Tag: Abuja

UPDATE: Chibok girls happy to ‘be back’ : talk of captivity

When the 21 girls released by Boko Haram on 13 Oct. met Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari they thanked him personally for his part in their release. Addressing a crowd at the presidential villa, one of the girls, Rebecca Mallum, burst into song. She later said: “We are happy to see this wonderful day because we didn’t know we would come back to be members of Nigeria. Let us thank God for his love.”

21_girls

The released 21 Chibok girls met President Buhari – seen here with Vice President Osinbajo – at his villa in Nigeria’s capital, Abuja, 19 Oct. The Office of the President

Speaking to CNN, some of the girls said they plan to return to school – Boko Haram translates in the local Hausa language as “Western education is forbidden”.

On her release one girl revealed more about life in captivity, said a parent who wished to remain anonymous. The parent said that one of the girls had refused to marry a Boko Haram fighter and was told she would be killed. In the end she was given 100 lashes.

The girls have been undergoing intense psychological evaluations at a medical facility in the capital, Abuja.

horror_joy_tears_landscape

Joy and tears as a family reunite with one of the released Chibok schoolgirls, Abuja, Nigeria, Oct. 2016. Segun Adeyemi

Nigeria’s Information Minister, Lai Mohammed, has spoken about the release of 21 girls and a boy born in captivity to one of their number: “This is only the first step in what we believe will be total liberation and release of all the remaining girls.”

“Already we are on phase two and we are already in discussions,” he said on Sunday (16 Oct.). “But of course you know these are very delicate negotiations, there are some promises we made also about the confidentiality of the entire exercise and we intend to keep them.”

According to the government’s Senior Special Assistant for Media and Publicity, Malam Garba Shehu, a splinter group of Boko Haram is willing to negotiate the release of 83 more girls. CNN reported that the other 114 girls are dead, or, reportedly, don’t want to leave their kidnappers because they are now married or have been radicalised.

This release is only the second time any of the 219 long-term captives (over 50 girls escaped shortly after being taken) have found freedom. Amina Ali Nkeki, 19, was the first of the 219 to be found alive when she was discovered by vigilantes in the Sambisa Forest. Nkeki revealed that she knew of six of the remaining 218 who had died. If negotiations to release 83 more are successful, that leaves at least 100 girls either still among Boko Haram or unaccounted for.

There are conflicting reports about the terms of the girls’ release, which was brokered by the Swiss Government and the International Committee of the Red Cross.

The government has denied any prisoner exchange, but, according to Associated Press, two military officers have said four detained Boko Haram commanders were freed; AP reports that a Nigerian who negotiated previous failed attempts also said a large ransom was paid by the Swiss government on behalf of Nigerian authorities.

The released girls finally met with their families on Sunday in Abuja after some parents had travelled for days for the emotional reunion.

One of the girls, Gloria Dame, said they had survived for 40 days without food and narrowly escaped death at least once.

Muta Abana, who has been reunited with his daughter, Blessing, said he thought the girls’ abduction had been politicised, complaining that “people’s children aren’t money, people’s children are not clothes you wear to campaign, people’s children are their pride”.

The girls are currently receiving medical attention and trauma counselling in a hospital.

4680850

Vice President: ‘The whole country has been waiting that one day we will see you again’. Nigeria VP Office

Details have now emerged about the conditions of release of the 21 Chibok girls. They were freed before dawn on 13 Oct. in the north-eastern town of Banki, near the border with Cameroon. They were then transported to the capital, Abuja, where they met the Vice President.
“The whole country has been waiting that one day we will see you again and we are very happy to see you back,” said Yemi Osinbajo.

“The president in particular has asked me to tell you how excited he is. When you were away, he kept saying that if it were his daughter he wouldn’t even know what to do.

“So we are all very excited that you are here. We are all happy that God has preserved your lives and brought you back.”

Presidential aide Garba Shehu said the girls’ release was the “outcome of negotiations between the administration and the Boko Haram brokered by the International Red Cross and the Swiss government”.

There was speculation that the girls were handed over in exchange for the release of Boko Haram fighters. AFP quoted a local source in saying that four Boko Haram prisoners had been “swapped” for the girls, but the information minister, Lai Mohammed, denied this.

“Please note that this is not a swap. It is a release, the product of painstaking negotiations and trust on both sides,” he said.

“We have nothing to add,” said a Swiss government official, when asked if it had been a prisoner swap.

The talks with the radical Islamic group will continue, according to the Nigerian government.

Pictures released by local media and a presidency official showed one of the girls holding a baby when they met Vice President Osinbajo. Many of the girls looked frail. Most of the girls were reportedly forcibly converted to Islam and forced into “marriage” by their captors.

The government also released the names of the 21 girls:

1. Mary Usman Bulama
2. Jummai John
3. Blessing Abana
4. Luggwa Sanda
5. Comfort Habila
6. Maryam Basheer
7. Comfort Amos
8. Glory Mainta
9. Saratu Emmanuel
10. Deborah Ja’afaru
11. Rahab Ibrahim
12. Helin Musa
13. Mayamu Lawan
14. Rebecca Ibrahim
15. Asabe Goni
16. Deborah Andrawus
17. Agnes Gapani
18. Saratu Markus
19. Glory Dama
20. Pindah Nuhu
21. Rebecca Mallam.

Previous article (13 Oct.):

Boko Haram has released 21 of the girls kidnapped in Chibok in April 2014 to the Nigerian Army in Maidugiri, capital of Borno state (where the Islamist group has been strongest), according to the Nigerian President’s spokesman. This has not yet been independently confirmed.

It’s been two and a half years since 275 schoolgirls were kidnapped from their dormitories in Chibok, in the north-eastern state of Borno. Their disappearance eventually generated headlines around the world and fuelled a social-media storm, with the hashtag #bringbackourgirls.

Today is the first time any of the schoolgirls have been found since May, when two girls were discovered in the space of two days.

A Christian girl, Amina Ali Nkeki was found on 17 May in the Sambisa Forest, close to the border with Cameroon. Two days later, Nigeria’s army said it had rescued a second girl, Serah Luka, believed to be the daughter of a pastor, though she was later found to not have been among the Chibok girls.

Nkeki had escaped with the Boko Haram fighter to whom she had been forcibly married, and with their child. She appealed for support for the young man, whom she implied might have been himself forced into becoming a fighter, saying he had not treated her too badly, and that she “missed him”.

I would have celebrated even if one person was freed. I am very, very happy to hear that 21 of them are free. My heart is also rejoicing that one day soon … the majority of them, if not all of them, are going to be freed.

–Rev. Joel Billi, EYN

A month after she escaped, some members of “BringBackOurGirls” (BBOG) – an advocacy group campaigning for the safe rescue of the girls – expressed concerns over Nkeki’s whereabouts, saying she had been kept under close control by the government, and that she appears to be now treated as if she’s become a Muslim (which she would have done against her will).

President Muhammadu Buhari had promised the government “will do everything possible” to ensure she receives the care to make a full recovery and to be reintegrated fully into society. But some of the group were concerned she had not been allowed to return to her Christian family, which they assumed would be a strong element in her recovery from trauma.

Rev. Joel Billi, president of the Ekeklesiya Yan’uwa Nigeria (EYN) Church, told World Watch Monitor that 201 of the kidnapped girls belong to his church.

“I would have celebrated even if one person was freed. I am very, very happy to hear that 21 of them are free,” he said. “My heart is also rejoicing that one day soon … the majority of them, if not all of them, are going to be freed.

“When I heard about this news, I said that the church has to come out and talk to the federal government. The church should be in forefront of all things because Anima, who was rescued few months ago, as I am talking, we don’t know where she is. This is to say we have mixed feelings about the whole thing.”

screenshot-2016-10-25-10-48-22

Meantime, in September, the Nigerian government had for the first time disclosed the details of its failure to secure the release of the girls during negotiations which began in July 2015, shortly after Buhari took office.

Three times the negotiations were derailed – once at the last minute, even after the president had agreed to free imprisoned Boko Haram fighters. Another time, talks failed because key members of Boko Haram’s negotiating team were killed.

Buhari, who has been criticised by parents and activists, again appealed for the parents’ trust.

In August, Boko Haram had released a video which appeared to show some of the Chibok girls looking physically weak and traumatised. It showed a masked man demanding the release of militants in exchange, and one girl, who called herself Maida Yakubu, asking her parents to appeal to the government.

Anima, who was rescued few months ago, as I am talking, we don’t know where she is. This is to say we have mixed feelings about the whole thing.

–Rev. Joel Billi, EYN

In April, the Boko Haram group had released a separate video, apparently filmed on Christmas Day 2015 and broadcast on CNN – amongst other outlets – showing 15 of the girls pleading with the Nigerian government to co-operate with the militants for their release. The girls said they were being treated well but wanted to be with their families.

Some parents who attended a screening of that video in Maiduguri identified some of the girls. Two mothers, Rifkatu Ayuba and Mary Ishaya, said they recognised their daughters in the video, while a third mother, Yana Galang, identified five of the missing girls, Reuters reported. One mother said her daughter looked well, much better than she had feared, giving some hope to the families.

The parents have been under a lot of strain: at least 18 of them have died of stress-related illness; three others have themselves been killed by militants; many others have persistent health problems brought on by stress.

Forced to convert and ‘marry’

Most of the girls were reportedly forcibly converted to Islam. It is feared that many have been sexually abused and forced into “marriage” by their captors.

A report by Nigeria’s Political Violence Research Network, “Our Bodies, their Battleground”, detailed this kind of treatment of minority Christians in northern Nigeria going back to 1999. It reveals how tremendously effective and efficient it is to focus attacks on women and girls – because the knock-on effects are devastating to the community. Entire families and Christian communities are thus “dishonoured”, regularly leading husbands to reject wives who are victims of rape, and embarrassment and shame for their children.

The fact that Christian women and children suffer at the hands of Boko Haram is a carefully calculated part of the movement’s multi-pronged front-line offensive, designed to intimidate the population into accepting political-religious change, points out the report.

The use of rape was also justified by Boko Haram militants on the basis of “sex as jizya”, a reference to a tax that early Islamic rulers demanded from their non-Muslim subjects for their own protection.

For hundreds of women and girls kidnapped by Boko Haram militants, their ordeal did not end when they escaped, nor when Nigerian soldiers rescued them and reunited them with their families.

Instead of being admired for their bravery, many have become outcasts in their communities, stigmatised due to their perceived association with Boko Haram, reports humanitarian news agency IRIN.

Moreover, others – pregnant after rape by their captors – have been “shamed and are now accused of spawning or seeking to spawn future Boko Haram fighters,” says IRIN.

This all backs up Angelina Jolie’s message of “rape as a ‘policy’ aimed at terrorising and destroying communities”. It’s a message she first spoke about at the UK Parliament in June 2014 and repeated at the House of Lords in September 2015.

“[Islamist groups such as] Islamic State are dictating [it] as policy … beyond what we have seen before,” said Jolie, a UN Special Envoy. The Hollywood actress said the groups know “it is a very effective weapon and they are using it as a centre point of their terror and their way of destroying communities and families, and attacking and dehumanising”.

Jolie shared stories of girls she had met in war zones, who had been repeatedly raped and sold for as little as $40. In 2014, she co-hosted a global summit in London, attended by representatives from more than 100 countries, aimed at raising awareness and tackling the issue of sexual violence in conflict, especially rape as a weapon of war.

World Watch Monitor



Families of murdered Nigerian pastors mourn their loss

kurah_eunice_518

Joseph Kurah, murdered on 30 June, and Eunice Elisha, who was killed 10 days later. Twitter: @uncanny_sam / World Watch Monitor

Thousands of people, including journalists from around the world, attended the funeral of Father Jacques Hamel, the French priest murdered on 26 July while presiding over Mass.

The attack on a French priest felt all too close to home for a Western audience, but, as World Watch Monitor reported last week, such events are taking place all the time in other parts of the world. (This interactive map provides some idea of the scope of the attacks.)

There was much less global coverage following the recent murders of two pastors in Nigeria.

Joseph Kurah, regional chairman of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) in the central state of Nasarawa and a pastor of the Evangelical Church Winning All, was murdered on 30 June by suspected Fulani herdsmen on his farm in Obi.

Then on 9 July, Eunice Elisha, 42, assistant pastor at the Redeemed Church of God in the Kubwa region of the Nigerian capital, Abuja was killed. She was buried on 23 July; it would have been her birthday. Local media published photos of her husband, Olowale, and their seven children, all dressed in pale blue, standing next to her grave. Olowale explained how she came to die:

Pastor_Olowale_Elisha,_and_7_children___four_girls_and_three_boys,_all_below_the_age_of_16.1

Olowale Elisha. Open Doors International

“About three weeks ago, my wife preached next to a mosque, while the imam in the mosque was also preaching. He stopped talking and listened to what Eunice was saying and then told his members to listen to what she was saying because she was speaking the truth about God. When she told me about this, I told her to be very careful.”

After a visit from a stranger who claimed to be a local imam and demanded money from Eunice, Olowale said he “began to feel very uncomfortable”.

He said: “[On 8 July] we prayed all night and Eunice led us in worship songs … Little did I know that this was the last time we would ever pray together. We went to sleep at about 4am. Eunice got up at about 5 and left for her morning preaching, as she did most mornings. She usually came back by about 6.30, but on that day, she didn’t return on time. As I lay in bed, I wondered what could be the matter.

“Meanwhile, my sons had gone out for football training. While they were playing, some boys told them that a woman had just been killed on their street, while she was preaching. Immediately they ran home, shouting.

“I jumped out of bed and ran to where the killing took place. I didn’t find my wife there. All I saw was a pool of blood. I asked the people standing around where my wife was and they told me police had taken her to the station in their van. I went down to the station and there I found the body of my wife.

“I broke down and cried. We were taken into the station and consoled. Eventually someone drove us home because I was in a state of shock.

“I lost my true companion.”

He_leaves_behind_a_widow,_Martina,_and_seven_children.1

Martina Kurah and six of her children. World Watch Monitor

And Martina Kurah spoke of her dead husband, Joseph: “I will forever remember 30 June as the day I lost my best friend.”

Two days before, Joseph heard that there were woodcutters in the area and asked if he could borrow their machinery to cut down some trees on his farm. While he was on the farm, a young man approached and started arguing with him. He said Joseph was cutting down a tree that belonged to him.

“Joseph reported the incident to the local traditional ruler, who summoned them both to a discussion. The ruler ordered Joseph to pay for the tree, which he did, but following the meeting the youth threatened him, [saying]: ‘A fight is not finished in a day’. Everyone present heard him and the ruler issued a warning to [him].

“Joseph decided to stay away from the farm the next day, but when the youths he had hired to help him called late afternoon to tell him the machine had broken down, he went to assist them. I begged him not to go, but he wanted to help the youths. After replacing the part, he continued to work with them so that they could finish that day.

“As they were packing up, they heard some shouting in the bush, and the next moment a group of Muslims came running towards them. ‘I know they have come for me,’ he apparently told the youths with him. They ran away, but Joseph faced the attackers. They killed him and left his mutilated body.

“Back home, I was growing anxious. A neighbour came to ask if he was home, but when I told her he was not back yet, she said she heard rumours that he was attacked and badly injured [his hands were cut off]. I started shivering, hoping he was just injured. But a few minutes later a church member arrived in tears and told me, ‘Baba was killed.’

“I started shouting and collapsed. Some men from the congregation went and collected his body and took it to the morgue. After all of this, I cried until I had no more tears left.”

Ebenezer, Martina’s oldest son, said he was tempted to take revenge: “At first I made up my mind that I must avenge the death of my father, even if it would cost me my own life. But after many words of encouragement from different people, I realised that two wrongs can never make a right. My father is gone and I will never see him again. My prayer is that those who killed him should never find peace until they repent and turn to Christ.”

CAN accused Fulani herders of the murder and expressed concern over its brutality. They said the recent increase in such attacks against Christians is preventing them from going to their farms.

Source: World Watch Monitor



Nigerian female preacher hacked to death

A female preacher was hacked to death in the early hours of 9 July near Nigeria’s capital.

Eunice Elisha, a mother of seven, had gone out to preach as was usual, her husband, Olawale Elisha, a Redeemed Church of God Pastor, told local media.

Later, two of their sons, who had been practising football, heard that a woman had been killed while preaching.

“I told my children that it couldn’t be their mother, but they insisted we should go there and check,” Elisha said . “When we got there, we didn’t see anybody, they had even covered her blood with sand.”

Eunice

Mother of seven, Eunice Elisha, was murdered close to Nigeria’s capital, Abuja World Watch Monitor

A police officer confirmed a killing had taken place and that the body had been taken to a police station in Kubwa, on the outskirts of Abuja.

“At the entrance of the station I saw a pickup van coming out,” Elisha said. “Inside it I saw the lifeless body of my wife at the back of the pickup van. At this point, my children and I burst into tears.”

‘Zealous Christian’

Eunice Elisha was 42. Her surviving husband called her a zealous Christian who “rarely missed a day in church”.

Asked how he felt about the murder of his wife and her killers, Olawale said: “I see her as a martyr who died for Christ. Whether the people are caught or not, they should be forgiven.”

Police have arrested six suspects, and an investigation continues.

Elisha is only the most recent of several attacks on Christians in recent weeks.

On 30 June in the town of Obi, in the central state of Nasarawa: father of seven, Rev. Joseph Kurah, was ambushed by two armed men after he arrived at his farm. His severely mutilated body was later recovered from the scene. Ethnic Fulani herdsmen are suspected in the killing.

On 8 June in Kaduna state, Francis Emmanuel, a 41-year-old carpenter, was waiting for food when a gang of six Muslim youths stabbed him. It was Ramadan, and he was not fasting.

“They asked why I was eating,” Emmanuel told World Watch Monitor. “At first I didn’t reply, but when they asked if I was a Christian or a Muslim, I said I was a Christian. They got furious and started beating me up. One of them brought out a knife and stabbed me in my neck, on my right arm and around my right eye. A police officer rushed over to help me, and the assailants all ran away.”

In Kano, northern Nigeria on 2 June, Bridget Agbahime, 74, wife of Mike Agbahime, pastor of Deeper Life Bible Church in Kano, was ambushed by an angry mob for allegedly blaspheming against Islam’s prophet. Hers was the second extrajudicial killing after an accusation of blasphemy in recent weeks.

On 30 May in Niger state: Methodus Chimaije Emmanuel, 24, was attacked and killed by a mob, after allegedly posting a blasphemous statement about Muhammad on social media. Three other people, including a police officer, lost their lives as a result of violence that followed the killing. A church and a house were burnt down and 25 shops were looted.
Incidents targeting Christians are the result of growing intolerance and radicalism among Nigerian society, said Atta Barkindo, a researcher and doctoral candidate at the London School of Oriental and African Studies.

For a very long time, the focus has been on the Islamist Boko Haram insurgency in Nigeria’s north-east, Bakindo said.

As well as Boko Haram there are other extremist groups

“But apart from Boko Haram, there are a number of extremist Islamic groups, such as Aljana Tabas in Gombe, Madinatoul Keffi in Nasarawa or Al Kour Aniyoun in Bauchi. All these states are very close to Abuja, the capital.”

They recruit from a large pool of uneducated young people migrating toward central Nigeria from the northern cities of Kano and Sokoto in the north, and they operate with little fear of punishment, Bakindo said.

“The government has done nothing in the past. People feel they can commit these kind of killings and propagate Islam, and the government can’t do anything about it,” he said.

“So the main issues here are impunity and the lack of accountability. Look at what happened in Kano, Nasarawa and Niger States. But by the end of the day, you will hear nothing, and the attackers will be set free. Impunity is a big issue in Nigeria.”

Source: World Watch Monitor



Nigeria considers giving Islamic appeals courts authority to take criminal cases

Christian lawmakers silent, so far, at proposal to expand Sharia legal system

NG_court_bldg_518x345

A Sharia court in northern Nigeria. Courtesy of Open Doors

The situation

Nigeria’s National Assembly is considering a change to the country’s constitution that would expand the scope of jurisdiction of the country’s Islamic Sharia courts of appeal. Currently, the constitution limits those appellate courts to matters concerning family law. If approved, the change would permit Sharia appellate courts to take up criminal cases, some of which carry the death penalty, arising from lower Sharia courts. Christian churches in Nigeria say the proposal is a step toward Islamizing Nigeria.

What the constitution says now

Section 262 establishes a Sharia Court of Appeal in the Federal Capital Territory — the district encompassing Nigeria’s capital, Abuja. Section 277 establishes a Sharia Court of Appeal in any state that has adopted Sharia.

Both sections contain identical language:

The Sharia Court of Appeal shall . . . exercise such appellate and supervisory jurisdiction in civil proceedings involving questions of Islamic personal law.

[Read the complete sections of the constitution here]

What the proposed new language says

That’s difficult to say with precision. The proposed language is contained in House Bill 530, but a copy of HB 530 is not included on the Nigeria National Assembly’s usual web page for posting bills. World Watch Monitor sources have not been able to obtain a copy. Nor have Nigerian news organizations published any portion of HB 530 beyond its title.

The sponsor of the proposal, Abdullahi Salame, a lawmaker from Sokoto State, told Premium Times that, if the change is approved, sections 262 and 277 would both read this way:

The Sharia Court of Appeal shall . . . exercise such appellate and supervisory jurisdiction in civil and criminal proceedings involving questions of Islamic personal law.

Another clue is the formal title of the bill:

A Bill for an Act to Alter the Provisions of Section 262 and 277 of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 to increase the Jurisdiction of the Sharia Court of Appeal of the Federal Capital Territory and the Sharia Court of Appeal of a State by including Criminal Matters of hudud and qisas and for Other Related Matters.

What are Sharia courts?

Sharia translates to “the path leading to the watering place,” according to Encyclopaedia Britannica, which describes it as “a system of duties that are incumbent upon a Muslim by virtue of his religious belief.”

Nigeria’s constitution, adopted in 1999, allows states to create courts based on “customary law” systems. Twelve northern states, where Muslims make up a majority or plurality of the population, adopted Sharia common courts, nine of them statewide and three of them in areas with especially heavy concentrations of Muslims. Those courts deal with civil and criminal matters. One state, Zamfara, requires Muslims to use Sharia courts in criminal matters. The other states let Muslims choose between Sharia courts and the government’s non-Sharia courts.

Through sections 262 and 277, the constitution specifically allows for Sharia courts of appeal in those states that have set up Sharia common courts. The appeal courts are restricted to civil matters. Criminal matters appealed from Sharia common courts move into the government’s non-Sharia appellate courts.

What is Islamic personal law?

The constitution gives the Sharia courts of appeal the jurisdiction to review cases involving:

Marriage and divorce
Guardianship of a child
Donation of assets
Estates and wills
Guardianship of the incompetent and ill
What is Islamic criminal law?

The proposed change to the constitution would give authority to Sharia appeals courts to consider “matters of hudud and qisas”:

Hudud punishments are already established in Islamic holy texts for certain crimes: theft; adultery; unfounded accusation of adultery; intoxication; apostasy; and robbery. Punishments range from lashes to amputation to death. [Source: Oxford Islamic Studies]

Qisas provide the means for the victim or the family of a victim of violent crime to obtain retribution, up to death of the perpetrator. [Source: New York University School of Law]

How would this change to the constitution affect Christians?

Abdullahi Salame, who proposed the changes, says Christians would be safer because Muslims fear the eye-for-an-eye character of Islamic law more than they do the government’s penal code.

“With the passage of this bill, no Muslim will ever attempt even to harm, much less kill non-Muslims, because you know Sharia can attend to criminal cases and you will be dealt with,” Salame told Premium Times. “And, in Islam, when you kill a non-Muslim, you will be killed. These Boko Haram and other groups that hide behind any little crisis to attack Christians and other non-Muslims would be easily punished.”

The common Sharia courts — that is, courts below the level of the appeals courts — already have the ability to try cases involving hudud and qisas. The proposed constitutional change would allow the Sharia courts of appeal to hear criminal cases appealed from the common courts.

Not surprisingly, Salame’s view is not universally shared. Christians have opposed attempts to implement Sharia during the drafting of Nigeria’s various constitutions since 1960, when it gained independence, said Danjuma Byang, secretary of the Christian Association of Nigeria in the north-central states of Kwara, Kogi, Nasarawa, Benue, and Plateau, as well as the capital district.

“Nobody has forgotten the hot debates that took place in the Constituent Assembly of 1978, which drafted the 1979 Constitution about the place of Sharia in it,” Byang told World Watch Monitor. “Christian members kicked against the full implementation of full Sharia because non-Christians would fall victim of this law.”

Byang said he had documented, in a book he authored in 1988, several cases of Christians getting caught up in Sharia courts, in Kaduna and Niger states. “Sharia law was used to judge Christians, even though, in all cases, not one of them requested it. Even though they protested against it, they were still judged by Sharia law.” There have been more cases in the nearly 30 years since, he said.

“Muslim leaders have always argued that Sharia law is meant for Muslims only,” Byang said. “But Christians have always refused to buy the argument because in practice, non-Muslims have often been dragged before Sharia courts and have been adjudicated by a legal system repugnant to their faith.”

Where would the change take effect if it’s approved?

Again, the inability to directly examine HB 530 is a handicap here. The title appears to indicate it would apply to the Federal Capital Territory, and to states that already have Sharia courts in place. Salame has said the same to news organizations.

States that have implemented Sharia courts statewide:

Bauchi
Borno
Jigawa
Kano
Katsina
Kebbi
Sokoto
Yobe
Zamfara

States that have implemented Sharia courts in some places:

Gombe
Kaduna
Niger

Nigeria_sharia_states_map_518

Presumably, the change also would apply to any Nigerian state that might adopt Sharia courts in the future.

What is the status of the proposal?

There is more intrigue here. The bill was introduced in the Assembly on 12 May with a perfunctory first reading, which is typical, and followed by a second reading on 19 May. Under normal circumstances, the second reading is when the debate over a bill occurs. The sponsor of the proposal explains the benefits of the measure. Other members of the Assembly speak for or against it. After debate, the Assembly either assigns the measure to a committee for closer examination, or kills it.

This time, however, Salame’s proposal to change the constitution sailed through the second reading without debate, and was assigned to a House constitutional review committee.

Christian organizations reacted strongly, upbraiding Christian representatives in the Assembly for allowing the measure to pass by unchallenged. News coverage zoomed in on Salame, who in turn said House Speaker Yakubu Dogara, a Christian, had advised him to say nothing about the bill in order to avoid controversy.

“The Speaker considers this bill one of the bills that do not require much argument. Because many people could misunderstand it,” Salame was quoted as saying by Premium Times. “At the committee, they will see the nitty-gritty of the bill. So it was the Speaker that did not allow us to publicly debate on it and he advised that we refer it to the constitutional amendment committee.”

There is still plenty of opportunity to debate the proposal. Changing the constitution requires a two-thirds majority vote of the House and ratification by the assemblies in at least 24 of Nigeria’s 36 states. Assuming the amendment is ratified by all 12 states that currently employ Sharia courts, it would need ratification by at least 12 further states that have not implemented Sharia.

Rev. Gideon Para-Mallam, a key mission leader in Nigeria as the regional secretary in English- and Portuguese-speaking Africa for the International Fellowship of Evangelical Students, was equally adamant.

”Christians are resolved and resolutely opposed to any such proposed bill and amendment,” he told World Watch Monitor. “This is an unwelcome development in the present political dispensation under President Buhari – and at any point in Nigeria. This proposed amendment is a needless provocation which could become a time bomb for this fragile country. Our country does not need such inflammatory political adventure in the name of Islamic Sharia bill.”

Source: World Watch Monitor



Chibok girls: Rescued Amina to meet President Buhari

_89733840_95db7e94-ecd5-4576-b16a-a990765d92a4

Amina was found with a four-month-old baby

The first of the missing Nigerian schoolgirls to be rescued since her capture two years ago is to meet President Muhammadu Buhari.

Amina Ali Nkeki, 19, was found with a baby by an army-backed vigilante group on Tuesday in the huge Sambisa Forest, close to the border with Cameroon.

She was one of 219 pupils missing since they were abducted from a secondary school in eastern Chibok in April 2014.

They were taken by the Islamist militant group Boko Haram.

_89217147_7b864480-638c-4291-bc75-940e3ef9443e

Amina Ali Nkeki was one of 25 abducted girls who came from the same town

On Wednesday, Amina and her four-month-old baby were flown by the Nigerian Air Force Maiduguri – the capital of Borno state.

Earlier, they were examined at a local military facility.

Amina – who has had an emotional reunion with her mother – is expected to arrive in the country’s capital Abuja later on Thursday to meet President Buhari.

Mr Buhari’s spokesman said the young woman would then be helped to reintegrate into society.

Amina was reportedly recognised by a fighter of the Civilian Joint Task Force (JTF), a vigilante group set up to help fight Boko Haram.

She was with a suspected Boko Haram fighter who is now in the Nigerian military’s custody. Named as Mohammed Hayatu, he said he was Amina’s husband.

_82486928_nigeria_borno_624map_v2

Hosea Abana Tsambido, the chairman of the Chibok community in the capital, Abuja, told the BBC that Amina had been found after venturing into the forest to search for firewood.

“She was saying… all the Chibok girls are still there in the Sambisa except six of them that have already died.”

During the April 2014 attack, Boko Haram gunmen arrived in Chibok late at night, then raided the school dormitories and loaded 276 girls on to trucks.

More than 50 managed to escape within hours, mostly by jumping off the lorries and running off into roadside bushes.

A video broadcast by CNN in April this year appeared to show some of the kidnapped schoolgirls alive.

Fifteen girls in black robes were pictured. They said they were being treated well but wanted to be with their families.

The video was allegedly shot on Christmas Day 2015 and some of the girls were identified by their parents.

The Chibok schoolgirls, many of whom are Christian, had previously not been seen since May 2014, when Boko Haram released a video of about 130 of them gathered together reciting the Koran.

The abduction led to the #BringBackOurGirls campaign, which was supported by US First Lady Michelle Obama and Pakistani activist Malala Yousafzai.

_89733839_2be5e6bf-8cf8-4526-acc9-f2eba0169db1

Source: BBC News