A Constitution Alteration Bill, 2021 (HB 1312) which seeks to expand the jurisdictions of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) and State Sharia Courts of Appeal to include presiding over criminal matters has been read for the Second Time in the House of Representatives.
Presenting the legislative brief on the Bill, the Sponsor, Hon. Abdullahi Balarabe Salame (APC: Sokoto), explained that Bill further seeks to amend sections 262 and 277 of the 1999 Constitution (as amended) to confer Sharia Courts across Nigeria with the right to supervise jurisdictions regarding issue of criminality. According to him, under the current law, the Sharia Courts do not have the powers to try any criminal matter which is punishable by “hudad” or “qisas”.
Hon. Salame, noted that the restricted jurisdiction makes the Sharia Court of Appeal incapable of responding to concerns of criminal matters by litigants and as such, makes them vulnerable to attacks, intimidation and harassment. He further said that Nigerian Muslims should be entitled to justice according to Islamic laws since other laws are applicable without much hinderance.
Speaking on the highlights of the Bill, Hon. Salame stated that the Bill, if passed into law, will:
- Expand the jurisdiction of Sharia Courts of Appeal to cover Islamic criminal matters punishable by hudad” or “qisas”.
- Protect the rights of women and children by preventing criminal activities and human rights abuses against them.
- Provide a platform for enhanced realization of peace and unity among Muslims and Christians especially in States implementing Sharia.
The Bill has been referred to the House of Representatives Ad-hoc Committee on Constitution Review for further legislative action.