An Islamic human rights body, the Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), has called on the Federal Government to fill the vacant spaces in the Supreme Court of Appeal, stressing the need to recruit Shariah experts.
The request, according to the organization’s director—Prof. Ishaq Akintola, was a sequel to the pledge, dated August 28, 2023, of President Bola Tinubu to review the judiciary and fill the vacant positions.
Speaking on the situation of the Nigerian apex court, Akintola drew the attention of the Federal Government to the significance of judiciary arm in governance and national growth, applauding Tinubu-led administration for its dedication to improve the welfare of existing judges and their working environment and recruit new ones.
He noted the coincidence of the recruitment/review plan with the group’s call on FG to save the Shariah Court of Appeal from fading out by recruiting Shariah specialists.
The call was made on Saturday, 19th August, 2023, in a statement titled, ‘MURIC accuses judiciary killing Shariah Court of Appeal’.
Lamenting the disgusting state of the Shariah arm of the Supreme Court, MURIC said, “There are ominous signs that the Shariah Court of Appeal may fade away at the federal level very soon as no attempt is being made to compose its panel. The Constitution provides for a federal Shariah Court of Appeal made up of Shariah experts, but at present there is only one Shariah specialist in the Court of Appeal.
“The former Chief Justice of Nigeria, Justice Muhammad Tanko was the only Shariah expert in the whole Supreme Court and that lacuna has not been filled since he retired. It is also sad that none of the 20 judges recently recruited into the Court of Appeal is a Shariah specialist. Yet there are several Shariah lawyers willing to come on board but they have been ignored.
“MURIC frowns at this indifference of the authorities to the legal and religious yearning of more than 130 million Muslims across Nigeria. Our fear is that a deliberate attempt is being made to eliminate the Shariah Court of Appeal the same way that the Customary Court of Appeal was exterminated. This will negate the letter and spirit of the 1999 Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria in which several sections expressly assert the constitutionality of the Shariah Court of Appeal.
“Exempli gratia, Section 260(1) says, ‘There shall be a Shariah Court of Appeal at the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), Abuja. Section 260(2) describes the composition of the Shariah Court of Appeal. It explains that it shall be headed by the Grand Kadi of the FCT assisted by other kadis who shall be members.
“Also, Section 261(1) gives the president the power to appoint the Grand Kadi on the recommendation of the National Judicial Council subject to confirmation by Senate while Section 261(3)(a)(b)(i) and (ii) itemise the qualifications that the Grand Kadi must possess.
“Although Section 244 says that appeals from state Shariah Courts of Appeal will go to the federal Shariah Court of Appeal wing of the Supreme Court, cases from states like Kano, Jigawa, Niger, Kebbi, Sokoto, etc continue to pile up on Abuja due to the absence of a properly constituted Shariah Court of Appeal at the federal level.
“We therefore appeal to President Bola Ahmed Tinubu, to save the Shariah Court of Appeal from being totally exterminated from the Nigerian judicial system. In doing this, we advise Mr. President to consult the chairman of the Shariah Court of Appeal who is the only remaining Shariah expert in the court to set the machinery in motion for the appointment of more Shariah lawyers. It should be noted that Shariah judges are specialists in that particular field and only Shariah experts can identify and recruit them.
“It will be recalled that the introduction of Shariah in Nigeria generated tumultuous controversy ab initio. The anti-Shariah camp did not relent even after the establishment of Shariah and the deliberate recruitment of conventional lawyers who are just Muslims but who know nothing about Shariah is part of the grand plot to destroy the Shariah Court of Appeal.
“We remind President Bola Ahmed Tinubu that Nigerian Muslims had this in mind when they voted massively for a Muslim-Muslim ticket. The restoration and rejuvenation of the Shariah Court of Appeal through the recruitment of more Shariah experts as judges to fill the yawning gap will be a huge take-away for Nigerian Muslims from the Tinubu administration. This is how dividends of democracy are measured.”