The European Parliament has appealed to the Nigerian government to release Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, a Kano-based singer, who is being held over alleged blasphemy.
It called on the government “to immediately and unconditionally release Yahaya Sharif-Aminu and drop all charges against him.” In addition, the parliament called for the release of “Rhoda Jatau, Mubarak Bala, and others who face blasphemy allegations.”
premium Times reported that Mr. Sharif-Aminu, 24, was sentenced to death by hanging in August 2020 by an Upper Shari’a Court in Kano, North-west Nigeria, for an allegedly blasphemous song he composed concerning the Islamic prophet, Muhammad. He was accused of blaspheming prophet Mohammad in a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March 2020.
Consequently, judge Aliyu Kani of the Upper Shari’a Court, convicted Mr Yahaya-Sharif based on Section 382 (b) of the Kano penal code of 2000. However, a Kano State High Court and the Court of Appeal in the state quashed Mr Sharif-Aminu’s conviction. The two courts premised their verdicts on the grounds that the singer’s trial at the Upper Shari’a Court was fraught with fundamental irregularities.
The courts ordered a retrial in the case, a decision Mr Sharif-Aminu has further appealed against at the Supreme Court calling for an outright dismissal of the charges. But despite the appellate court’s order on 17 August 2022, Mr Sharif-Aminu is still being incarcerated.
Nigeria’s Blasphemy Laws Violate Human Rights
In a resolution on 20 April, the European Parliament said Nigeria’s blasphemy laws “are in violation of its international human rights commitments, the African Charter and the Nigerian Constitution.”
Urging the Nigerian government to uphold human rights by ensuring that Sharia law and other similar legislations “do not deny Nigerians protection,” the parliament asked the government “to repeal the blasphemy laws at federal and state level.” Recalling international efforts to end the death penalty, it admonished the Nigerian state to “immediately withdraw the use of capital punishment for blasphemy and take steps towards full abolition.”
Chronicle Of Nigeria’s Blasphemy Impunity
Shari’a law is being practiced in 12 northern states in Nigeria with people accused of blasphemy facing arrest, extrajudicial killings, or attack by mobs. In May 2022, a mob of college students in Sokoto State, North-west Nigeria, lynched one of their colleagues, Deborah Yakubu, for allegedly making derogatory comments about the Islamic prophet, Mohammed.
Ms. Yakubu’s killing triggered nationwide outrage, with many calling for the arrest and prosecution of her murderers. But aside from the perfunctory condemnation of Ms. Yakubu’s murder by President Muhammadu Buhari, no concrete legal action has been taken to bring her killers to justice.
Ten days after Ms Yakubu’s gruesome murder, a mob of religious fanatics in Warji Local Government Area of Bauchi State, North-east Nigeria, went on a violent protest destroying shops and injuring people over an alleged blasphemous comment posted on social media. Police in the area said a local council worker, Rhoda Jatau, posted the alleged blasphemous comment on Facebook.
The European Parliament said Ms. Jatau is on trial “without the right to bail.” It advised the government to deal with impunity surrounding blasphemy accusations. The parliament called on the European Union and its member states “to raise individual cases, human rights concerns and blasphemy laws with the Nigerian authorities.”