Facts about blasphemy law in Nigeria

Facts about blasphemy law in Nigeria

Blasphemy simply refers to the action or offence of speaking sacrilegiously about God or sacred things; which is irreverence or insult toward holy personages, religious groups, sacred artifacts, customs, or beliefs.

A Blasphemy law is a law that penalises speech or acts that disrespect God or the sacred. Blasphemy laws are used to protect the religious beliefs and also to prevent religious crises.

In this piece, Legit.ng provides facts about blasphemy law in Nigeria.

The Federal Republic of Nigeria operates two court systems. Both systems have provisions to punish blasphemy.

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The Nigerian constitution provides a Customary (secular) system and a system that incorporates Sharia. The Customary system prohibits blasphemy under section 204 of Nigeria's Criminal Code.

Section 204 is entitled "Insult to religion". According to the section:

"Any person who does an act which any class of persons consider as a public insult on their religion, with the intention that they should consider the act such an insult, and any person who does an unlawful act with the knowledge that any class of persons will consider it such an insult, is guilty of a misdemeanour, and is liable to imprisonment for two years."

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In addition, Islam is the main religion in twelve out of Nigeria's thirty-six states. Hence, in 1999, the Islam-dominated states chose to have Sharia courts as well as Customary courts.

A Sharia court may treat blasphemy as deserving of several punishments up to, and including, execution.

The constitutional contradictions

The prohibition against blasphemy in the Criminal Code and the prohibition recognised by Sharia, as stated above, may not be lawful because Section 38 of the Constitution entitles every Nigerian to freedom of thought, conscience, and religion, and Section 39 gives every Nigerian the right to freedom of expression.

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Enforcing the blasphemy laws

Enforcing the blasphemy laws, just like other laws, in Nigeria is beset by a lack of resources, tribalism, corruption, etc.

Thus, on many occasions many people, in the Islam-dominated states in the country, usually resort to vigilantism after an accusation of blasphemy.

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Vigilantism simply means taking the law into one's own hands and attempting to effect justice according to one's own understanding of right and wrong.

An earlier piece by Legit.ng highlights different types of court in Nigeria and their functions.

According to the piece, there are eight types of courts in Nigeria and each of them performs specific functions. There is also a clear hierarchy existing amongst them.

What is working well and what needs improvement in Nigeria? - on Legit.ng TV

Source: Legit.ng

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