MORE Nigerians, on Saturday, criticised the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Tanko Muhammad, over his call for the amendment of the nation’s constitution to widen the scope of application of Shari’a law in the country, telling him to always speak indeed as CJN.
Some members of the Christian community advised a CJN to remember that he is not a grand khadi but CJN.
The CJN, while declaring open the 20th Annual Judges Conference at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU), Zaria’s Faculty of Law Moot Court, on Thursday, called for the amendment of the country’s constitution to accommodate some of the peculiarities of the Shari’a laws.
The statement has continued to generate reactions among leaders in the country.
CJN’s call provocative, primitive –Afenifere
Pan-Yoruba sociopolitical group, Afenifere, described the call by the CJN as provocative, primitive and unnecessary, warning him to stop doing that and be sensitive to the fact that Nigeria is a plural state.
National Publicity Secretary of Afenifere, Mr. Yinka Odumakin, who spoke with Sunday Tribune by telephone, while condemning the call, said the CJN, given the level of the office he occupied, should have understood that a statement like that called for adequate consideration “in a pluralistic society like Nigeria.”
Odumakin said this was needed, notwithstanding the fact that the CJN had a background in Arabic studies and is purely a Shari’a lawyer, pointing out that the statement made by Muhammad indicated pure “clash of civilisation in Nigeria.”
“It’s a function of clash of civilisation in Nigeria. His background is Arabic studies. He is a Shari’a lawyer. But enlightenment should have told the CJN that for a man that can rise to that level in a system like ours, this plural society, he cannot be making such a call without adequate consideration,” he said.
Speaking further, Odumakin said; “you see, part of the problems we have is the way people rise to the top. Our system just throws people up anyhow; otherwise, the call ought not to have been made.”
“It’s primitive, it’s unnecessary, it’s red flag, it’s not what we need in this kind of society. It’s like you are singing a funeral dirge at a wedding ceremony,” he added.
Odumakin, while reminding Muhammad that he was, indeed, the CJN and not a grand khadi of some Shari’a state in the country, urged him to be careful of his utterances and be more sensitive and “be aware that we are a plural society. It’s not a Shari’a state.”
CJN’s suggestion, act of ignorance –YCE
The Yoruba Council of Elders (YCE), while rejecting the CJN’s suggestion for the amendment, said the jurist lacked necessary information about the workings of the country.
Secretary-General of YCE, Dr. Kunle Olajide, while speaking with Sunday Tribune in Ado-Ekiti, the Ekiti State capital, noted that the country belonged to everybody, regardless of religious background.
He added that any attempt to introduce Sharia into the constitution would truncate the peace and progress of the country.
He observed that the nation is currently divided along ethnic and religious lines, adding that efforts by government must be to unite all tendencies across the country.
“I totally disagree with that suggestion and I am equally amazed that it is coming from the Chief Justice of Nigeria. Nigeria is secular country, it neither belongs to Christians nor Muslims. It belongs to everybody from different cultures that we have in this country.
“Yes, we were a British colony and essentially, Britain was an Anglican Christian country. What our constitution has done is to allow everybody to worship in his own way. We believe that Muslims and Christians are in the majority. Nothing must be done to put either of the two religions ahead of the other.
“Introducing Sharia into our constitution is definitely inimical to peace, unity and stability of this country. We have existed as an independent country for over 60 years now; nothing of such has been done.
“Nigeria has never been so divided like it is now. Anybody trying to introduce something that will further polarise us, in my humble opinion, is either ignorant or does not know this country. That idea should be dropped into the dustbin immediately. Shari’a should remain in the states that want it and that matter should not arise at this time,” he said.
Nigeria needs restructuring, not constitution amendment –Ohanaeze
Chairman of the Anambra State chapter of apex Igbo socio-cultural organisation, Ohanaeze Ndi’gbo, Chief Demian Ogene-Okeke, in his reaction, said what Nigeria needed at the moment is the restructuring of the country and not issues that may bring up another religious argument.
He said the Northern leadership should not impose Shari’a law on the people of Nigeria, calling on other socio-cultural organisations not to allow the administration of President Muhammadu Buhari to impose any law that does not conform to the multiple religious existence of Nigeria.
According to him, Sharia law is only practised among the Muslims and so should not be forced on other religions.
“To be frank, I am highly disappointed with the CJN for making such call in a democratic country with multiple religious affiliations,” he added.
Statement capable of throwing Nigeria into turmoil –Middle Belt group
Speaking with Sunday Tribune, the national chairman of Association of Middle Belt Ethnic Nationalities (ASOMBEN), Mr Sule Kwasau, said it was a divisive statement capable of throwing the country into turmoil, adding that it also amounted to hate speech.
“This kind of statement is disgusting and capable of throwing the country into turmoil. It is unfortunate that what he is propagating was what propelled him into office. Some of us are not surprised. For me, if we are to give it expansive interpretation, it amounts to hate speech which is capable of pitching non-adherents of Islam against adherents. To me, it is a divisive statement that government needs to take seriously.