Blasphemy: Changing the drumbeat to focus on preponderant criminalities

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The perversion of judgement is one of many phenomena which reflect that all is not well with Nigeria essentially, structurally. The standing structures of the Government from the Executive to the Legislature, and then to the Judiciary are fraught with clumsy, archaic and parochial principles, which by their nature, are by and large repugnant to modern realities. These obsolete gaggle, troublesome, which by themselves are strains of backward pulling forces, drag the Country to the precipice.

While these are to a little extent tolerable with the Executive and the Legislative, it is however so sad when the Judicial organ of any society is entangled in the web of woe. The narrative perplexes—the established human structure supposed to be the “last resort of the common man” has become the “devouring teeth of the common man.”

So pathetic is the fact that the gatekeepers in Nigeria have gone into silence, while those from lands far-away are now keeping watch over the Country. Even at their outcry against dehumanizing treatments against fellow beings, the gatekeepers at home have gone so deep into sleep that the reverberating cries seem not to perturb them, rouse them from slumber. The cries apparently are as negligible as noise to a deaf ear.

A recent judgement of a Sharia court in Kano, sentencing a minor to 10 years imprisonment on  grounds of blasphemy, is one of such happenings that leave nothing but controversies in their wake.  How nauseating, such judgements, leaving one to question the parameters and sensibilities by which the Nigerian society is built upon. The depressing outcomes of these decisions posit a gory outlook in the face of sanity, when consideration is given to the reality that among hundreds of criminal machinations manifesting by seconds across the Country, time is still given to sentencing a minor to waste 10 years of his productive life in prison, for an offence which definitions remain oblique in the light of existing realities.

In a recent reaction, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has condemned the August 10, 2020 judgement against the 13-year old boy identified as Omar Farouq, sent to asylum for a decade with menial labour.  In a statement on Wednesday, UNICEF    Representative in Nigeria, Peter Hawkins, who faulted the judgement as wrong, called on the Nigerian Government and the Kano State Government to urgently review the case with a view to reversing the sentence.

Lamenting the ugly judgement, the Organization said: “UNICEF today expressed deep concern about the sentencing of 13-year-old Omar Farouq to ten years’ imprisonment with menial labour by the Kano State Sharia Court at Feli Hockey, Kano, in northern Nigeria.

“The sentencing of this child (13-year-old Omar Farouk) to 10 years in prison with menial labour is wrong.  It also negates all core underlying principles of child rights and child justice that Nigeria – and by implication, Kano State – has signed on to. The sentence is in contravention of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Nigeria ratified in 1991. It is also a violation of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child – which Nigeria ratified in 2001 – and Nigeria’s Child Rights Act 2003, which domesticates Nigeria’s international obligations to protect children’s right to life, survival and development. This case further underlines the urgent need to accelerate the enactment of the Kano State Child Protection Bill so as to ensure that all children under 18, including  Omar Farouq are protected – and that all children in Kano are treated in accordance with child rights standards. UNICEF will continue to provide support to the Nigerian Government and Kano State Government on child protection system strengthening, including justice sector reform, to ensure that states put in place child-sensitive measures to handle cases involving children. This includes adopting alternative measures, in line with international best practice, for the treatment of children alleged to have committed offences that does not involve detention or deprivation of family care. This should include ensuring quality legal representation and full implementation of child justice principles – all of which are geared towards reform, rehabilitation and reintegration of the child with their family and community.”

It would be recalled that same August 10, the upper Shariah court sitting in Hausawa Filin Hockey in Kano State, had sentenced a 30-year-old man, Sharrif Yahaya, to death by hanging on similar grounds of alleged blasphemy against Prophet Muhammad. One Inspector Yargoje, the prosecutor who claimed in a First Information Report,  that Sharrif was charged to court for insulting religious creed contrary to section 382 (6) of Kano State Shariah Penal Code Law 2000 had said in the count charge: “That you, Sharrif Yahaya, resident of Sharrif quarters, Kano on 28/02/2020 between the hours of 20:00 and 23:00 with the intention to hurt the feelings of Muslim faithful made a post via WhatsApp group named ‘Gidan Umma Abiha’ some abusive and degrading audio statements in which you called Prophet Muhammad PBUH a theist (Mushrik), who propagates Shrik and whose position is lower than that of Inyass in the hereafter.”

Prior to the judgment Sharrif had his residence set ablazed by irate youths, who also  proceeded to stage a protest to the Kano Hisbah Corps (Shariah Police) to press home their demand for his prosecution.

It is saddening that while Nigeria is grappling with acute terrorism and fundamentalism, where terrorists are flaunting their egos, some sections of the judiciary is engulfed in such entanglements. The controversies  soaring from conflicting legal foundations remain a bane to the Country. The sentencing of a minor to a decade in prison, while there are perpetration of vices in thousands in the Country speaks nothing but a faceless system of jurisprudence. While the manifestations of these inconsiderate rigidity appear meandering, it is of importance that gatekeepers in the Nigerian society rise for a paradigm shift from such faceless judicial posture.

There are peace and life threatening crimes shaking the fabric of the Country; galvanizing strength and the forceful will to prosecute actions against the rifeness  of such machinatIons are key, rather than wasting and dissipating  resources and energy in capitalising on matters that themselves fall on the meanders of paraphernalia block. The need for judicial reforms cannot therefore be over-emphasized to move the Country along the rail-track of enlightened realities.