Friday, June 20, 2014


(Motto: Dialogue, Not Violence)

Our attention has been drawn to the full page advertorial of the Christian Elders Forum of Northern States (NOSCEF) in some newspapers of Sunday, 4th May, 2014. NOSCEF’s piece was a reaction to MURIC’s statement (not advertorial) in some newspapers a week earlier.

MURIC in its own statement had welcomed the demand of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) for the establishment of ecclesiastical courts in Nigeria. We argued that instead of standing in the way of each other, Christians and Muslims should allow each group to be what it wants to be so long as no one is hurt and nobody’s right is infringed upon.

We are not a little surprised, therefore, to find NOSCEF backing out of the demand for ecclesiastical courts for Christians. We wonder what happened between now and then? How can CAN say ‘Yes’ in the morning and NOSCEF say ‘No’ in the evening?

Well, we must admit it is not our cup of tea. What is clear is that Muslims have always been consistent with what they want. Our right is our right and we have never minced words about it.

NOSCEF seeks to confuse Nigerians by accusing MURIC of seeking to segregate our legal system through the demand for Shariah. The Northern Christian body wants all under the so called secular constitution and common law.

What NOSCEF has forgotten is that common law is not so common. Common law can never be common to Muslims because it is a Lugardian contraption and a colonial tool of oppression. Common law is Christian law and that exactly was what informed NOSCEF’s U-turn on the demand for ecclesiastical courts. NOSCEF must have asked itself, “Do we still need another Christian legal system when common law is Christian law?”

NOSCEF cannot deny the fact that common law is British law and British law draws heavily from Christian culture and tradition. Neither can NOSCEF know better than British legal luminaries who declared that British law is essentially Christian law.

Exempli gratia, in the case of Bowman versus Secular Society Limited (1916-17), Lord Summers declared, ”Ours is, and has always been, a Christian State. The English family is built on Christian ideals and if the national religion is not Christian, there is none. English law may well be called Christian law.“

While commenting in the same case, Lord Finlay, the then Lord Chancellor, declared, “There is abundant authority for saying that Christianity is part and parcel of the law of the land”. Sir Mathew Hale (1609 – 1676) was quoted in the Historia Placitorum Coronae (1736) as saying, “Christianity is part of the common law of England”.

Anyone familiar with Sir William Blackstone’s  (1723 – 1780) Commentaries on the Laws of England will never entertain second thoughts on the origin of common law as the incisive work finds common law tied to the umbilical cord of Christianity.

It is also on record that Lloyd Kenyon (1732 – 1802) declared, “The Christian religion is part of the law of the land”. Nearer home, the celebrated Justice Karibi Whyte is known to have declared that the Holy Bible contains the fundamental basis of common law.

As if to remind us that things have not changed in Britain and that just as the above British legal authorities authoritatively declared British law as Christian law in the 17th, 18th and 20th centuries, British Prime Minister David Cameron crowned the apex just a few weeks ago by declaring that Britain is a Christian society.

So who is NOSCEF trying to deceive? The reality is that Nigeria’s common law originated from British law which, essentially, originated from canon law. Common law is therefore Christian law. But both CAN and NOSCEF want to railroad Nigerians into swallowing common law, hook, line and sinker.

It is clear therefore that Christians have their own law but they are stopping the Muslims from having theirs. Do we love our neighbours as we love ourselves? What is interesting again is that the customary courts have taken care of traditional worshippers. Where does this leave the Muslims?

Nigeria needs a tripartite legal system. That does not tantamount to segregation. It is justice in action, justice for all, equal rights without borders and Justice is the Soul of Peace.

How can NOSCEF advocate the use of common law for all in the name of unity? The implication of this is that the Christian body is asking the Nigerian authorities to apply Christian law for both Christians and Muslims. NOSCEF has ‘territorial’ ambitions. NOSCEF is being economical with the truth. Nigerian Muslims reject this neo-colonial gimmick.

It is common knowledge that Nigerians are people with diverse cultures and ethnicities. We are a people of three major religious backgrounds: Christianity, Islam and traditional religion. The constitution must provide in very clear, unambiguous terms a tripartite legal system for justice to be seen to have been done.

The National Conference must therefore do the needful: give the Muslims what the constitution has given the Christians otherwise the whole system remains a monumental fraud.

We call on the National Conference to beware of the antics of NOSCEF and CAN. Their wish is to tie the Muslims down and force an alien legal system down their throats. By the way, what is the purpose of this national conference? Is it not for each group to declare its desire?

CAN and NOSCEF want common law because it is Christian law and they are Christians. MURIC and the Nigerian Muslims reject common law because they are not Christians. They want Shari’ah because they are Muslims. The National Conference should not put square pegs in round holes. In the same vein, the National Conference should watch out for neocolonialists who already have what they want but ask the authorities to reject the wish of others.

We appeal to all men of conscience and all patriotic Nigerians to understand the case of Muslims in Nigeria. Mainstream Nigerian Muslims are a peace-loving and dialogue-promoting, overwhelming majority who prefer, and are using logic and intellectual advocacy to persuade Nigerians to accept the Muslims as Muslims and not to seek to impose an alien identity on us as the Christian colonialists did in the past

Distinguished delegates of the National Conference, the ball is in your court. You have the choice to make or mar Nigeria.

MURIC in its earlier statement extended the olive branch to CAN and NOSCEF. Despite the lack of reciprocity, we still remind these Christian bodies that we can still work together. Let us forget about this rivalry. Let us fight corruption together. Let us fight terrorism like one people. Let us allow peace to reign. Let us live and let live. Let the Muslims be!

Professor Ishaq Akintola,
Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC

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