Recent Scholarship: Ostien on Nigeria’s Sharīʿa Courts

Philip Ostien is the editor of The Nigeria Papers, one of the Special Collections on SHARIAsource. The Nigeria Papers is a comprehensive collection of documentary materials and scholarly analysis on the programs of “sharīʿa implementation” (the application of Islamic law) undertaken by 12 northern Nigerian states beginning in 1999 and continuing today. A new paper by Dr. Ostien, Ahmed Garba, and Musa Abubakar, based in part on documentation included in The Nigeria Papers, now reports on “Nigeria’s Sharia Courts.” Here is the abstract:

As it affected the courts of Nigeria’s sharia states, the sharia implementation programmes enacted in 1999-2001 had three main aspects: to replace the old Area Courts with Sharia Courts; to bring back Islamic criminal law, abrogated since 1960, for application in the Sharia Courts to Muslims; and to direct all appeals from Sharia Courts, in both civil and criminal matters, to the Sharia Courts of Appeal. In §2 of this report we review the main features of the enactments of the sharia states by which these changes were legislated, discussing changes in the laws regarding administration and supervision of the courts, appointment and qualifications of the judges, jurisdiction and applicable law, and appeals. In §3 we present our findings, based on fieldwork and other research, as to how the legislated changes have developed over almost two decades. Data are presented and many details discussed regarding Sharia Court administration, the judges, civil caseloads and matters being litigated, the application of Islamic criminal law, and the failure of the attempt to direct all appeals from Sharia Courts to Sharia Courts of Appeal. Section 4 gives our overall conclusions and recommendations: in sum, that the Sharia Court systems put in place in 1999-2001 are reasonably sound and are working to the general satisfaction of the people they serve, but that there are a number of legal anomalies that should be resolved and other problems that should be addressed, which we identify and discuss.

“Nigeria’s Sharia Courts” is available open-access here on SSRN.