Chief Justice Tanko Ibrahim Muhammad rattled some sections of the nation recently when he called for a constitutional amendment to boost and accommodate Shari’a law.
The controversial call was, according to the Premium Times, (an online newspaper based in Abuja) made in a presentation read out on his behalf at the annual judge’s conference last month (December 2019). According to the newspaper he “urged academics to champion the cause”.
This could be done, he said, by redesigning teaching methods and, possibly, having separate Shari’a law faculties which teach in Arabic.
“We have the numbers to amend the constitution to suit our position as Muslims,” he was reported as saying.
Muhammad, an Islamic law scholar who was appointed as the top jurist in Nigeria in July last year, has consequently raised the ire of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN), which has accused him of “plotting to turn the country into an Islamic State”.
The organisation’s director of legal and public affairs, Samuel Kwamkur, said in a statement afterwards it was the “most reprehensible, reckless and insensitive statement”.
“He (the Chief Justice) called for an amendment to alter Nigeria’s current constitutional status to be religiously inclined - inclined towards one religion, Islam,” Kwamkur said, accusing the chief justice of “religious self-indulgence”.
Kwamkur inferred a link between a proposed legalised crack-down on social media and anti-hate speech and the chief justice’s comments as being “part of a plan to move Nigeria towards becoming an Islamic State”.
The Tribune Online quoted Yoruba lobby group Afenifere as also criticising the Chief Justice, saying that in his position, “enlightenment should have told him that he cannot be making such a call without adequate consideration”.
“It’s primitive, it’s unnecessary, it's a red flag. It's not what we need in this kind of (plural) society. It’s like you are singing a funeral dirge at a wedding ceremony,” publicity secretary Yinka Odumakin said.
The Secretary-General of the Yoruba Council of Elders, Dr Kunle Olajide, was equally critical.
“This country belongs to everybody. It is already divided along ethnic and religious lines. I am amazed that this suggestion is coming from the Chief Justice. Nigeria is a secular country it neither belongs to Christians nor Muslims.”
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