Appeal Court Dismisses Condemned Singer’s Appeal, Orders Retrial for Alleged Blasphemy

Aminu Shariff Yahaya

A Court of Appeal sitting in Kano State has dismissed an appeal filed by a Kano-based singer, Aminu Shariff Yahaya, who was sentenced to death in August 2020 by a Kano Upper Shari’a Court. He had challenged ruling by a Kano State High Court which ordered his retrial for blasphemy. The appellate court affirmed that the Kano State Shariah Penal Code of 2000 did not contravene the Nigerian constitution.

Delivering the lead judgment on August 17, 2022, Justice Abubakar Lamido upheld the verdict of Justice Nasiru Saminu of the High Court, which had ordered the re-trial of the Aminu. His judgment was affirmed by Justice B. M. Ugo but one of the three justices, Ita Mbaba, dissented to the verdict and discharged and acquitted Aminu of the offence, but the majority decision prevailed.

Justice Lamido ruled that the Nigerian constitution recognises the freedom of religion but does not allow the adoption of a state religion.

Sometime in 2020, Aminu reportedly composed musical lyrics considered derogatory to Prophet of Islam, Muhammad, an offence considered to be blasphemy under the Penal Code of Kano State.

Aminu was sentenced to death by the state Upper Sharia Court but dissatisfied with the death sentence, he appealed the matter before the Kano State High Court (Appeal Division) through his lawyer, Kola Alapinni.

The High Court in November 2020 overruled the sentence and ordered for retrial of the case at the Shariah Court, citing failure to follow proper procedures because Aminu had no legal representation during the trial.

Kola Alapinni, appealed for determination of two issues: Whether the learned High Court Judges were right to order for a retrial instead of an acquittal after quashing, annulling and vacating the position of the Sharia Court; and whether or not the decision of the High Court is right in declaring that the Kano State Sharia Penal Code Law 2000 is constitutional.

He was returned for re-trial but his counsel proceeded to appeal court to seek his outright discharge and acquittal.