Nigeria: Blasphemy - Kano Musician Appeals Death Sentence

Wooden gavel
4 September 2020

A 22-year-old Musician, Yahaya Shariff-Aminu, who was sentenced to death for blaspheming Prophet Mohammed, has filed a notice of appeal before a Kano State High Court, describing Sharia law as practised in the state as unconstitutional and undemocratic.

This is coming as the Nigerian Bar Association (NBA) has said the musician has been denied access to a lawyer.

Shariff-Aminu was sentenced to death by an Upper Sharia Court on August 10, 2020, but was given 30 days to file an appeal.

Governor Abdullahi Ganduje had also expressed readiness to sign the convict's death warrant once the 30 days lapses.

In the notice of appeal marked CR/43/2020, and filed by his lawyer, Kola Alapinni, the convict sued the Attorney-General of the state and the Kano State Governor.

He based his appeal on one ground which is that Sharia law which formed the basis of his conviction was illegal and unconstitutional.

It read in part, "The appellant's trial, conviction, and sentencing by the Upper Sharia Court of Kano State pursuant to the Kano State Penal Code Law 2000 were unconstitutional, null, void having grossly violated and conflicted with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria (1999) as amended and having violated the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights respectively."

The musician said the confessional statement was a nullity because the alleged crime did not exist in the constitution.

He added, "The Penal Sharia Code Law is only applicable and permissible in Islamic theocracies or countries whose constitution allows for such whereas Nigeria is a secular state with constitutional democracy and the constitution being the supreme law."

The convict said the state was quick to charge and convict him but denied him legal representation even though there is an existing framework for legal aid in Kano State.

The musician noted that the trial was a secret one and was a breach of his right to a fair hearing.

The appeal further read, "The Kano State Government as a party and prosecutor to the complaint is was a complicit party when it failed to provide adequate security and equal enforcement of secular laws and good order for all citizens/residents regardless of ethnicity or religious affiliations and thereby encourages religious fundamentalism, vigilante activities, insecurity, lawlessness, mob actions, all of which blasphemy law or provisions seek to justify unlawfully in order to placate Muslims."

He said the entity called Kano State is a creation of the constitution and thus cannot operate outside the constitution.

The musician, therefore, prayed the court to set aside the trial, conviction, and sentencing handed down by the Sharia Court and entering a judgment in his favour.

Meanwhile, the NBA has said the musician has been denied access to a lawyer.

In a statement issued yesterday, NBA's National Publicity Secretary, Mr. Ernest Nduka, said the association has constituted a two-man fact-finding committee to visit the singer.

He said the action was initiated by NBA President, Mr. Olumide Akpata, in response to allegations on social media by Nigerians and calls by members of the association that the federal correctional centre, Kano, denied Sharif-Aminu access to his lawyers.

The committee comprising NBA First Vice President, John Aikpokpo-Martins, and its National Welfare Secretary, Kunle Edun, was mandated to embark on a fact-finding mission to the correctional centre.

Nduka said the committee visited the correctional centre on Wednesday but were denied access to the singer.

He said the NBA national officers found that the singer was not represented by a lawyer during the trial at the Upper Sharia Court, adding that Sharif-Aminu has been denied access to any lawyer since his conviction.

"At the Correctional Centre, the NBA National Officers were informed that the Controller of the Correctional Centre was not available. They were granted an audience by the Second in command," the statement read.

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