The House of Representatives on Thursday said it did not pass a Bill for the implementation of Sharia law in the country.
The Chairman of the House Committee on Media and Public Affairs, Abdulrazak Namdas (APC-Adamawa), told journalists in Abuja that reports of such passage were “just a rumour”.
Affirming the report at the briefing of the South/East caucus of the House in Abuja, Deputy Minority Leader of the House, Chukwuka Onyeama (PDP-Anambra), said the bill is before the House ad hoc committee on the review of the constitution and for now it remains a working document until it is forwarded for debate.
“When a bill for constitutional amendment is brought to the House, it is forwarded to the committee on the review of the constitution.
“The committee will review it and present it to the House for debate and it is only when it is tabled that we look at it.”
“You see those of us sitting here are not sleeping and you will see us on the floor when the bill comes. So, no Sharia bill has been passed,” he said.
“The Bill to alter the 1999 Constitution to increase the jurisdiction of the Sharia Courts”, also known as the “Sharia expansion bill”, was sponsored by Abdullahi Salame (APC-Sokoto).
The bill seeks to expand the jurisdiction or increase the existing powers of Sharia Courts to include criminal cases.
Mr. Salame seeks to amend sections 262 and 277 of the 1999 Constitution to add “criminal” to the existing provisions.
The House had referred the bill to its ad hoc committee on the review of the 1999 constitution headed by Deputy Speaker Yussuff Lasun on May 28.
While referring the bill, the speaker, Yakubu Dogara, had explained that no debate was taken on the bill because of its “sensitive” nature.
The Minority Leader of the House, Rep. Leo Ogor, had also allayed fears of Nigerians.
He explained that “The jurisdiction’’ of the court referred to in sections 262 and 277 of the Constitution means the powers of the court in states where it already exists, not expanding Sharia to other parts of the country.
“The amendment sought to these sections is to add ‘criminal’ to the existing jurisdiction it has on ‘civil litigation.’ That is the jurisdiction that is being expanded, not the expansion of Sharia Law itself,” he said.
Explaining why the bill was not debated, the minority leader stated that “the matter was not debated because the amendment is a constitutional amendment.
“It is on a matter that could be better handled by the constitution review committee.
“Debating it on the floor will not resolve it since the Ad Hoc Committee on Constitution Review will still conduct a public hearing on it.
“Those concerned will be invited to come and give their opinions on how the added powers of the court will affect them and so on.
“Nobody is expanding Sharia to anywhere. Members of the public should not panic over this at all.”