Sharia in Nigeria

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Use of Sharia in Nigeria:
  Sharia plays no role in the judicial system
  Sharia applies in personal status issues only
  Sharia applies in full, including criminal law

In Nigeria, Sharia has been instituted as a main body of civil and criminal law in 9 Muslim-majority and in some parts of 3 Muslim-plurality states since 1999, when then-Zamfara State governor Ahmad Sani Yerima[1] began the push for the institution of Sharia at the state level of government.


Twelve out of Nigeria's thirty-six states have Sunni Islam as the dominant religion. In 1999, those states chose to have Sharia courts as well as Customary courts.[2]

As of 2012, the following 9 states have instituted Sharia:

the following 3 states have also instituted Sharia in some parts with large Muslim populations

Blasphemy and apostasy[edit]

A Sharia court may treat blasphemy as deserving of several punishments up to, and including, execution.[3][4] In many predominantly Muslim states, conversion from Islam to another religion is illegal and often a capital offence.[5]

In 2014 a Nigerian man, Mubarak Bala was forcibly committed to a psychiatric institution in Kano for eighteen days, where he was forcibly drugged after stating that he was an atheist. The International Humanist and Ethical Union took up the case, stating that Bala's human rights were violated.[6]


In 2002, the first execution of a man convicted under Sharia laws took place in Katsina State. The man was hanged after pleading guilty to murdering a woman and her two children and foregoing appeal. Human Rights Watch condemned the execution.[7]


In 2014, homosexual men were targeted by Hisbah, the religious police. According to a member of the Sharia Commission, homosexuals should be killed by stoning, hanging or pushing them from a high place.[8] In Nigeria, federal law criminalizes homosexual behaviour, but states with Sharia law imposed the death penalty.[9]

Sharia Court of Appeals[edit]

Recognized as a federal court of appeals under the government of Nigeria, the Sharia Court of Appeals is the most controversial of the judicial system. It exists within the Federal Capital Territory of Nigeria and is a part of the Unified Courts System. The Sharia Court of Appeals reviews cases involving Sharia law, particularly in the North and Northeast regions of the country. This has caused controversy because while the Sharia Court of Appeals interprets and reviews cases relating to Islamic law, they must also interpret the common and customary laws of the other regions of Nigeria.[10]


Some argue that as implemented in the north, Sharia violates the Constitution of Nigeria.[11]


Sharia used to be categorized as a customary law in Nigeria.[12][13] This position has changed given the judicial pronouncement in the case of Alkamawa V Bello(1998) LPELR-SC.293/1991[14] Hence, Sharia is now seen as a distinct and universal legal system.


There have been numerous riots over the implementation of Sharia, primarily involving non-Muslim minorities in the states which implemented the system. One such riot killed over 100 people in October 2001 in Kano State.[15][16]

Amina Lawal[edit]

In 2002, negative light was brought to Sharia in northern Nigeria when Amina Lawal, a single mother in Katsina State, was accused of adultery and sentenced to death by stoning by a state Sharia court for conceiving a child out of wedlock; the father was released without conviction for lack of evidence. Lawal's conviction provoked outrage both in southern Nigeria and the West, with many national and international NGOs lobbying the federal government to overturn her conviction. In 2004, the conviction was overturned by the Sharia court of appeal, and Lawal returned to private life.[17]

Safiya Hussaini[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Nigeria Sharia architect defends law, BBC News, 21 March 2002
  2. ^ "Nigeria: International Religious Freedom Report 2008". U.S. Department of State. 2008. Retrieved 2 August 2009.
  3. ^ Amnesty International. Report on Saudi Arabia 2007. Archived from the original. Archived 22 March 2011 at the Wayback Machine
  4. ^ Amnesty International. Amnesty International Report on Saudi Arabia 2009. Archived from the original. Archived 15 January 2010 at the Wayback Machine
  5. ^ Nigeria: Recent reports regarding the treatment of persons who convert from Islam to Christianity. Recent reports on Sharia law in relation to religious conversion, Ireland: Refugee Documentation Centre, 26 June 2012, Q15539; available at: [accessed 18 July 2014].
  6. ^ Nigeria atheist Bala 'deemed mentally ill in Kano state'
  7. ^ Nigeria: First Execution under Sharia Condemned, Human Rights Watch, 8 January 2002
  8. ^ Ross, Will (6 February 2014). "Nigerian gay men being hunted down". Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  9. ^ Bearak, Cameron. "Here are the 10 countries where homosexuality may be punished by death". The Washington Post. Retrieved 11 April 2019.
  11. ^ In Nigeria, Many Girls Are Married And Divorced Before Adulthood. Voice of America, 29 June 2014.
  12. ^ Oba, A.A (2002). "Islamic Law as Customary Law: The Changing Perspective in Nigeria". The International and Comparative Law Quarterly. 51 (4): 817–850. doi:10.1093/iclq/51.4.817. JSTOR 3663189.
  13. ^ "SHARIA DEVELOPMENT IN NIGERIA" (PDF). Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  14. ^ "ALHAJI ILA ALKAMAWA v. ALHAJI HASSAN BELLO & ANOR". LawPavillion. Retrieved 8 September 2018.
  15. ^ Obasanjo Assesses Riot Damage in Kano - 2001-10-16. Voice of America News.
  16. ^ "Kano: Nigeria's ancient city-state". BBC News. 20 May 2004. Retrieved 12 July 2007.
  17. ^ Koinange, Jeff. "Woman sentenced to stoning freed". CNN. Retrieved 30 September 2014.

External links[edit]