Blasphemy: Court frees jailed teenager, orders retrial of musician sentenced to death

January 22, 2021

Kano High Court (Appeal Division) has on Thursday discharged and acquitted a minor, Umar Farouq, who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment for blasphemy.

The same court in Kano hearing the case of a singer, Yahaya Sharif Aminu, who was also accused of blasphemy, has set aside the judgement of the Sharia court in the first trial and has ordered another trial of the matter.

The presiding judge Justice Nuradeen Sagir, who is the State Chief Judge and his co-panellist, Justice Nasiru Saminu, ruled that the first trial was full of irregularities and that the appellant was not given a fair legal representation.

Both judges, therefore, submitted that the judgement by an Upper Sharia Court Hausawa Filin Hockey contravenes section 2-6-9 of the ACJN, and that was done in nullity.

Justice Sagir who is the presiding judge ordered that the case be re-tried at the same court, but that the appellant be given a fair hearing and full legal representation.

The court presided over by Justice Nasiru Saminu and in the company of the State Chief Judge, Justice Nura Sagir, made the judgment on Thursday in Kano.

It would be recalled that Yahaya Sharrif Aminu and Umar Farouq were said to have sometimes early last year committed blasphemy against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and by making derogatory statements against Almighty Allah respectively.

However, the defendant through Kola Alapinni appealed the death sentence and 10 years imprisonment judgment at the court.

The counsel for the plaintiff, Alapinni, described the judgment as bitter and sweet.

He said, “Today, we have a bitter, sweet judgment as Umar Farouq has been set free completely because he was a minor that was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.”

Commenting further Alapini said, “On the issue of Yahaya Aminu Sharrif which was a death sentence and that really shock the whole of the country and international community.”

“It also made us a laughing stock before the international community where someone will say something which was regarded as been disrespectful in religion and he will be sentenced to death.

“He was sentenced to death without legal representation. It is unacceptable. And the court found in our favour that there were procedural irregularities.

“We were hoping that the court will set him free, but unfortunately that didn’t happen and the matter has now been remitted back to the Shari’a court and it will be heard by another judge. And will be proper guidance and legal direction. We will defend this robustly even up to the Supreme Court.”

On the legality of the constitutionality of the Shari’a penal code, he said, “we will go back and study the judgment and decide if we want to go to the court of appeal and Supreme Court thereafter.

“We want to know if the Shari’a penal code is in conflict with Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution which says the Federal or state government must not be seen to be promoting any religion. That is what Kano State is doing.”

On his part, the State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice,  Musa A. Lawal said, on one hand, the judgment was a victory for the people of Kano especially that the court reaffirmed that the Shari’a penal code law has come to stay in the state.

“Constitutionally, the courts are created so that people can go there to get justice. The court today, reaffirmed that the Shari’a penal code law in Kano state is here to stay because in the appeal, the appellant clearly claimed that the law is contrary to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the court says no that the Shari’a penal code is a law that is here to stay in the state. So of course, this is a victory for the people of Kano state on one side.

“On the second part, if you look at the second case which was a minor, what the court says is that he is a minor and so cannot be trialled.”

He added that “there was no legal representation on his part. So if you look at the two cases it is a victory for the people of Kano State and victory for the Shari’a penal code.”

He noted that that is the reason why he was discharged and acquitted not because the Shari’a penal code law was unconstitutional or for any other reason.

“To buttress that fact, the second case was ordered for retrial under the said law for retrial. And the only reason given there was against the constitutional provision especially when you are charging someone with a capital offence you need to get him a lawyer.”

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