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Judicial CP - March 2000

Corpun file 5340


BBC News Online, London, 3 March 2000


Nigerian Muslims press for Sharia

Muslim leaders in the northern Nigerian state of Kano have vowed to push for the implementation of strict Islamic law with all the legal force at their disposal.

The Council of the Muslim Umma called on the Kano state authorities to ignore the decision of the federal government to suspend the introduction of Sharia law.

Hundreds of people died in bloody religious riots in the northern city of Kaduna last week after Christians staged a protest march over plans to introduce Sharia in the state.

Several hundred more died in subsequent violence in the south-east of the country.

It emerged earlier this week that the governor of Kano had already signed Sharia into law before he attended an emergency meeting of all 36 state governors with President Obasanjo on Tuesday.

After the meeting it was announced by the government that all states would suspend the implementation of Sharia law.

The former military ruler Muhammadu Buhari told the BBC on Thursday that the pledge to withdraw Sharia legislation had been "extracted" from the northern governors.

The state of Zamfara has already begun to implement Sharia.

Other states in the Muslim-dominated north have either signed Sharia into law, or taken steps towards doing so.

Strict penalties

Non-Muslims oppose Sharia, which imposes amputation of hands for theft and death for adultery. People found drinking alcohol risk severe flogging.

The council also urged anyone who could not live under such a system to leave Kano.

The state capital, Kano, has a large minority Christian population and a history of sectarian conflict - prompting fears of violence should the state opt for Sharia law.

However, Muslim prayers passed on Friday without incident.

The council said the people of Kano now backed the call of those in the south-west for a national conference on relations between Nigeria's various nationalities.

Corpun file 5454


The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia, 31 March 2000

President will not try to stop spread of Islamic law

Nigeria's President has said he will not use his powers to stop the spread of hardline Sharia law across the Islamic north of the country, despite hundreds of deaths in religious clashes and threats to the nation's unity.

General Olusegun Obasanjo told the BBC he saw no reason to intervene even though the continued bloodshed, and the first amputation for theft under Sharia law, have led some states in the mostly Christian south to warn they may break away from Nigeria.

Their threats come more than 30 years after upwards of a million lives were lost in a civil war when Biafra tried to secede from Nigeria.

Last month close to a thousand people died in clashes between Christians and Muslims that began in the northern city of Kaduna over proposals to introduce Sharia, and spread to other parts of the country.

On Monday, the violence moved to Borno state. At least 15 people were killed as four churches and two mosques were razed in clashes between Christian and Muslim youths.

Last week, the northern state of Zamfara, the first to introduce a hardline version of Sharia modelled on Saudi Arabia's code, breached an agreement with the central government to suspend Islamic law, and amputated a convicted thief's right hand. It was the first such punishment in modern Nigeria.

The state's Sharia courts have also flogged several people for drinking alcohol and committing adultery.

General Obasanjo agreed Zamfara was violating the Constitution, but said it was up to individuals to take the issue to court.

He said he was not worried the Sharia issue would be a running sore through his presidency, arguing that the return to democracy last year, after nearly 20 years of military rule, unleashed forces that had been suppressed by the army but that would dissipate as the economy and quality of life for ordinary Nigerians improved.

"What we are going through, what we are doing here, is a revolution of some sort and we expect that it will take some time before things settle," he said.

Sceptics say the Government does not have that long. The Sharia issue is helping to fuel ethnic nationalism in mostly Christian areas, and a regional separatist movement is increasingly popular in the largest city, Lagos.

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