The House of Representatives on Thursday denied passing a bill to implement Sharia law nationwide, calling talk about it “just a rumour.” The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Rep. Abdulrazak Namdas (APC-Adamawa. “You can check the House order paper and confirm” any sharia expansion bill, he said. He explained that the House had not tabled any bill for deliberation and as such Nigerians should ignore the rumour. Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Rep. Chukwuka Onyeama (PDP-Anambra), said the bill is before the House ad hoc committee on the review of the constitution and for now it remains a working document until it is forwarded for debate.
Onyeama said at the briefing of the South/East caucus of the House in Abuja, “You see those of us sitting here are not sleeping and you will see us on the floor when the bill comes. So, no Sharia bill has been passed”. The Bill titled “A Bill to alter the 1999 Constitution to increase the jurisdiction of the Sharia Courts”, also known as the “Sharia expansion bill”, was sponsored by Rep. Abdullahi Salame (APC-Sokoto). The bill seeks to expand the jurisdiction or increase the existing powers of Sharia Courts to include criminal cases and is restricted to the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. “It is also restricted to the northern states where Sharia courts are already in existence.”
Salame seeks to amend sections 262 and 277 of the 1999 Constitution to add “criminal” to the existing provisions. While referring the bill, Speaker Yakubu Dogara who presided over the plenary, had explained that no debate was taken on the bill because of its “sensitive” nature. The Minority Leader of the House, Rep. Leo Ogor, had also allayed fears of Nigerians. He explained that “The jurisdiction’’ of the court referred to in sections 262 and 277 of the constitution means the powers of the court in states where it already exists, not expanding Sharia to other parts of the country.
“The amendment sought to these sections is to add ‘criminal’ to the existing jurisdiction it has on ‘civil litigation.’ That is the jurisdiction that is being expanded, not the expansion of Sharia Law itself.” Explaining why the bill was not debated, the minority leader stated that “the matter was not debated because the amendment is a constitutional amendment. “It is on a matter that could be better handled by the constitution review committee.“Debating it on the floor will not resolve it since the Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review will still conduct a public hearing on it. Those concerned will be invited to come and give their opinions on how the added powers of the court will affect them and so on. Nobody is expanding Sharia to anywhere. Members of the public should not panic over this at all”.