Sharia compromise for Nigerian state

Plans to introduce Sharia last year led to horrific violence in Kaduna

The northern state of Kaduna has introduced a modified version of Sharia or Islamic law in an attempt to keep Muslims and Christians in the state happy. Plans last year to introduce Islamic courts were put on hold after riots in the city of Kaduna in which more than 2,000 people were estimated to have died.

This arrangement is only part of what is desired by Muslims, but given the nature of the state, there is a need for compromise

Muslim mechanic Umar Ibrahim The situation in the mainly-Muslim city is reported to be tense and no formal ceremonies are being held which correspondents say is a sign of how nervous the state authorities are.

The political capital of mainly Muslim northern Nigeria has for years been divided along religious lines but, residents say those divisions have hardened considerably since the violence.


Islamic punishments are not being incorporated into the criminal code in Kaduna, as has happened in several other northern Nigerian states – but local communities are being given more power, through new customary and sharia courts, which will deal with civil matters.

The extension could also mean drinking alcohol is outlawed in some areas, but Christians should be exempt from this ban.

Mukhtar Sirajo, an adviser to Kaduna State Governor Ahmed Makarfi, told AFP news agency the system was designed to keep everyone in Kaduna happy.

"Given the complex nature of our state and the unfortunate events we experienced last year, we will not implement the sharia as is done in other states," he said.


More than 70 sharia courts will be opened across the state and a similar number of customary courts will also be set up.

The Anglican Archbishop of Kaduna, Benjamin Achigili, told AFP that Christians would object to Islamic law if it affected them but would accept it it were only to affect Muslims.

"Christians have a stake in the Sharia issue as long as it affects their lives. But if the Sharia is exclusively for Muslims we have no worries about it. Let it be," he said. Muslim mechanic Umar Ibrahim, whose brother died in the violence in February last year, said the arrangement was only partly what Muslims wanted but was acceptable given the violence in the state.

Kaduna is one of more than a dozen states in predominantly Islamic northern Nigeria which have adopted Sharia law in the past two years.