If Amina Lawal had Failed: Issues in Constitutional and Islamic Criminal Law in Nigeria
11 Pages Posted: 19 Apr 2008 Last revised: 10 Nov 2008
Date Written: April 19, 2008
Following the acquittal of Amina Lawal by the Katsina State Sharia Court of Appeal of the offence of adultery, many commentaries have applauded the courage of the Sharia Court for reaching the decision it did. Most of the commentaries, like that of Ojeih of the Nigerian Law School, fail to acknowledge the efficacy of the Islamic law and the Islamic legal system. Instead, the issues they raise bother on constitutional conflicts between a religious (religiously-inspired) law and the laws of a secular state like Nigeria, which is a state party to several International Human Right Conventions. The penalty for adultery under Islamic law is stoning to death.
The issues in Ojeih's material, 'Amina Lawal - Sharia Law and the Constitution: A Struggle for Supremacy?', published in a collection of constitutional essays in honour of Chief Bola Ige, Nigeria's former Minister of Justice, allude to many potential conflict areas with the Constitution if Amina's Sharia Court appeal had failed. This paper attempts to analyse those possible areas of conflict which Ojeih identifies and isolate probable and possible approaches for the resolution of any constitutional conflicts that a religiously-inspired law like the sharia law may bring about in Nigeria. This paper maintains the position that so long as the constitution allows religious freedom, it is unlikely that a conflict will arise between the secular state and any kind of religiously-inspired law.
Keywords: Nigeria, secular state, sharia, adultery, stoning to death
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