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Expunge Sharia law from 1999 Constitution, Catholic Bishops tells NASS

…says it shows inequality, under representation backed by constitution

The Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) has called on the National Assembly to expunge all references to Sharia Islamic law from the 1999 Constitution. This was contained in a memorandum presented to the Senate Committee on Constitution Review co-signed by the CBCN President, Archbishop Augustine Akubeze, and the Secretary of CBCN, Bishop Camillus Umoh and made available to newsmen on Thursday in Abuja.

The Bishops argued that such references show a constitutionally backed gap of inequality and under- representation in the Nigerian judiciary, and insisted there must be an end to the established status that Islam enjoys in the constitution before Nigeria can have lasting peace and unity.

They noted that the 1999 Constitution, which was an imposition of the military, has put Christians and adherents of other religions at a disadvantage in any place with a Muslim majority, and urged the lawmakers to project the secularity of Nigeria pursuant to Sections 10 and 38 of the Constitution as no other religion is recognised by the supreme law of the country except Islam. The memorandum reads in part: “There was no time Nigerians convened as individual stakeholders or as represented citizens to decide on or give it to them as a binding law or constitution.

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. “Complaints abound about the lack of adequate compliance with the provisions of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria against the establishment of any state religion, respect for the freedom of religion, including the right to freely change one’s religion, and equality of all religions before the law. In particular, there have been complaints about the special bias, recognition and prominence accorded to Islam in the Constitution of this nation, Nigeria “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.”

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