LAGOS, Nigeria ( VOICE OF NAIJA)- The Court of Appeal in Kano has upheld the judgement of the Kano High Court, ordering the retrial of a 22-year-old musician, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, who was sentenced to death, after being convicted of blasphemy
Recall he was accused of one count of insulting the religious creed, contrary to Section 382 (6) of the Kano State Sharia Penal Code Law of 2000, for a series of audio messages circulated via WhatsApp which became public knowledge in March 2020.
Sharif-Aminu went into hiding following the backlash that followed his recording after protesters burnt down his family home. He was subsequently arrested the same month.
On August 10, 2020, a Sharia court led by Aliyu Kani found Sharif-Aminu guilty of blasphemy and sentenced him to death by hanging.
However, the appellate division of the High Court of Kano State on January 21, 2021, quashed the death sentence passed on the musician by the Upper Sharia Court.
But the High Court, which cited irregularities in the Sharia Court’s previous trial, ordered that Aminu-Sharif be tried afresh by the same court.
The High Court’s judgment was delivered by a panel of two judges, comprising the Chief Judge of Kano State, Nuraddeen Umar, and Nasiru Saminu.
However, Sharif-Aminu instituted an appeal against the judgment of the High Court as he argued that the High Court was wrong to have ordered a retrial.
According to him, the court ought to have discharged and acquitted him.
He also argued that the High Court was wrong in not declaring the Kano State Sharia Penal Code Law 2000 inconsistent with the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The appeal was instituted on his behalf by his lawyers: Kola Alapinni, Rouf Gazali, A. A Muhammad and Ebuka Ikeorah.
It joined the Attorney General Of Kano State, Musa Abdullahi Lawan and the Governor of Kano State, Abdullahi Ganduje as respondents.
It reads, “This is an appeal against the Judgment of Hon. Justice N.S Umar (Presiding Judge) and Hon. Justice Nasiru Saminu (Judge) in appeal NO. K/37 CA/ 2020 Yahaya Sharif-Aminu V. Attorney General of Kano State delivered on the 21st day of January 2021 wherein his Lordships after entertaining arguments from both sides annulled, quashed and nullified the judgment of the shari’a court in Hausawa Filin hockey which sentenced the appellant to death and then ordered for a retrial.
“The Appellant was charged with an allegation that he contravened Section 382 (B) of the Sharia Penal Code Law of Kano 2000 while communicating in a WhatsApp chat with an unknown person. The said provision reads as follows: Whoever by any means publicly insult by using word or expression in writing or verbal by means of gesture which shows or demonstrates any form of contempt or abuse against the Holy Qur’an or any prophet shall on conviction be liable to death.
“Consequently, the Appellant was taken to the Upper Sharia Court wherein he was tried without a legal representation whatsoever as enshrined in the 1999 Constitution as amended and the Upper Sharia Court went on to convict the Appellant.
“At the lower court i.e. High Court Appellate Division, the two justices unanimously found that the trial was characterised with procedural irregularities which were in favour of the Appellant but instead of the lower court to discharge and acquit the Appellant, the lower court ordered for a retrial. Dissatisfied with the decision of the appellate division of the High court, the Appellant initiated this appeal, by a Notice of Appeal dated and filed on 25/01/2021 consisting of two (2) grounds.
“Issues For Determination: the Appellant respectfully, formulates these issues for determination by the Court: Whether the learned High court judges were right to order for a retrial instead of an acquittal after quashing, annulling and vacating the position of the Shari’a court? “Whether or not the decision of the High Court is right in declaring that the Kano State Sharia Penal Code Law 2000 is constitutional.
“On whether the learned High court judge was right to order for a retrial instead of an acquittal after quashing, annulling and vacating the position of the Shari’a court. My Lords, we state firmly that the High court erred in law by ordering a retrial instead of an outright order of discharge and acquittal.
“It is trite law in Nigeria, that the burden of proof lies on the prosecution in criminal cases to show the court that the defendant did in fact, commit the offence. In the case of Musa v. State (2014) LPELR – 22 912 (CA) the court of appeal held that: where the commission of a crime by a party is in issue, in any proceeding be it civil or criminal, it must be proved beyond a reasonable doubt.
“In conclusion Section 1 (1) 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended states: This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on the authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
“While Section 3 (3) 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria as amended If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this Constitution, this Constitution shall prevail, and that other law shall, to the extent of the inconsistency, be void.”
Delivering judgement on Wednesday, the Appeal Court ruled that Sharia Law is constitutional.
It also upheld the judgement of the Kano High Court (Appeal Division) ordering the retrial of the musician.
One of the judges, Justice Ita George Mbaba in a minority judgement however ruled in favour of the appellant, discharging and acquitting him.