The court of appeal in Kano has ordered a retrial of the death sentence handed to the singer Aminu Shariff Yahaya accused of blasphemy against the Prophet Muhammad.

The court affirmed that the Kano State Shariah Penal Code of 2000 does not contravene Nigeria constitution.

Delivering the judgement virtually on Wednesday, Justice Abubakar Mu’azu Lamido ruled that the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria empowers states through the state assemblies to make laws.

He ruled that Nigeria constitution recognised that there is freedom of religion but does not allow adoption of a state religion.

Yahaya, who was convicted and sentenced to death by a Shariah Court in Kano in August 2020, had earlier asked Kano High Court to squash the judgement.

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

Meanwhile, Aminu, through his counsel Kola Alapinni, appealed to Court of Appeal for determination of two issues.

The two issues according to court documents are, “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.

“Two, whether or not the decision of the High Court is right in declaring that the Kano State Sharia Penal Code Law 2000 is constitutional.”

In the three-judge verdict, Justice Lamido and B. M. Ugo gave majority judgement in favour of the respondent which upheld the High Court decision for retrial as against the dissenting judgement by the third judge.

The Kano Shariah Penal Code 2000 sanctions death penalty for blasphemy specifically targeting the Holy Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) upon which the accused is being charged.

Since Nigeria’s return to democracy in 1999, at least 12 states in northern Nigeria have adopted Islamic legal system called Shariah in certain designated cases which can reach up to Shariah Court of Appeal.

A Shariah court in Kano sentenced Yahya Sharif-Aminu to death on August 10, 2020, after he was found guilty of committing blasphemy in a song.

The ruling had stirred an outcry among a segment of Nigerians.

Despite the public outcry, the Supreme Council for Sharia in Nigeria asked the Kano state government to execute the court judgment.

Abdullahi Ganduje, governor of Kano, also said he would not waste a minute when signing Sharif-Aminu’s death sentence if he failed to file an appeal within 30 days.

But Sharif-Aminu had appealed the judgement in a suit filed through Kola Alanipini, his counsel.

The musician also challenged the judgement before the state high court.

Although the high court dismissed the death sentence, it denied the musician bail and ordered his re-trial before another Shari’a court judge.

But the singer’s lawyers kicked against the ruling and also appealed the verdict of the high court.

Sharif-Aminu’s lawyer argued that he ought to be released from detention and that his retrial should not take place at another Shari’a court.

But during the court session held via Zoom on Wednesday, the appeal court upheld the initial judgement of the Kano high court which ordered the retrial of the case in the Shariah court.

Two of the three judges had backed the defendants while one objected.

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