The Christian Association of Nigeria, CAN, has condemned comments credited to the Chief Justice of Nigeria (CJN), Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad, advocating for the amendment of the constitution, to accommodate Sharia Law.
CJN Tanko was said to have made the call during his keynote speech at the 20th Annual Judges Conference at the Ahmadu Bello University (ABU) on Wednesday.
However, CAN while reacting in a statement on Saturday by Evang. Kwamkur Vondip, CAN’s National Director of Legal and Public Affairs, described the comment by the CJN as reprehensible, reckless and insensitive coming from a public officer.
The statement reads in part, “It is one more glaring case in our recent history where public officers, rather than see themselves in privileged positions to discharge responsibilities that promote national cohesion, dialogue, and understanding, remove suspicion and project Nigeria’s leadership, have instead turned around to be local and humdrum in their dispositions toward other parts of the country.
“No one can begrudge the CJN for peacefully practising his faith. But to seek to transform it into having greater space in our constitution for only one religion is the height official immodesty. Clearly, this looks like the path to making Islam a state religion.
“The Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) notes that Nigerians are well aware that there are sections of the constitution which allow the implementation of Islamic Personal Law.
“Hon Justice Tanko is obviously aware that there is a constitutional barrier to his dangerous idea. Section 10 of the constitution specifies: ‘The Government of the Federation or of a State shall not adopt any religion as State Religion.’
“The very first provision of the constitution states clearly in Section 1 (1): ‘This Constitution is supreme and its provisions shall have binding force on all authorities and persons through the Federal Republic of Nigeria.’
“So, he throws in what he believes is the solution: Amend the Constitution. And to do that, he is not talking of a national consensus. No.
“He simply states, ‘As we all know, there are sections of the constitution that allow the implementation of Islamic personal law and apart from that, we cannot do more. However, we have the number to amend the constitution to suit our own position as Muslims.’
“If the less educated, the unenlightened, the mischievous and the politically extreme can tinker with such permutations, certainly not a man of the learning, age, experience, exposure and publicly centered personality as the Chief Justice of Nigeria.
“Does his position speak positively of a man who can still be trusted to hold the judiciary together as belonging to one nation with one people of various opinions, religious convictions and political persuasions?
“Hon Justice Ibrahim Tanko Muhammad has ushered in a potentially volcanic and vulturous debate. He and those supporting and prodding him on expect to receive feedback. Here is one: it is dangerous; it is condemnable; it is impractical; it is unwise, it is highly divisive, and unnecessarily so.”