A Kano High Court (Appeal Division) on Thursday ordered the retrial of alleged blasphemer, Yahaya Sharif Aminu, who was slammed with a death sentence by an upper Shari’a court presided over by Muhammad Aliyu Kani in the state.
The court presided over by Justice Nasiru Saminu and in company of the State’s Chief Judge, Justice Nura Sagir while giving their judgment, ordered that the trial be remitted to the same upper Shari’a court but assigned to another Judge.
Justice Saminu also said the defendant must be provided with legal representation during the retrial.
He said it is mandatory where anyone is standing trial for death sentence offence, such defendant is entitled to a legal representation as it was the reverse in the case of Yahaya Sharif Aminu who was trialed and sentenced to death without a legal representation.
Justice Saminu quoted section 269 (3) and (4) of the Administration of Criminal Justice Law, ACJL which says any person standing trial in capital offence shall be entitled to seek legal representation.
Similarly, the court also discharged and acquitted the minor blasphemer, Umar Farouq (17-year-old) who was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
Recall that the duo of Yahaya Sharif Aminu and Umar Farouq were said to have sometime early last year committed blasphemy against the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and making derogatory statements against Almighty Allah respectively.
Recall also that the defendant through one Kola Alapinni appealed the death sentence and 10 years imprisonment judgment at the Kano High Court (Appeal Division).
Reacting to Thursday’s judgment, Alapinni described the judgment as bitter and sweet.
He said, “Today, we have a bitter, sweet judgment as Umar Farouq has been set free completely because he was a minor that was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment.
“On the issue of Yahaya Aminu Sharif which was a death sentence and that really shocked the whole of the country and the international community. It also made us a laughing stock before the international community where someone will say something which was regarded as being disrespectful in religion and he will be sentenced to death.
He was sentenced to death without legal representation. It is unacceptable. And the court found in our favor that there were procedural irregularities. We were hoping that the court will set him free but unfortunately that didn’t happen and the matter has now been remitted back to the Shari’a court and will be heard by another judge. There will be proper guidance and legal direction. We will defend this robustly even up to the Supreme Court.
On the legality of the constitutionality of the Shari’a penal code, he said, “we will go back and study the judgment and decide if we want to go to the court of appeal and Supreme Court thereafter. We want to know if the Shari’a penal code is in conflict with Section 10 of the Nigerian Constitution which says the Federal or state government must not be seen to be promoting any religion. That is what Kano State is doing,” Alapinni said.
On his part, the State Attorney General and Commissioner of Justice, Bar. Musa A. Lawal, said on one hand the judgment was a victory for the people of Kano, especially that the court reaffirmed that the Shari’a penal code law has come to stay in the state.
“Constitutionally, the courts are created so that people can go there to get justice. The court today, reaffirmed that the Shari’a penal code law in Kano state is here to stay because, in the appeal, the appellant clearly claimed that the law is contrary to the constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and the court says no that the Shari’a penal code is a law that is here to stay in the state. So of course, this is a victory for the people of Kano state on one side.
“On the second part, if you look at the second case which was a minor. What the court says is that he is a minor and so cannot be trialed. And that is the reason why he was discharged and acquitted not because the Shari’a penal code law was unconstitutional or for any other reason.
“To buttress that fact, the second case was ordered for retrial under the said law for retrial, and the only reason given there was against the constitutional provision especially when you are charging someone with a capital offense, you need to get him a lawyer. There was no legal representation on his part. So if you look at the two cases it is a victory for the people of Kano State and victory for the Shari’a penal code,” He stated.