By AUSTIN OWOICHO, Abuja
The Bauchi State Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) has called for the creation of Ecclesiastical courts for Christians in the State like the Sharia court for Muslims, saying that it will ensure that dispute among Clerics and even Christians are resolved amicably. According to CAN, the ecclesiastical court will ensure that disputes among Clerics and even Christians pertaining to spiritual matters that involve sacraments, successors to personal properties, Christian marriage, discipline, administration of church, ecclesiastical corporate bodies, tithes, benefits , questions touching on oaths and vows are determined in accordance with the Biblical and Christian injunctions.
In its reaction to this demand, the Islamic human rights group, Muslim Rights Concern (MURIC), said it has no objection to the request.
In a statement made available to journalists on Wednesday, 9th June 2021, Professor Ishaq Akintola, MURIC’s Director, described the request from CAN as harmless.
“The Bauchi Chapter of the Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) on Thursday, 3rd June 2021, submitted a memorandum to the Constitution Review Committee in Bauchi State in which it demanded for the establishment of Christian courts.
“We will not play the same game of sitting on Allah-given fundamental human rights of others the same way that Nigerian Christians have been encroaching on the rights of Muslims. Christians are free to demand for their own courts so long as Muslims are not to be dragged to such courts.
“We know Christians already have Christian law in the country. We could have opposed their new demand but we do not have to be petty. Let them have as many Christian courts as they wish. The Bauchi chapter of CAN cannot tell us that there are no Magistrate courts, High Courts and a Court of Appeal in the whole of Bauchi? Now, what are those courts? Are they not Christian courts? We know that nobody can stop Oliver Twist from wanting more. Neither do we need a Charles Dicken to identify the disciples of Oliver Twist in 21st century Nigeria.
“But we want Nigerians to know that Christians already have Christian law in the country because the common law which we have been using since colonial days to date is Christian law. Our contention that common law is Christian law is based on vehement declarations of British judges on the subject.
“For instance, in the case of Bowman versus Secular Society Limited (1916 – 17), the learned judge said, ‘Ours is, and has always been, a Christian State. The English family is built on Christian ideals and if the national religion is not Christian, there is none. English law may well be called Christian law.’ (Bowman versus Secular Society Limited, 1916 – 17, United Kingdom Appeal Case 406).
“Lord Finlay, the then Lord Chancellor, also remarked in the same case, ‘There is abundant authority for saying that Christianity is part and parcel of the law of the land.’
“In his magnum opus, Historia Placitorum Coronae (i.e. The History of Pleas of the Crown, 1736), Sir Mathew Hale declared, ‘Christianity is part of the common law of England’. Also in the case of William (1797), Lloyd Kenyon, (1732 – 1802), said. ‘The Christian religion is part of the law of the land’
“Justice Karibi Whyte capped the edifice and amplified the symbiotic relationship that exits between the British common law and Nigeria’s common law when he said, ‘The Holy Bible which appears to contain the fundamental basis of common law claims to have been derived from the Ten Commandments God gave to Moses.’
“There is no doubt, therefore, that the Christians already have Christian law which was the same law that the Christian colonial masters brought to Nigeria and forced on all of us (including Muslims). Both the criminal and civil aspects of Islamic law were totally abrogated in the South West while only criminal law was abolished in the North.
“How beautiful would Nigeria have been if Nigerian Christians, particularly CAN, had been equally objective when reacting to demands forwarded by Muslims? But instead of being constructive, CAN always rejects any idea moved by Muslims even when it does not affect Christians in any way.
“As we speak, Christians have opposed the demand of Muslims in the South West for Shariah even though they know quite well that the Muslims are only asking for civil Shariah, not the criminal Shariah which they fear involves amputation. They also know that Shariah will only be applied on Muslims alone. Shariah is the law of the Muslims, by the Muslims, for the Muslims.
“Let it be on record that although Christians have always opposed Yoruba Muslims who have been agitating for civil Shariah, Nigerian Muslims raised no objection when Bauchi Christians asked for Christian canon law. Posterity will judge who is more liberal, more accommodating, more understanding and more tolerant.
“The Muslims demanded Shariah, CAN screamed blue murder. To date, no single Christian has been taken to Shariah court even after two decades of the reintroduction of Shariah in Northern Nigeria. The Muslims demanded Islamic banking, CAN threatened hell and brimstone. Islamic banks have been operating in Nigeria since January 2012 and the country has not been Islamised. Our neighbours are fond of crying wolf where there is none. All the noise about Islamisation is therefore sheer propaganda, a mirage, a phantom, a sham. CAN is chasing shadows.