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Ecclesiastical & Sharia Courts would see Nigeria having Ulamas & Cardinals dispensing justice with no experiences of constitutional & common law cases AO Ajetunmobi

December 10, 2016

General

 

At about the same time I was writing the essay posted on Monday – “Nigeria continues flirtations with major religious upheaval with plans to resuscitate govt-funded Islamic education”,  the country’s legislative body was already way ahead on a bill to have an ecclestiatical court established. It was an apparent ill-conceived bow to the “federal character” enshrined in the Constitution that is never adhered to in reality.

I had planned to write yet another essay on the chaos that is gradually enveloping Nigeria after reading news of the recklessness of the legislative action when I received the comments below written by Dr. Ajetunmobi, a legal scholar, through a discussion group to which I belong. After getting clearance to use the privately-circulated material, I’ve re-read Ajetunmobi’s submission, and decided the commentator has stated exactly what I would want to say about the issue with more clarity and understanding than I ever could.

With no malice meant, Abdsalam Ajetunmobi happens to be a Muslim, and having been in the group with him since 2012, I respect him even on issues we disagreed for never giving in to emotions in matters of religion and ethnocentrism, THE major blocks in the path of Nigeria’s incapability of achieving nationhood.[TOLA.]

 

 

For some time now, it appears that the upper echelon of our judiciary (i.e., the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal) has been populated by justices transported from various Shariah courts without requisite qualification required to be appointed, other than training received in Islamic Law.

 

It is reported in the newspaper today that a Bill for the establishment of Ecclesiastical Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory and the 36 states of the federation, has passed second reading at the National Assembly. Obviously, if the Bill sails into law, the Ecclesiastical Court established under it will become a Christian replica of Muslim’s Shariah court. This Bill, to me, is not only misplaced but also dangerous, as it will only add to the ineptitude and venality of the nation’s judiciary.

For some time now, it appears that the upper echelon of our judiciary (i.e., the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal) has been populated by justices transported from various Shariah courts without requisite qualification required to be appointed, other than training received in Islamic Law. Indeed, while speaking at the 2015 annual lecture of the Nigerian National Merit Award, Justice Isa Ayo Salami exemplified this point with a vivid account:

There is a particular instance of a justice who when he came to the Court of Appeal, had only served in the registry of a Sharia Court of Appeal before being appointed a judge of that Sharia Court for barely a year when he was catapulted to the Court of Appeal. Indeed, when he was appointed to the Court of Appeal, he had not acquired twelve-year post-­call experience to be appointed to the Court of Appeal.

With a replica Shariah Court justices appointed to the Supreme Court and the Court of Appeal on the account of their specialty in Canon Law, it means that our apex courts will sooner than later be filled with ulamas and cardinals who will be dispensing justice under the garb of divine sanction, without having any experiences of constitutional and common law cases.

Of course, as Yoruba say, Àparò ò ga ju ara-a wọn lọ, àfi èyí tó gun ebè (No partridge is taller than another except for those [standing] on earth mounds). In other words, it is hard to see how we can demand a source for a Muslim’s goose, yet deny it for the Christian’s gander. And so, if Muslims already have Shariah courts, it is fair that Christians should have their own Ecclesiastical Courts as well.

But are we really progressing or retrogressing with the mind-set imprisoned in the religious souvenirs of a bygone era? To me, we are not.

In that regard, I think a rallying-call must go out for the relegation of Shariah courts to the private Muslim wards, to be managed by Muslims alone without receiving any constitutional or statutory support. By so doing, those who feel cheated by perceived unfair religious privileges being enjoyed by others will have no course to agitate for same privileges any more. Consequent upon that, Nigerian governments, at all levels, will then be run purely on a progressive egalitarian and secular political order, as opposed to a religiously-inclined form of government we are currently contending with.

For, no matter the amount of difficulties associated with secular political order, I believe that religious pluralism, mutual tolerance, freedom of conscience and a scientifically- based culture are accorded more recognition in secular environment than in a religiously-inclined one. Although a black-and-white call could not be the easiest of answer to our problems, the challenges of secular order, to me, are still preferable to the false stability, culture of ignorance, ever-recurring tensions between main religious groups, militancy and the current violence of Boko Haram extremists plaguing the country.

SATURDAY, DECEMBER 12, 2016. 11:01 a.m. [GMT]

 

 

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4 Comments on “Ecclesiastical & Sharia Courts would see Nigeria having Ulamas & Cardinals dispensing justice with no experiences of constitutional & common law cases AO Ajetunmobi”

  1. folakemiodoaje Says:

    Many things don’t make sense in Nigeria but to the people that sponsored the bill it makes absolute perfect sense. If they push harder, I can see the southerners saying ‘you go ahead but we’re not part of it’ and before you know it we will have another sharia law, christian version, paid for by Nigerians.
    The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), now is divided into two because that is what the northern folks preferred.

    Hard-core folks don’t care nor argue with all our super paper qualifications, but they will make sure enough of narrow-minded ones are at the table to swallow any intelligence we claim to have. After all majority carries the vote.

    Like

    Reply

    • emotan77 Says:

      Dear Folakemi,

      Thanks for this.

      It never stops baffling how senseless, bordering on madness, the way things almost always are, and go in Nigeria but ever present to even make things worse are bodies set up to simplify put things in order. The legislative chambers are such and rather than make life, processes and things easier, they tend to make them often more difficult.

      Happily, in the matter of the ill-thought out and ill-fated Bill, this was supposedly a Bill that was a sort of a parody, a dare – for lack of other suitable descriptions, and according to words from our rep in the Senate, the Bill would not go beyond that Second Reading.

      Regards,
      TOLA.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply

      • folakemiodoaje Says:

        Thank you Mrs Adenle for this explanation, I really appreciate it.

        Just to add though, hard to take any of our reps seriously, unless the bill is killed, it will come back again and again. Gender equality bill has now been suspended indefinitely, and the faith court bill is only moved to the side – not too hard to see who the boss are.

        Like

      • emotan77 Says:

        Dear Fola,

        It really could happen knowing how many in both Houses think, or rather, lack of it. It needs to be killed so that it never surfaces again.

        Sincere regards,
        TOLA.

        Liked by 1 person

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