It’s been 20yrs since Sharia Law was introduced into the judicial system of some Northern States. Of recent, there have been calls for the introduction of Sharia Law in the South-Western part of the country, all though it has been met with divided opinions.
Looking at the growth of Sharia Law in the core north, one would have thought that it has been there for ages. However, that was not the case until 27th October 1999 when Zamfara State Governor at the time – Ahmed Sani Yerima, declared that the State will be governed by Sharia Law in matters involving Muslim. The law also stipulated that any case between a Muslim and Christian will be left to the Christian faithful to decide the Court that will take jurisdiction over the matter. After that, many Northern States followed in the same way and implemented Sharia Law in their various regions.
The Sharia Court can be likened to the usual Customary Courts in the Eastern part of the country. Since the Islamic culture of Muslims are in synergy with most of their cultural practices, they usually advocate to be governed by the legal system which they are used to through their faith. The Sharia Courts are used to advocate matters concerning Muslims.
In the past, Lawyers rarely appeared in Sharia Courts in Nigeria. But, that is not the case anymore in most parts of the Northern States. I have also appeared countless times in the Sharia Courts [Upper Sharia Court, Birnin Kebbi], including at the Sharia Court of Appeal which has equal jurisdiction with the High Court of a State.
There is always the apprehension in certain parts of the country about Sharia Law due to some clichéd bias against what the content of the law and its application means for non-Muslims. However, it is pertinent to note that Magistrate Courts and High Courts are as rampant in the North as they are in the South. This means that Muslims are also free to use the other legal systems they feel can give them the justice they are seeking to make their case.