Bishops insist on removal of Sharia law from constitution

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria has told the National Assembly to expunge all references to Sharia Islamic law from the 1999 Constitution.

The organisation also asked the lawmakers to project the secularity of Nigeria pursuant to Sections 10 and 38 of the constitution as no other religion was recognised by the law of the country except Islam.

The CBCN made the submissions in its memorandum presented to the Senate Committee on Constitution Review obtained by journalists in Abuja on Thursday.

The CBCN, in the document signed by its President, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze; and Secretary, Bishop Camillus Umoh, stated that there must be an end to the established status that Islam enjoyed in the constitution before Nigeria could have lasting peace and unity.

The CBCN memo reads partly, “The 1999 constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria is a product of and an imposition of the military.

“Bearing this in mind, therefore, the particular aspect we want to address for this review of the 1999 constitution has to do with the place Islam as a religion has assumed in our constitution vis-à-vis our national life, to the extent that the 1999 constitution has put Christians and adherents of other religions at a disadvantage in any place with a Muslim majority.

It added, “The framers of the 1999 constitution created Sharia Courts for Muslims. This explains why a Christian cannot be appointed as Kadi under the laws of the States or Grand Kadi of the Sharia Court of Appeal.

“Thus, we conclude that while Muslims exclusively have a court that regulates their affairs and to which they can exclusively be appointed as Judges, the same cannot be said for the Christians, or people of other religions. This shows a constitutionally backed gap of inequality and under-representation in the Nigerian judiciary.”

The bishops stated that the move translated into the adoption of Islam as a state religion, adding that the enforcement of Sharia laws with public funds amounted to “those states adopting Islam as a religion. We submit that adopting sharia law(s) as a state laws(s) amounts to adopting the religion founding those laws as state religion; and this violates Section 10 of the 1999 constitution.”

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