Friday, 3 June 2016

The controversial Sharia Bill in the House of Reps and the Church response

Sphere: Related Content Our attention has been drawn to the Bill being sponsored by Abdullahi Salame, the lawmaker representing Gwadabawa/Illela federal constituency, Sokoto State. The bill is titled, “a Bill for an Act to alter Sections 262 and 277 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to increase the jurisdiction of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory and the Sharia Court of Appeal of a State by including Criminal Matters of Hudud and Qisas and for other related Matters.

According to Wikpedia, Hudud (Arabic: حدود Ḥudūd, also transliterated hadud, hudood; singular hadd, حد, literal meaning "limit", or "restriction") is an Islamic concept: punishments which under Islamic law (Shariah) are mandated and fixed by God. While in the case of murder, Qisas means the right of a murder victim's nearest relative or Wali (ولي) (legal guardian) to, if the court approves, take the life of the killer. Qisas is one of several forms of punishment in Islamic Penal Law.

The proposed bill was briefly discussed on the floor of the House Thursday May 19, 2016 before it was referred to the Committee on Constitution Amendment.


The sponsor claims that the bill is designed to protect Christians from wanton attacks in Northern Nigeria. He equally said in his interview with PREMIUM TIMES that the insinuation that the bill will be implemented in other parts of Nigeria apart from the Northern Nigerian States is false. But the critical questions remain:

  1. Does it means that if the law is not put in place that Christians will be prone to attacks in Northern Nigeria? Why is that? Does it not sound like Dhimmi status kind of living where non Muslims live as second class citizens under the protection of Muslim overlords as long as they pay Jizya tax?
  2. Why the zeal to expand the powers of the Sharia Courts when already there are complaints all over the place that non Muslims are often taken to these courts especially when matters involve them and their Muslims neighbors?
  3. What is the priority of this bill in our national life when the citizens are living in serious hardships because of the challenges we are faced with? The oil price is down and responsible leaders are running helter-skelter on how to fix their economy, what is utmost in the mind of Mr. Salame is how to enlarge the powers of the Sharia courts.
  4. Does this not show the components on Political Islam which intends to subjugate every other person under Islamic law?
  5. Is this not a pretentious and deceptive step to sneak in the total Islamic law through the back door that will ultimately subject the nation to Islamic laws?
  6. Is it possible to operate two codes for the administration of criminal justice in one country? Is it not a journey towards anarchy to define crime in different ways for different people within the same country?
Many questions! No wonder everybody is reacting, especially non Muslims. The truth is that this bill will not stand because God has not finished with Nigeria. Nigeria cannot be subjugated by any man. It is also instructive to read in between the lines the response of Hon. Jonathan Gaza Gbefwi when he was reached for comments:

"The Bill came up on the floor and was automatically referred to the ad-hoc committee on constitution review.

There was no debate on it either for or against because the House is a democratic representatives chamber of the Nigerian people

Even if five people only have an issue with any section of the Constitution, the House will give it a listening ear.

The ad-hoc committee on Constitution review has one member per state and women and other representation.

The precedence is that it is in this committee that these kinds of matters are thrashed out.

Any bill that has potentials to divide the country into religious or tribal lines or to reopen settled constitutional issues will most likely fail in the committee.

It should be noted that constitutional review bills are special bills that undergo many stages, unlike an ordinary bill.

These include committee stage, the plenary stage for voting by 2/3rd of the House, 2/3rd of all the state Houses of Assembly before it comes back again to the National Assembly for voting again and finally it must receive presidential assent.

We are still at a very early stage in the process and Nigerians should not worry about bills of this nature as the House has shown over the years to be the protector of Nigerians’ national unity and interest."

Signed:

Hon. Jonathan Gaza Gbefwi
Deputy Chairman
House Committee on Media and Publicity.

The Church Response
The Church will have to wake up to live up to her responsibility. Church leaders will have to review the way we see these ones in political leadership. Instead of seeing them as avenues for money, we should see them as God's ministers deployed to the area of political governance. The church leadership should be influencing the political and judicial leadership to make sure that there is righteousness and justice in our street. Some practical tips include:

  1. Make a list of the members of the House of Reps and the Senate who are in your church or Diocese or Ministry. Get their contacts.
  2. Make a list of those within your sphere of influence that can help you reach to members of NASS.
  3. Make that phone call to explain to them the implication of these bills including the Grazing bill and others for that matter. 
  4. Depending on your sphere of influence and the number of those who listen to you, organize a meeting of all the NASS members and politicians who hear you. Teach them and explain these bills and their consequences to them. Sincerely pray for them and their work and let them know that you look forward to their progress and success. All these you do without asking them for money except for willing partners with the same vision. Let them just know that they are God's Ambassadors in those chambers. This meeting can be organized in Abuja where it will be easier for them to attend and the hotel bills borne by the church.
  5. Make your own contacts available and remain reachable in case they have questions and need clarifications. Continue to call them from time to time and make the meeting a regular one, like bi-annually or quarterly for prayers and reviews. Remember NEVER to ask them for money but solely for the purpose of good governance. Only the church can give spiritual perspective to these our members in the NASS.
  6. Sensitize your church to pray sincerely for the politicians and their work. Our prayer contents matter a lot. Avoid fanning unnecessary ethnic and religiously-biased sentiments which cannot produce positive results. Some specific prayer points may need only the Prayer Band to hear and handle for proper understanding.
Why are all these very important?   "...Pray to the Lord for it (the nation where you reside), because if it prospers, you too will prosper..." Jer 29:7 NIV (Emphasis mine). We need peace to spread the Gospel.
God bless you.

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