Aminu Yahaya-Sharif was convicted for blasphemy against Islam in a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March 2020.
The Court of Appeal sitting in Kano, last Wednesday, ordered a retrial of the death sentence against a singer who was accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.
The singer, Aminu Yahaya-Sharif, 24, a resident of Sharifai in the Kano metropolis, was accused of committing blasphemy against the prophet of Islam in a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March 2020.
On 10 August 2020, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu was convicted of blasphemy and sentenced to death by hanging by the Kano Upper Shariah Court sitting at Hausawa Filin Hockey.
A human rights group Foundation for Religious Freedom (FRF) which appealed on behalf of the singer, argued that there is a gross procedural error in the trial and that Shariah blasphemy laws are unconstitutional in Nigeria because they conflict with Sections 10, 38, and 39 of the Constitution.
On 21 January 2021, the Kano High Court quashed Yahaya’s conviction and sentence but remitted him to the same Shariah court for retrial. The court also rejected FRF’s argument that blasphemy laws are unconstitutional and went further to state that Section 10 of the Constitution was not justiciable.
Four days later, FRF filed a second appeal arguing that Yahaya should have been released and not remitted for a retrial reiterating that blasphemy laws are unconstitutional in Nigeria.
However, the Kano appeal court in its judgment delivered by Justice Abubakar Lamido, via a video link, upheld the decision of the High Court to remit Yahaya Sharif-Aminu back to the Upper Shariah Court for retrial. The justices also upheld the High Court’s decision on the legality of Shariah’s blasphemy laws with one exception; they held that Section 10 of the Constitution is justiciable.
A spokesperson for the FRF, Bill Flavell described the judgment as disappointing and promised to appeal the judgment. “The law relating to retrials has been clarified in several precedent cases. Cases in which procedural irregularities have occurred should not be subject to retrial. So, we believe the majority Justices disregarded the established precedents, whilst the dissenting Justice did not”.
Aminu Yahaya-Sharif is said to be a member of the Islamic Tijjaniya sect. In March 2020 his song prompted violence against his family members who fled the area while his family house was set ablaze by irate youth.