Outrage has followed a verdict by a Sharia court in Kano which sentenced a musician, Yahaya Sharif Aminu, to death by hanging over one of his songs alleged to be blasphemous against Prophet Muhammad.
Following the ruling, the Socio-Economic Rights And Accountability Project and some Nigerian lawyers have knocked the Sharia court for taking such a decision.
In a statement, SERAP asked the Nigerian Government to immediately quash the death sentence, saying it “amounts to violation of the right to freedom of expression”.
It added, “We urge Nigerian authorities to immediately quash the death sentence by hanging for a Kano-based musician, Yahaya Sharif-Aminu, for blaspheming against the Prophet Muhammad. This is a travesty of justice and amounts to violation of the right to freedom of expression.
“The sentence amounts to criminalization of the poor, as these vaguely worded blasphemy laws are typically used against the poor and those without political influence.
“Authorities must quash all sentences for blasphemy and immediately and unconditionally release those imprisoned solely for exercising their constitutionally and internationally guaranteed right to freedom of expression.”
SERAP is also asking the government to urgently repeal blasphemy laws and bring them in conformity with the 1999 Nigerian constitution (as amended) and international human rights obligations including under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to which Nigeria is a party.
Reacting to the issue, rights lawyer, Tope Akinyode, described the death sentence as “preposterous” and “antithetical to democratic tenets”.
He added, “Blasphemy laws derogate from citizens' fundamental human right to freedom of religion guaranteed by S38 of Nigeria's constitution. The sentencing of a Kano musician to death by Sharia court over allegation of blasphemy is preposterous. It's antithetical to democratic tenets.”
Also condemning the development, another rights lawyer, Inibehe Effiong, posited that human life was sacred and it would be primitive to sentence one to death in the name of religion.
He said, “This decision is unconscionable and unconstitutional. No one should be killed for expressing an opinion. Human life is sacred.
“It is callous and primitive to condemn a human being to death in the name of religion. What differentiates this "court" from Boko Haram? It's a travesty.”
The United Nations has also condemned the development, saying that religious and Sharia law in Nigeria was against international human rights law.
It added that applying the death penalty for alleged blasphemy also violates Nigeria’s obligations under international human rights law.