Northern Nigeria's Kebbi state plans to begin the implementation of the controversial Islamic legal code, shari'a, on December 1, according to Governor Mohammed Adamu Aliero.

By adopting and implementing shari'a, Kebbi would be following other Muslim-dominated states in northern Nigeria that have embraced the Islamic legal code.

In July, Aliero signed into law the bill establishing shari'a in the state. The law prohibits the sale and consumption of alcohol, prostitution, operation of brothels, and regulates the lives of the people of the state irrespective of their religious faith, in accordance with the injunctions of the Muslim holy book, the Koran.

"We have introduced far-reaching laws aimed at preparing the ground for the successful implementation of shari'a in Kebbi State," the governor told Compass in Kebbi city.

This implementation highlights a recent announcement from the head of the Nigerian Bible Society of the casualty figures of Christians killed and churches destroyed during previous religious clashes between Muslims and Christians in Kaduna, Nigeria earlier this year.

Rev. Dr. Fred Odutola, secretary-general of the Nigeria Bible Society, reported that about 875 Christians were killed in Kaduna alone during the religious conflicts. In addition, he said 800 churches were burned or demolished.

Odutola also told journalists in Lagos on October 5 that the government of Nigeria must address the issue of shari'a, since it is detrimental to the peaceful co-existence of the different religions in the country.

He said the Bible Society of Nigeria could not keep silent when Christians are being persecuted and church buildings destroyed. Odutola believes the implementation of shari'a in some northern states is aimed at the gradual Islamization of the whole country. He called on the government of Nigeria to find a lasting solution to the issue, so as not to allow a repeat of the Kaduna crisis.

"Christians are not ready to relegate any group. Similarly, we will not in the name of shari'a become second-class citizens in Nigeria," he said.

In spite of the high casualty figures, the Kaduna state government still plans to fully implement the Islamic legal system.

Governor Alhaji Ahmed Mohammed Makarfi has sent a bill for the introduction and implementation of shari'a to the state legislature. In a statewide radio and television broadcast on October 11, the governor said the bill will "provide for the constitution of shari'a courts and make further provisions for the administration of justice in Kaduna State.".

Regardless, Mr. Barnabas Bala, a Christian and chairman of Kaura Local Government Council of Kaduna State, told Compass that Christian leaders in the state have met and have resolved not to accept the implementation of shari'a.

"The resolution ... was that we (Christians) of Kaduna state are totally resisting the introduction of shari'a as being proposed by the State House of Assembly. We totally resist it because we deliberated upon it and concluded that it was immoral, unconstitutional, and undemocratic," Bala said.

The Kaura Council chairman said the opposition of Christians to shari'a is anchored on the fact that they would be marginalized and their religious liberty infringed upon.

Copyright © 2000 Compass Direct

Related Elsewhere

Previous Christianity Today coverage of Nigeria includes:

Looking for a Miracle | Six million Nigerians join Bonnke revival. (Nov. 14, 2000)

Bonnke Returns to Nigeria One Year After Tragedy | Lagos crusade may become one of largest Christian gatherings ever recorded. (Nov. 8, 2000)

'Focused, Determined, Deliberate' Destruction | Ecumenical leader calls on Nigeria to deal with religious violence between Muslims and Christians. (Oct. 30, 2000)

Is Nigeria Moving Toward War? | Deadly riots lead to suspension of Islamic law. (March 31, 2000)

Nigeria On the Brink of Religious War | Northern states adopt Islamic law, increasing Christian-Muslim tensions. (Dec. 16, 1999)

Nigeria's Churches Considering Legal Challenge to Islamic Laws | Third state moving toward implementing Koranic laws (Dec. 17, 1999)