Based on the trending issue of blasphemy in Nigeria, people have started asking questions about what blasphemy is, and also what are the states where you can get killed for blasphemy or for using blasphemous language in Nigeria.
Here, we try to explain in detail, what blasphemy is and what it means to use blasphemous language. Also, we will highlight the states in Nigeria where blasphemers could be punished with the death penalty.
First and foremost, blasphemy as defined in some religions or religion-based laws is an insult that shows contempt, disrespect, or lack of reverence concerning a sacred object or something considered inviolable. Some religions, also consider blasphemy to be a serious religious crime that attracts a severe punishment or which could even be a death sentence.
Now, to discuss the issue of blasphemy in Nigeria, it must first be noted that the Nigerian constitution gives recognition to two court systems, which are a customary (secular) system and a system that incorporates Sharia. Both of these court systems prohibit blasphemy. In the customary system, section 204 of Nigeria’s Criminal Code, which is entitled “Insult to religion”, states that:
“Any person who does an act which any class of persons considers as a public insult on their religion, with the intention that they should consider the act such an insult, and any person who does an unlawful act with the knowledge that any class of persons will consider it such an insult, is guilty of a misdemeanor and is liable to imprisonment for two years.”Nigeria constitution
In the same vein, the Sharia system also prohibits blasphemy and its punishment could even be more severe. Although, the prohibition against blasphemy in the Criminal Code and the prohibition recognized by Sharia may not be lawful because Section 38 of the Constitution entitles every Nigerian to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and Section 39 gives every Nigerian the right to freedom of expression.
moreso, 12 out of Nigeria’s 36 states, especially the ones that fall in the Northern part of the country, chose to adopt Sharia courts as well as customary courts. In these states, it could be very risky to make a blasphemous statement. These 12 states include:
- Zamfara State
- Kano State,
- Sokoto State
- Katsina State
- Bauchi State
- Borno State
- Jigawa State
- Kebbi State
- Yobe State
- Kaduna State
- Niger State
- Gombe State
Based on the past experienced issues of blasphemy, the following 5 states could be the riskiest states to use a blasphemous language.
- Kaduna & Abuja
On August 10, 2020, a Kano state Shariah Court sentenced two people:
Yahaya Sharif was sentenced to death by hanging for the offense of blasphemy against the prophet. He was accused of having blasphemed in his song, which he circulated on WhatsApp in March 2020. Following this incident, his family home was burnt down.
Omar Farouq was sentenced to 10 years in prison for blasphemy. His lawyer appealed on September 7, saying that his sentence violated the African Charter of the Rights and Welfare of a Child and the Nigerian constitution.
On 9 February 2008, a mob rioted in the town of Sumaila in Kano state. The mob acted upon the alleged distribution of a leaflet that allegedly slandered Prophet Mohammed. The mob killed a police inspector and two civilians and wounded twenty others. The mob set fire to vehicles and destroyed the police station.
In October 2007, a sharia court convicted Sani Kabili, a father of six, in the town of Kano, of blasphemy against Mohammed. The court sentenced Kabili to three years in prison. In February 2009, an appeal court overturned the conviction.
On 19 June 2009, a mob in the town of Sara in Jigawa state burned a police outpost and injured about twelve people over alleged blasphemy against the Prophet Mohammed. The mob complained that someone was distributing blasphemous pamphlets, and it demanded that the police give up a man who had sought safety at the police outpost.
On 4 February 2008 2:46, a mob attacked a police station and set it on fire in the city of Yano in Bauchi state. The police station was the refuge of a woman whom the mob accused of desecrating the Quran.
(4) Kaduna and Abuja
On 20 November 2002, Muslim and Christian mobs rampaged in the cities of Kaduna and Abuja. The rampage began after an article in a daily newspaper, Thisday, suggested that Mohammed would have approved the Miss World pageant that was taking place in Abuja. Thisday columnist Isioma Daniel wrote that Mohammed would probably have taken a wife from among the contestants. Mobs accused the newspaper of blasphemy and burned down its office building in Kaduna.