value the partnership with Nigeria and appreciate President Buhari’s recognition of the United States’ positive contribution to African peace and security, as well as other regional partners that have made similar past pronouncements. The United States remains committed to continuing our close partnership with African countries and organisations to promote security and stability.”

It’s ‘near impossible’ for America to accept Buhari’s invitation –Campbell, ex-US ambassador

Meanwhile, a former United States Ambassador to Nigeria, John Campbell, has listed reasons why it is “unlikely or near impossible” for the US government to relocate AFRICOM from Stuttgart in Germany to Nigeria or any part of the continent.

He said aside from the fact that the cost of doing so is very huge, the Nigerian military had proved to be a difficult partner for the US over the years.

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China Urges U.N. States Not to Attend Xinjiang Event Next Week

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China has urged United Nations member states not to attend an event planned next week by Germany, the United States and Britain on the repression of Uyghur Muslims and other minorities in Xinjiang, according to a note seen by Reuters on Friday.

“It is a politically-motivated event,” China’s U.N. mission wrote in the note, dated Thursday. “We request your mission NOT to participate in this anti-China event.”

China charged that the organizers of the event, which also include several other European states along with Australia and Canada, use “human rights issues as a political tool to interfere in China’s internal affairs like Xinjiang, to create division and turbulence and disrupt China’s development.”

“They are obsessed with provoking confrontation with China,” the note said, adding that “the provocative event can only lead to more confrontation.”

The Chinese mission to the United Nations did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The ambassadors of the United States, Germany and Britain are due to address the virtual U.N. event on Wednesday, along with Human Rights Watch Executive Director Ken Roth and Amnesty International Secretary General Agnes Callamard.

The aim of the event is to “discuss how the U.N. system, member states and civil society can support and advocate for the human rights of members of ethnic Turkic communities in Xinjiang,” according to an invitation.

Western states and rights groups have accused authorities in Xinjiang of detaining and torturing Uyghurs in camps, which the United States has described as genocide. In January, Washington banned the import of cotton and tomato products from Xinjiang over allegations of forced labor.

Beijing denies the accusations and describes the camps as vocational training centers to combat religious extremism.

“Beijing has been trying for years to bully governments into silence but that strategy has failed miserably, as more and states step forward to voice horror and revulsion at China’s crimes against Uyghurs and other Turkic Muslims,” Human Rights Watch U.N. director Louis Charbonneau said on Friday.

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