The Independent Sharia Panel of Lagos State
24 Pages Posted: 18 Dec 2011
Date Written: December 17, 2011
The population of Lagos State of Nigeria is upwards of ten million. About half of this large number are Muslims. In 2002, Muslim activists in Lagos State took it upon themselves to set up what amounts to a private arbitration tribunal — the Independent Sharia Panel (ISP) of Lagos State — to which Muslims are invited to submit their civil disputes for adjudication under Islamic law. The ISP was established to fill what the activists regard as an urgent need: for some forum in Lagos State that administers Islamic law; for, over a number of years, Islamic law has effectively been eliminated as a choice of law option in the regular courts. Parts I and II of this paper describe the ISP: who is behind it; their unsuccessful efforts to persuade the Lagos State Governor and House of Assembly to establish Sharia courts for Muslims to use; the decision to establish the ISP when that effort failed; and what the ISP is and how it is getting along in the world. Part III considers the way forward for the ISP’s backers, whose goal remains the establishment of Sharia courts by the state. Their arguments that this should be required as a matter of constitutional law are found unconvincing. Rather, the authors argue, they must convince the political branches that establishing Sharia courts would be wise policy, even if not strictly required under the constitution. The paper concludes with a consideration of how this might be done and the hurdles that stand in the way.
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