Kano Seeks Supremacy of Sharia Over Constitution

Aduja, Nigeria -- The Kano state delegation to the National Political Reform Conference has demanded constitutional amendments to make Islamic Law supreme over provisions of the constitution.

An 11-page memorandum submitted to the conference in Abuja yesterday by the state delegation also called for the expansion of powers of state Shari'a courts of appeal to cover all aspects of Islamic Law.

The memorandum is seeking for amendments to section 1(3) of the 1999 constitution to put a proviso that will exclude Shari'a from instruments that are subservient to the constitution.

Section 1 of the constitution reads: "(1) This constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons throughout the Federal Republic of Nigeria (3)If any other law is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, this constitution shall prevail, and any other law shall to the extent of its inconsistency be void."

But the Kano delegation urged that sub-section 3 be modified to read: "If any other law, save the Islamic Law, is inconsistent with the provisions of this constitution, this constitution shall prevail and that other laws shall to the extent of the inconsistency, be void." This means that when Shari'a provisions run contrary to constitutional stipulations, the former would have precedence.

On section 277 of the constitution, which limits the powers of a state Shari'a court of appeal to disputes on Islamic Personal Law, the delegation asked that the jurisdiction be widened to include all aspects of Islamic Law.

The memo said: "the word 'personal' in section 277 of the 1999 constitution should be deleted to read Islamic Law. It should be recalled that 1979 constitution was similarly amended in 19990 and 1995 constitutions."

It also sought for the creation of a residual legislative list and the transfer of evidence from the exclusive to the concurrent legislative list of the constitution.

The delegates also rejected calls for resource control and demanded the return of the onshore-off shore dichotomy in the application of the 13 per cent derivation principle. It contended that "the revenue accruing from off-shore oil resources, which fall within the territorial waters and the 200 nautical miles by the Exclusive Economic Zone guaranteed by international law and practice, belongs to the entire federation and should not be subjected to the derivation principle"

Kano further urged for referendum on the outcome of the conference, and suggested that the National Assembly must be taken along in the process of giving legal backing to the conference's report.

Other demands of the state include retention of presidentialism, the 36-state structure and the 774 local government areas, abolishing of joint local government account, provision for independent candidature in elections, far reaching prison reforms and posting of police personnel up to the rank of Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) to their states of origin.

But the delegation criticised what it said was a questionable process of convening the conference with lopsided representation and without legal backing. This, it said, makes the conference vulnerable to manipulation.

"With all due respect, we wish to observe that the basis of representation used is undemocratic, inequitable, unbalanced and runs foul of all established and conventional modes of constituting a body so important and invested with authority so broad and unchecked to shape Nigerian polity, economy, the society and its constitutional form of governance. It is unjustifiable, for instance, to give one state, which under the 1999 constitution has 10 members at the House of Representatives, equal number of delegates with another which has 24 members.