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BBC News Online, London, 27 October 1999
Nigerian state adopts Islamic law
By Barnaby Phillips in Lagos
Tens of thousands of people are reported to have attended a ceremony to mark the launch of Islamic, or Sharia, law in the northern Nigerian state of Zamfara.
The Governor of Zamfara, Ahmed Sani, was forced to abandon his speech because he could not make his way through the dense crowds, but in a brief statement he called on other states in northern Nigeria to follow his example, saying that without Sharia law the Islamic faith has no value.
The north of Nigeria is overwhelmingly Muslim, but many Christians, who form the majority in the south of Nigeria, are passionately opposed to introduction of Sharia, saying it will undermine the country's stability.
Residents of the Zamfara state capital, Gusau, say that the streets have been blocked all day with people celebrating the introduction of Sharia law.
One supporter of Governor Sani told the BBC that the crowd was made up almost entirely of men. With Sharia now in place the conditions in which men and women can mingle in public are strictly limited.
The supporter of the governor said that many men had travelled to Zamfara from the neighbouring republics of Niger and Benin.
About half the state governments of northern Nigeria sent representatives to the ceremony, amounting to a significant, but not overwhelming show of support for the introduction of Sharia.
The new legal code includes punishments such as amputation for those convicted of theft and flogging for those caught drinking alcohol.
The Christian minority in Zamfara say their way of life is now threatened and Christians across Nigeria have questioned the legality of Governor Sani's actions.
Nigeria's President Olusegun Obasanjo, who is a devout Christian has chosen to remain silent on this, potentially, explosive issue.
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