KANO State government is considering filing fresh blasphemy charges against singer Yahaya Sharif after an earlier death sentence delivered against him by an upper Sharia court was quashed on appeal due to an error in judgment.
Mr Sharif 22, was found guilty of committing blasphemy for a song he circulated via WhatsApp in March last year. An upper Sharia court in the Hausawa Filin Hockey area of Kano State found him guilty and sentenced him to death by hanging for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad after he composed as song saying a West African cleric was a higher messenger of Islam.
However, Mr Sharif successfully appealed the judgement, with the Court of Appeal presided over by Justice Nuradeen Sagir, the chief justice of Kano State ordering a retrial at the same upper Sharia court but with a full legal representation. Barrister MA Lawan, the Kano State attorney-general, said the judgment was a victory for the people of Kano State for the fact that the appellant counsel’s claim was that the whole trial was done contrary to the constitution of the nation because the Sharia court was not recognised by the constitution of the nation.
He added that another victory for the people of Kano is that the Appeal Court now recognises that the Sharia Court is fully recognized by the nation’s constitution and that its judgments are valid. Mr Lawan said that in another case, Umar Faruk who was earlier sentenced to 10 years in jail by the Sharia Court was discharged because he was a minor and was not given proper legal representation, not because the Sharia Court lacks jurisdiction to try him.
Mr Lawan said: “The only reasons provided was that he was not provided with legal representation and his judgment was rushed. In the case of the blasphemous singer, Yahaya Sharif, the government is now ready to give him full legal representation and charge him again on the same offence.”
Yahaya who is currently in detention, had gone into hiding after he composed the song but was eventually apprehended by the police. Protesters had burnt down his family home and gathered outside the headquarters of the Islamic police, known as the Hisbah, demanding action against him.
In his song, he was alleged to have said that Sheikh Ibrahim Niasse, the Senegalese founder of the Tijaniya sect, which has a large following across West Africa, was bigger than Prophet Muhammad. Critics said the song was blasphemous as it praised an imam from the Tijaniya Muslim brotherhood to the extent it elevated him above the Prophet Muhammad.
The last time a Nigerian Sharia court passed a death sentence was in 2016 when Abdulazeez Inyass, was sentenced to death for blaspheming against Islam during after a secret trial in Kano. His sentence has not been carried out as a death penalty in Nigeria requires the sign-off of the state governor and Mr Inyass is still in detention.