Ten civil society groups have faulted the death sentence passed by a Sharia Court on a musician by an Upper Sharia Court in Kano. The court had on August 10 sentenced one Yahaya Sharif Aminu to death by hanging.
He was found guilty for allegedly insulting Prophet Muhammad in a song.
The ten civil society groups; Committee for Relevant Art (CORA), African Defenders, Arterial Network Nigeria, PEN Nigeria and Artists at Risk Connection (ARC). Others are Culture Advocates Caucus (CAC), Human Right Forum of Lead Africa International, Intro Afrika,
Freemuse and African Human Rights Network (AHRN), in a statement said, “We strongly condemn the conviction and sentencing to death of young Yahaya Sharif Aminu. We are deeply concerned that his conviction and subsequent sentencing are in violation of Nigeria’s regional and international obligations to respect, protect and promote freedom of expression, opinion and belief.”
The group in condemning the sentence listed other cases that they said were unjustly determined and suspect tried. The group aid, “It has been reported that while Mr. Sharif was legally represented during the trial, the proceedings were closed off to the public, which raises fair trial rights concerns. The right to a public trial which is guaranteed under Nigeria’s constitution and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, both of which Nigeria is a signatory to, ensures transparency and guards an accused against secretive, corrupt or unfair proceedings.”
They are worried that since his conviction, Sharif is being held in incommunicado detention with no access to legal representation and to his immediate family. This is a further violation of his due process rights and potentially jeopardizes his right to an appeal for which he has 30 days from the date of sentencing.”
According to them, the case of Sharif was not in isolation as there have been several other artists who have been arrested and criminally charged in relation to their artistic works. For over a year, a singer and activist, Mohammad Yusuf Yakasai, popularly known as A.G.Y, was imprisoned at Goron Dutse Correctional Centre following his conviction on June 19, 2019, for a song that criticized Governor Abdullahi Ganduje of Kano State. In June 2020, a Federal High Court ordered the remand of poet and broadcast journalist Rotimi Jolayeumi, a.k.a Oba Akewi, after he was arrested for sending a poem to a WhatsApp group which was highly critical of Minister of Information and Culture, Alhaji Lai Mohammed.
Also, in December 2019, eight musicians from Kebbi State were physically assaulted for a song critical of Governor Atiku Bagudu. In September 2019, famous Kano singer, Nazir Ahmad, popularly called Sarkin Wakan Kano, was arrested for allegedly releasing two uncensored musical albums and operating an illegal studio. The albums reportedly criticized the State Governor, Abdullahi Ganduje.
They condemned all these and said it was a violation of the artists’ freedom.